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Watching Me, Watching You: Eurovision Watch Parties Around The World Written by on May 13, 2023

Our experiences of Eurovision can be very different depending on where we live. Gina Jones takes a light-hearted trip around the world…

This year, certainly for viewers in the United Kingdom, it feels like there are more options than ever before when it comes to watching the Eurovision Song Contest; with the BBC hosting official outdoor screenings in at least nine cities, cinema chains such as Vue and Cineworld holding live big-screen nights across the country, and countless bars and nightclubs cracking out the bunting for a night of Euro madness.

For the year-round community members, it feels like we’ve been out in the street with our bells and buckets shouting for years and finally, everyone else has joined us in our fascinating hobby. Before we were spoiled for choice, however, most of us watched it the old-fashioned way: at home, with our friends and family gathered around the TV.

What’s interesting about the tens of millions of people all watching the same thing, at the same time, however, is how different that experience can be, depending on where you are. So join me, as we take a little voyage around the world and discover what Eurovision night looks like for fans far and wide.

The Buck’s Fizz Buffets

For those who might be reading this outside of the UK, a brief introduction to our Eurovision nights at home: basically it involves a lot of food, booze and if you’re really keen, a sweepstake or bingo. The food could be a variety of things, but the most common is to try and find items from participating countries (French cheeses, Italian salami, German beers – you get the idea) and some people even stick little flags in them on the table to really make it jazzy.

The drinks are either Buck’s Fizz (a nod to our 1981 winning entry), booze from our European neighbour nations, or themed cocktails… In 2011 I made Blue cocktails in honour of our entry that year and we really regretted it the next day.


BBC Eurovision often puts together a downloadable party pack where you can find scorecards and sweepstakes if you want to have a bet with your mates.

Despite all the cynics and naysayers over the past few decades saying it’s all about politics, Brits do really love Eurovision and we love parties – the two things go together like pineapple and cheese on sticks (yes, that’s a thing over here). So that’s the UK sorted, what about elsewhere?

Allora! Eurovision’s Italian Origins

Let’s begin at the beginning. Sanremo Music Festival, of course, pre-dates the Eurovision Song Contest by around five years (it began in 1951 and was the main inspiration for the first ever Eurovision held in 1956) and so you’d imagine thanks to Sanremo the Italians would have perfected the art of watch parties (or should that be listen parties around the radio?), having had half a decade more than us to practice them.

Sanremo runs over the course of nearly a week, when Italians stay up into the early hours of the morning to follow the runners and riders of their festival of song – alongside a lot of other content that us outsiders can find difficult to follow.

A watch party for them involves food (of course food, we’re talking about Italians here!) and good wine, with a side helping of political discourse. Last year the drama centered around the will he/won’t he situation with a planned appearance by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – instead of a video, his message was read by TV host Amadeus. In the past we’ve had anti-racism speeches and womens’ rights protests in the form of fashion (Chiara Ferragni ate in all four of her anti-patriarchy gowns – I think that’s how the kids say it, anyway).

Arguing over politics with your nearest and dearest is as traditional for them as toasting Sir Terry on the ninth song is to the Brits. That’s something that says quite a lot about us as a nation, in my opinion, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day.


Watching With New Eyes

Last year’s winners, Ukraine, are massive Song Contest lovers. They made their debut in 2003 and were the first country in the 21st century and the first Eastern European country to win three times. Since the introduction of the Semi Finals in 2004, they’re the only country to have qualified for the Grand Final every time they’ve competed. That’s some impressive pedigree right there.

It’s clear that the experience of watching the Contest has taken on an entirely different meaning since the war escalated last year. Ukrainian commentator Timur Miroshnychenko, like many others in the country, celebrated Kalush Orchestra’s win from a bomb shelter.

In happier times, however, it seems watch parties are popular in Ukraine. Ukraine’s 2008 representative Ani Lorak told me at the London Eurovision Preview that year that had she not been at the Contest herself, she would have been watching it at home with friends. She didn’t say what they ate, but you can find a whole article on Ukrainian party food here.

Mello Mood

We’d be remiss if we did an article about Eurovision watching and didn’t mention Sweden. The country starts the celebrations early with their six-week selection extravaganza – I am, of course, referring to Melfest, which takes place from early February until March. It’s actually more popular than Eurovision and watched by about half the population.

Mello parties are very much a ‘thing’ over there, so much so that supermarkets run Mello promotions so everyone can get cut-price tortilla chips and beer and stock up for the big night (that little nugget came from Måns Zelmerlöw himself, he’s everywhere at this time of year!). You’d think that by May they’d be all partied out, but no! There’s a lot of love for Eurovision and, we’d expect given their chances this year, there’ll be quite a lot of Schnapps on ice ready for the big night.


Our Friends Down Under

When I first asked the internet about what people do at watch parties, the first replies came from Australians – those mad keen Aussies who get up at the crack of dawn to watch the contest happening on the other side of the world.

They’re rushing the kids out to school, they’re grabbing coffees; some of them are actually staying up from the night before and staying awake through the darkness to experience the beauty of the Eurovision Song Contest. The level of dedication is, to us cynical Brits, frankly astounding.

1983 was the first time Eurovision was broadcast over there, by SBS. It wasn’t broadcast live at first, but nowadays it goes out at around 5am (Australian Eastern Standard time).

Although many iconic Aussies competed at Eurovision over the years for other countries, their first official entry was in 2015 and now it’s safe to say that they are very much part of the fabric of the Contest, coming second in 2016, launching their own national finals in 2019 and joining Junior Eurovision too.

I couldn’t get an answer about what they’re eating when they watch Eurovision, so I contacted my cousin Cindy in Queensland, who reliably informed me “it’s too fecking early to eat!” So there we have it.

Awake In The APAC, Sleepless In The Southern Hemisphere

You might be surprised to hear that our Song Contest is also popular in the Asia Pacific region. Eurovision aired in China between 2013 and 2018 (albeit on a time delay), and countless other viewers in the APAC region can now follow the contest online thanks to live streaming.

As to what’s eaten when watching Eurovision in this region, that could be a variety of things given the wide spread of cultures and traditions that exist here. One fellow fan from the Philippines told me, “it’s 3am here, so I’m literally not sleeping while waiting, having beers and snacks!”

Although not in the APAC, my own family are in the southern hemisphere in Seychelles and when I was growing up we would send them the VHS of Eurovision to watch a few weeks later. They’d watch it in the evening after a massive curry, usually eating tamarind ice lollies, fruit, or ice cream. It’s a dessert kind of experience for them. Nowadays, they can watch online but most don’t watch it live – those who are interested (i.e. the ones I text and shout “youhavetowatchthis!” to) will do the same as they did in the VHS days and save it for an evening.

A Shared Experience

Despite all the cultural differences, one thing that a lot of viewers have in common is that the Eurovision Song Contest is a communal moment. Whether they’re watching it in a room with all their friends and some questionable snacks, or alone online messaging other fans across the globe, we’re all sharing the moment together.

If you’re in a country that I haven’t mentioned, or perhaps I’ve missed something about your country’s traditions, let us know how you’re celebrating. I’d love to hear about it!

One final thought…

When it was first announced that the United Kingdom would be hosting the Song Contest this year on Ukraine’s behalf, Sam Ryder posted an emotional statement on Twitter, saying, “it’s Ukraine’s party. We’re just inviting them to throw it at our house”. Wherever you’re watching this year’s Contest, we really hope you enjoy your visit to ‘our house’!

About The Author: Gina Jones

Gina Jones is a mother, animal lover, and works in comms and content marketing. She's also a Eurovision enthusiast.

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