|Things I'm Looking Forward To Doing Now That I'm British: Number Nine
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
9. Maintaining an indifferent attitude toward the consumption of (unfeasibly large quantities of) alcohol. One of the things that always drove me nuts in the States is the mainstream view on booze. If you’re not teetotal or restrict yourself to drinking only the occasional glass of wine with a meal, many people will view you as a borderline alcoholic - or just plain alcoholic. I much prefer the more relaxed British attitude. I concede that it’s not without problems. Witness most town centres late on Friday or Saturday night after people have been out binging: not a pretty sight. Or the reaction to people who are in fact teetotal, which I’ve seen vary from gentle teasing to outright mocking so often that I breathe a sigh of relief when I’m with a group that takes an order for lemonade in its stride and without comment.
But I like that I could, back in pre-sprog days, go to the pub almost every day after work for a pint or two and no one would consider that unusual or problematic. I could even drink to excess - and occasionally still do - and no one would be considering an intervention. I like that I can take my students for a beer because it’s, y’know, legal for them to drink. I like that I can bring my child to the pub for a meal.
I look forward to being even less concerned about other people’s booze consumption levels than I already am.
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I had forgotten the US attitude to booze. It wasn't a deal at all, although less ready access (bars in small out of the way places are quite intimidating) meant we simply didn't drink much. It got funny when our dinner companion (some 10 years older than me) got carded when she ordered a cocktail. Her ensuing mirth meant the waiter was too embarrassed to card me, although he clearly considered it. Not so our waitress on the last night, who carded everyone indiscriminately, so I drank Coke, having failed to bring ID. She was terribly apologetic; she could tell we were the right side of 21 (I wonder what gives us away? ;), but inflexible in policy. Just in case. I didn't make a fuss; wasn't that fussed about drinking beer vs coke (although I'd've kissed her if she'd had club soda). It surprised me a little in retrospect that we'd gone 2 weeks before this happened.
Back to the UK with a bump then - where my only gripe is how rare it is for us to take a non-alcoholic order in our stride. We ought to be better at it.
I encountered this when my previous job occasionally took me to the USA. My UK colleagues would suggest meeting up after work for a drink but we'd often get either a very wary "well OK, but only one" response from our US counterparts or polite but slightly alarmed refusal.
There's a similar culture shock between US and UK science fiction conventions; US fans often think that British conventions revolve around the bar (and they're not wrong) or express surprise at our habit of rewarding programme participants with a drink that is brought to the start of the item you are on.
(And this is part of the reason why I've not posted the pics I took on Saturday yet; I wanted to check with you in case there was a risk that if I put them on Facebook a US relative or former colleague might go OMG YOU TOOK YOUR BABY TO A BEER FESTIVAL!!!??? and start looking up the number for Child Services.)
This also lines up with British understatement, if I described my cousin's behaviour as "he likes a drink" you'd not be surprised to find out that he can drink over a dozen pints of Guinness over a Saturday afternoon and evening.
There's also the fact that a lot of US beers are light and have to be served cold to avoid the lack of taste. But that could be my CAMRA membership being snobby.
"There's also the fact that a lot of US beers are light and have to be served cold to avoid the lack of taste."
Well, that could definitely be said of the major breweries, but their are plenty of US microbreweries producing quality product. :) Yeah, they don't count for the majority.
To me "best served cold" is an good indication that said beer should be avoided. ;)
My snobbish attitude to US beers came to a screeching halt back in 1997 or so at the Phantom Canyon Brewpub
in Colorado Springs, ever since when I've rated US microbreweries as just as good as anything in the UK.
I have long thought that the Pub is the secret weapon of UK science, and the US's inability to understand this is its loss.
I'm not sure how mainstream that US view of booze is - my Polish/Irish-American family are as big a bunch of pissheads as you'll find anywhere, and the rural MI culture seems to support that - bars are general social spaces for the town. One reason I like watching True Blood is the local bar and drinking are more like the rural America I know, just more Southern. And vampires and general eye candy. Aunt C's bar never had such pretty waitstaff, sadly.
I wonder how different the booze cultures were 20 years ago, as UK has got a lot less tolerant of boozing in just over a decade. My current employer, in 2003, had my boss opening the filing cabinet of a Friday afternoon and asking 'red or white?'. No more.