An American gives his perspective on British drinking culture

The rivalry of the Atlantic


For most Brits, the wild house parties of crap American teen movies were a beacon of young hedonistic partying when we were growing up. But aside from a disastrous attempt to make Skins and The Inbetweeners work in the US, it’s fair to say we haven’t made a massive cultural influence on them. Presumably the nightlife in the UK can be a bit of a shock. This is what an American thinks of us and our pre-gaming, attire and after-parties:

Pre-gaming 

The concept of drinking before actually going out isn’t exclusive to a single culture. It’s a pillar of everyone’s nightlife, and certainly is an important element of anglo-american partying.

For starters, everyone’s a little awkward before hitting tipsiness. This is true everywhere, but even more so here, according to my British friends. If you want to make the night memorable (or absolutely unmemorable, if you know what I mean), you pre-game. In London, folks do this for fun. Pre-games in the UK seem to be a cherished activity, just as much as going out clubbing – not merely a phase in one’s night to get hammered before the “actual” event, which is most often the case in the States.

“People tend to go out around 1 A.M. if the vibe isn’t right,” a Londoner friend told me. “Also, people are quite stingy about drinks – they bring their own but drink everyone else’s.”

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In the US, if people pre-game, the sole intention is to get fucked up, not really to have fun with the other people there. They pre-game for almost everything; a basketball game, a concert, a “darty.” They even pre-game for the pub. Pre-games in US are also pretty cliquey: girls move around in swarms, boys gather to discuss which of them is the future prey. Pre-games in the States tend to be a little shorter too, since, as I’ve said earlier, the main purpose is to attend the following event with alcohol in the bloodstream.

Casual beers

Apparently, people in the UK will find any excuse to down a beer. Brits are heavier drinkers and certainly love their booze. At lunch time, after work, at dinner, and after dinner – drinking beer is more than an habit, it’s a cultural trait. I was eating lunch today and literally every single person on the terrace was drinking beer or pimms.

And at work - something you never see on the other side of the Atlantic

And at work – something you never see on the other side of the Atlantic

Binge drinking in American colleges is also a pretty strong and deeply-rooted tradition, but let’s go too far, it’s not even comparable. Kegs are popular in the States, whereas they’re quasi-inexistent here. Chugging is also an important aspect, especially in fraternities. Just another way for guys to “prove” their masculinity. Not sure if that’s also a thing here.

Parties 

Brits start partying at a much younger age than Americans do. Naturally, they can handle their booze a lot better.

Though the stereotype claims that Brits are heavier drinkers, alcohol in the US disappears drastically faster. This is not only because Americans have had very limited experience with alcohol before getting to college, but also because parties are shut down so goddamn early.

House parties rarely go past 1:30 in the morning, 2:00 if you’re lucky, and the music has to be toned down to not piss the neighbors and cops off. At fraternity parties, booze is provided by the host house, and freeloading is off the charts. These parties are pretty grimy, sweaty, and (sadly) predictable, although new themes are set every week. They also rarely go past 2:00 AM.

Two drunk boys twerking at a fraternity party

Two drunk boys twerking at a fraternity party

Parties in the UK label more as “gatherings” with friends, where everyone brings their own alcohol and drugs. Brits smoke cigarettes during parties, while in the US you’ll beg a smoker for a drag when you’re hammered, because absolutely no one has cigarettes. It’s frowned upon, almost. British partiers also take a lot more pills – MD, acid, LSD – than Americans do. Both are similarly hooked to coke when going out, though.

“There’s less weed over here,” said Grace. “People do coke and ketamine instead. Or just drink lots.”

Dresscode

Crop top jeans or trainers is the dress code for girls at casual parties or pre-games in the UK. Girls in the US tend to show a little more skin.

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Clubbing

It’s a known fact that London offers some of the most diverse and exquisite clubbing in the world. It’s expensive, it’s exclusive, but it’s wild, different, crazy. Europeans know to club better than Americans do, it’s not even a stereotype anymore, it’s a fact. Music here varies from club to club, so that virtually anyone is satisfied. Underground clubs in the UK actually are underground, not superficial like they are in the States.

In the US, clubbing isn’t popular, which means people will make a big deal out of their night out “in the city.” It’s strict and hyper-regulated – a huge turnoff. Not quite the scene on the other side of the Atlantic.

Bouncers

Bouncers in the UK are fucking terrifying. They don’t know who you are, but they absolutely do not care. I’m pretty sure they’d feel no remorse whatsoever beating the shit out of a provocative teen. They’re a lot more physical than those in the US. They have no patience.

Surprisingly, bouncers in the US are a little more lenient and approachable. Perhaps I’m not scared of them because I think they won’t really lay hands on me (the law in the US is so strict that they’ll probably get into a lot of shit for kicking an underaged clubber’s ass).

After-Parties

In the UK, after-parties are pretty common. Apparently, it’s a thing to take ketamine at after-parties, to end the night on a “tranquilized” note. Clubs are bumping till six in the morning, and so are Brits.

In the US, after parties happen in houses, but are relatively rare. They usually consist of a few drunk guys playing drinking games to get even more obliterated, until they literally pass out. Weed is also a lot more common in the States. If you’re thinking after-party, you’re actually thinking ripping bong hits.