The differences between drinking in the UK and drinking in the USA
For starters, one of them can actually handle their booze
There’s a lot of things Americans do better than Brits: fried food, patriotism, political outrage. One thing Brits very much have the upper hand on, though, is drinking – getting fucked up, wasted, trashed or, as they say, absolutely and completely arseholed.
Still, Americans brought us beer pong, frat parties and the magical melody of Red Solo Cup, so they can’t be entirely bad.
So who drinks better? Here are the differences between a big night out in the US and a big night out in the UK.
IN THE UK: YOU’RE BASICALLY BORN WITH A BEER IN YOUR HAND
Alcohol is such an important part of British culture that as soon as you can drink, you will drink.
Whether that means either being given a sip of Stella by your dad on your 10th birthday or being allowed a Bucks Fizz with your Sunday lunch once you’ve turned eight, chances are by the time you’re 14 you’ll be spending most Friday and Saturday nights bolting WKDs on park benches and sicking up the content of your parent’s alcohol cabinet on your mum’s favourite cream carpet.
IN THE USA: TEEN DRINKING IS VERY BAD, BUT YOU PROBABLY DO IT ANYWAY
In the land of the free, the stakes are a lot higher. Instead of meeting with a slightly pissed off middle-aged guy in a funny hat, the police may well arrest you.
If they don’t, they’ll ticket the shit out of you and make you wish you never tried to bring that Nickolai out with you.
IN THE UK: YOUR UNIVERSITY WILL LITERALLY ENCOURAGE, PAY FOR AND DO EVERYTHING OTHER THAN POUR DRINKS INTO YOUR MOUTH
For 90 per cent of British students, the first thing you experience of uni is freshers’. The uni literally rent out clubs and bus you into the city to get drunk in fancy dress.
One night it will be naughty school uniform, the next, cavemen. The drinks deals will be better than at any other point in your uni career because the university is subsidising every drop of alcohol to pass your lips. God bless them.
IN THE US: YOU WILL FEEL LIKE A FUGITIVE FOR 75 PER CENT OF THE TIME YOU’RE AT COLLEGE
Until you’re 21, your time will be spent squirrelling away spirits as soon as you can get your hands on them. You’ll be hiding from RAs (student police who will shop you to the uni), uni police (actual police with actual guns) and pretty much every adult ever.
Drinking in your sports kit? Huge no no. Being pictured with alcohol? Definitely not. Don’t even think about it. This is why people join frats.
You’ll self censor your Insta, maybe even create a finsta for the pics you wish you could post.
IN THE UK: THERE IS NEVER AN INAPPROPRIATE TIME FOR A DRINK
Train journey longer than half an hour? Drink. Christmas morning with grandma? Drink. Friday lunchtime at work? Drink. Fuck it, why not Wednesdays and Thursdays as well.
Whether it’s a cold pint with a pub breakfast or a tinny of G&T in the park when the sun comes out for five minutes, the British have impromptu daytime drinking down to a tee. It can’t make you look bad if everyone’s doing it, right?
IN THE USA: THERE HAS TO BE A SPECIFIC OCCASION FOR DAY DRINKING TO OCCUR
Usually based around sports, it has to be a big thing if you want to drink in the day. In college, Saturdays are lost to hazy pre-games that start as the sun rises.
But once you graduate, day drinking becomes harder to explain. The pub on a Tuesday just isn’t a thing – it’s a bar for thirsty Thursdays maybe once a month.
IN THE UK: THE PRE-DRINKS WILL BE RELATIVELY CHILL AND DRINKING GAMES ARE DISGUSTING
Someone might bring some balloons; someone might smoke indoors. Most likely you’ll just sit there swilling a half-drunk Bud while the boys silently play the FIFA drinking game and the girls get changed together in another room.
At pre-drinks, some absolute keeno will suggest playing Ring of Fire. They will be militant with the rules, and you’ll end up having to down a shit mix filled with fag butts, sick and scrapings of grease from the George Foreman.
You will seethe silently as someone suggests Never Have I Ever, wishing you could just be drinking alone in the shower instead.
IN THE USA: THE PRE-GAME IS AGGRESSIVE AND DRINKING GAMES ARE A WAY OF LIFE
Instead of being civilised and mixing your shitty supermarket vodka with supermarket cola or sipping on a nice £5 bottle of rosé, you’ll be taking nothing but shots. Shots of fireball, shots of vodka, shots of tequila, shots of literally anything, washed down with the warm mixer you’re consciously not mixing.
There’ll be a lot more forced fun: the Snapchat stories will be long and laborious, and the girls will spend most of their time taking painfully smiley photos to let their Facebook friends know JUST HOW MUCH FUN THEY ARE HAVING.
After you’ve run out of shots, when all you’re getting drunk on is shitty light beer, you need a way of getting it inside you as fast as humanly possible. Beer pong and flip cup are competitive, they’re aggressive. It involves a fair amount of co-ordination and far too many solo cups, but boy does it fucking work.
IN THE UK: YOU MIGHT TAKE A DRINK FOR THE ROAD
Whether you’re off to party, a pub or a club, you’re probably going to indulge in a couple of cans for the road or a pre-mixed plastic bottle of vodka squash, AKA squadka, AKA disco water.
But, won’t I get in trouble? Fuck no. In the UK you can swig on the streets to your heart’s content, most taxi drivers will happily let you slosh booze all over their backseat and the only discernible mode of transport where booze is actually prohibited, the tube, is so lax with its ban that you’re starting to think it’s an urban myth.
IN THE USA: YOU MIGHT GET ARRESTED
Good luck walking more than a yard outside your own front door with a can of beer without being tackled to the ground by overzealous police officers standing up for truth, justice and $25 open container fines.
Even if you survive this, you’re probably going to have to drive wherever you’re going anyway, meaning you’re probably going to get pulled over and have an extremely bright torch shone in your face with a license and registration ma’am like they do in the movies.
IN THE UK: YOU BRING YOUR OWN DRINK TO A PARTY
Obviously. There’s such a thing as decorum.
A Sainsbury’s bag with a four-pack of Carlsberg or an already-open bottle of prosecco will do, then you can wait for the point in the party (circa 11pm) where you can start minesweeping and rooting out the premium vodka and half-full bottles of gin which have been hidden in the freezer, the washing machine and the salad drawer of the fridge.
IN THE USA: YOU ONLY HAVE TO BRING YOUR DAMN SELF
At most college parties, it’s just like the movies. Because the majority of frats pay a lot of money in dues, you can expect kegs and huge bottles of awful liquor.
At the more moneyed of parties, there may be an ice luge and bottles with logos you actually recognise. Either way, because you probably won’t be able to buy the alcohol yourself, someone else will have to provide.
IN THE UK: YOU CAN HANDLE YOUR DRINK
10 pints, six shots and a 35cl bottle of vodka deep and you’re still remarkably on your own two feet. You are a tank, you tell yourself, as you throw up into a Kopparberg glass in the smoking area and deposit it in a nearby bush.
You think you’re holding up well; to everyone around you are a drooling, lurching mess. Still, you haven’t actually had to be put to bed since your first year of uni, so there’s something.
IN THE USA: FACE IT, YOU CAN’T HANDLE YOUR DRINK
We’ve all seen superbad and the reality is pretty similar. Because drinking comes in relatively late to the teen experience, Americans have less of an inbuilt natural tolerance to alcohol and boy does it show.
Sure, you’ll take shots instead of mixed drinks, but there are way more blackouts in the US than in the UK.
IN THE UK: THE PUB IS YOUR CHURCH
It’s a well-worn stereotype, but the pub is a way of life for British people – and anything which could be done at home, drinking included, is better done in a musty Tudor building with dirty red carpets and a bar propped up by old men who smell like cheap cigars and piss.
The hallowed pub has rules, though, the first of which is a silent but essential understanding of the rounds system, a complex understanding of whose round it is and when your round is coming up which is neatly filed in the front of your brain to be consulted at a moment’s notice. If you do not abide by the rules of the round, you are an awful person who deserves a bottling.
Americans? They don’t know what Jägerbombs are, and they have to tip a dollar with every single drink. Frightening.
IN THE USA: PUBS ARE TACKY AND BARS ARE DEPRESSING
Unlike the UK, bars are not the be all and end all of the drinking experience, especially in college. You’ll spend far more time drinking in private than in public and as a result, a lot less love goes into the bar experience.
It’ll be darker and shabbier than your average spoons and you’ll have to tip even when someone just opens a screw-top Bud Light. The jukebox will also be blaring far too loudly and the same four sad songs will cycle on an endless loop
IN THE UK: YOU’LL PROBABLY END UP AT A CLUB
Even if you don’t want to, it’s just the way things pan out. There’ll be some sort of deal on VKs behind the bar, the DJ will be telling anyone from Manchester or Bristol or Birmingham to put their hands in the air, and you’ll spend your entire night in the smoking area trying to bum a lighter off anyone around you.
IN THE USA: YOU ALMOST DEFINITELY WON’T END UP AT A CLUB
In the US, bars are the clubs and clubs are – well, clubs are a lot. To call yourself a nightclub in the US, you need: fireworks on bottles, an unreasonable 1980s style dress code, people wearing sunglasses indoors, white blazers and several actual real-life celebrities.
Put it this way: they are not sticky dens of inequity with carpets and alcopops and DJs from Solihull.
IN THE UK: IF YOU PULL, IT WILL BE A DISGUSTING AFFAIR
You’ll probably sloppily neck them in the club; maybe there’ll be some heavy petting in a nook of the smoking area. You’ll wake up the next morning, not remembering their name, with sick in your hair and crusty clothes strewn around the room.
Neither of you will feel good about the horrible things you have done.
IN THE USA: PROBABLY EXACTLY THE SAME
It won’t be in a club, and it probably won’t be over a cheeky smoke, but the experience will be pretty much the same. It will involve someone you would normally consider way beneath you, a sticky floor, questionable smells and the slight taste of vomit on their breath.
As for finding somewhere, your best bet will be an unattended frat boy bedroom littered with PBR cans and Grateful Dead posters.
IN THE UK: YOUR DRUNK FOOD WILL BE HIDEOUS AND UNGODLY
We’re talking cheesy chips drowning in vinegar and dubious-looking sweaty doner meat, consumed while chicken nuggets tumble out of a greasy flimsy paper box and into the lap of your bodycon dress.
Oh, and gravy. Gravy on fucking everything, if you please.
IN THE USA: YOUR DRUNK FOOD WILL BE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME AS SOBER FOOD
Mozzarella sticks, pizza, giant sandwiches things that will be as readily available at 7am as they are at 3am. There’s not a huge amount of variation, as every drunk food place seems to be reading from the same playbook.
Forget about kebabs, curries or even real spices, all the food will be cheese-covered, deep-fried and more carby that words can describe. Pasta as a pizza topping is a real thing, folks.
IN THE UK: THE NIGHT WILL END AT 8AM
The sun will be streaming through the blinds, crumpled cans will be littered around the floor and someone will already have suggested going for a Full English at ‘spoons.
Your brain will feel like it is wrapped in barbed wire and, as you drag your heavy grey body to bed, you will regret every single decision you’ve made in your entire life which led you to this cripplingly grim moment.
IN THE USA: THE NIGHT WILL END AT 3AM
Bars seem to shut a lot earlier in the US, and the grimy warehouse rave trend is far from the mainstream at US colleges. With only a few grams of shit coke between hundreds, there is not a never-ending supply of “Molly” to keep the party flowing to the silly hours of the morning.
A combination of the 21 age limit for buying and strict bar licensing laws mean that the police control when the party ends, so you start as early as possible. Good luck.