Cambridge Etiquette, the Freshers’ Edition: Back to sCool
Too cool for school
Are you aghast about gowns? Bewildered about black tie? Freaking out about finding your college family? Fear not: The Tab has etiquette for every occasion:
Meeting the (college) parents
Meeting the parents is always nerve-wracking, and even more so when you are meeting your own parents. This first encounter marks your official arrival to Cambridge. You may want to dress up as many of you will feel an Oedipal pang, finding your new parents attractive. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. If you come from Norwich the commonplace incest may even make you feel at home – it’s about the only thing at Cambridge that will make you feel at home if you’re from Norwich actually.
DON’T view this as the chance to debut that new and exciting transformation you’ve been pining for. Stick to the red chinos and blazer look. If you don’t own red chinos or a blazer you should probably alert the admissions director to their mistake.
DO wear a practical outfit. Your first events in college could range from burning a £50 note in front of the homeless to fucking a pig, or even to taking part in the hunt to catch your swan for Matriculation Dinner. NB: this event is called “the Swanning” and requires you to bring your Hunters.
DO put thought into your first outfit – first impressions count, and it is up to you to make them count. Only after a few weeks of surviving Cambridge is it acceptable to wear pyjamas outside during the day with your new friends. Until that time, be on your best behaviour sartorially.
Baby’s first bop
Bops are a mixture of year seven school disco music, questionably alcoholic punch, even more questionable dress codes and a belief in the adage that organised fun is the best kind of fun.
DO adhere to the dress code. Popular themes are the alpha bop and Hollywood but thanks to the bloody liberals, Around the World in 80 Days and Out of Africa are now unpopular themes. Lefties take all the fun out of racism.
DO tread the line between putting too much effort in (like the second year who dressed up as a dolphin in a homemade costume that involved so much duct-tape he couldn’t move) and putting in too little effort (like the second year who ordered a fish costume for a three year-old and subsequently came to the bop with just the word FISH scrawled across her forehead in black eyeliner).
DON’T wear an outfit that requires a lengthy explanation. A ten-minute lecture at a party on how you’re the Doppler effect is wanted as about much as a Johnian is.
DON’T try to be edgy by not dressing up and sitting in the corner complaining about the terrible music while talking about all the festivals you’ve been to. If you want to sit in the corner looking on at others having fun, then join the voyeur society instead.
DO embrace the Abba/Spice Girls/S Club Seven – if you want to boogie to Dancing Girl then you should be allowed to live your dream.
DO go out afterwards – it’s freshers week and no one should have work during freshers week. If you do have work that needs to be submitted, join an age-old Cambridge tradition and don’t think about it until two hours before your supervision.
Wednesday Cindies and Sunday Life (and subsequent death)
The classic Cambridge club night, Wednesday Cindies involves terrible music (Lion King, anyone?) in a club that has not been called Cindies in twenty years . Sunday Life is another club night and another Cambridge institution. The club hasn’t been called Life since before we were alive, but we continue to call it Life because Cambridge students refuse to embrace change. Famous for: drinking society swaps and its basement location. Infamous for: the fact that it gets so humid the ceilings start dropping with sweat.
DO bring your dancing game because no one can feel embarrassed on a Cindies dance floor. Let your freak flag fly and feel free to bust any moves you want to. NB: Some colleges may not support you flying your freak flag as it contravenes their flag schedule, and flag calendars are more important than supporting social progression.
DON’T bring too many things with you: the more items you have, the more items you have to lose. Ideally have your man-servant carry them for you, but by all means give him the night off – it is freshers’ week after all.
DON’T feel like you have to drink VKs. It’s been said before but it should be reiterated: it’s OK not to VK. #FuckTheVKtriarchy.
DO wear something easily identifiable: in the dark this will make you easier to find among the heaving mess of bodies dancing along to Baby by Justin Bieber (five years too late for this to be acceptable). This is crucial as you will invariably lose your friends within the first five minutes, and they will need some way of identifying which street-strewn mess you are.
DON’T wear a lot – Sunday Life is one of the sweatiest experiences this side of a Finnish sauna, and you don’t want to be adding to the pool of juices. Please bear in mind though that we are not the French government and will not be forcing any people to take their clothes off for “liberté“, “égalité”, or “fraternité”.
DON’T ditch your new friends for some even newer friends you make in the club. Whilst it’s unlikely that your freshers’ week friends will be those with whom you spend the whole of your time at university, at least afford them the common courtesy of not leaving them at the first chance you get.
Lectures and Supervisions
As a historian I have limited experience of lectures but I am told they are a usual part of Cambridge life. Supervisions meanwhile are the reason why you told your interviewers you wanted to come to Cambridge, these hour-long sessions are the base of your whole degree. They will always be slightly terrifying because you will never be ready: no matter how much work you put in to prepare, you can never have put in as much work as your supervisor has over the course of their life, so be prepared to learn.
DO get dressed for your lectures to start with. The general consensus is that sweatpants are acceptable by week three, pyjamas by week five, and it’s practically mandatory to go the last lecture of the term in nothing but your college scarf. #SchoolsOutForTheVacAndSoAreMyGenitals
DON’T come in last night’s clubbing clothes either. The stamp on your hand is enough to prove how much of a party animal you are. The clothes are just overkill.
DON’T wear an outfit that is too attention-grabbing – no one should look that put-together at 9am in the morning. You should aim for the “my bedder just kicked me out” chic.
DO read the Tab’s guide on how to be a lecture BNOC to prepare yourself. An easier way to become a BNOC is to write for The Tab.
DO make yourself look presentable. The general rule is that your essay is provocative, your clothes aren’t, and if your essay isn’t, your clothes are. You may need every trick in the book to distract your supervisor and make that essay look coherent.
You are now prepared to don your atrocious fancy dress, look like a wanker wearing your gown about town, and down as many VKs as you desire in Cindies.