Would you have to be a freak to avoid alcohol in Britain?

Inspired partly by this thread, in which someone is asking why British men are so un-aggressive in dating situations. One response made the suggestion:

This and other comments about British (and Australian) society lead me to believe that pretty much everyone drinks (and most drink rather heavily). Here in America there is a sizable group of people who avoid alcohol and don’t stick out at all as being unusual or strange. In Britain, if you were an absolute teetotaller would you have to be some kind of freak?

Nope, you won’t stick out. Avoiding situations where you will come into contact with alcohol cannot be easy. But plenty of people don’t drink, either on occassions or all the time, for various reasons, from recovering-alcoholics, to other medical or medicinal problems, to simply because they’re driving or have to get up early in the morning. If you order a non-alcoholic drink in a pub, it’d be rather rude for anyone other than a close acquaintance to ask why or to otherwise comment on it.

However, you have to tolerate other people getting drunk, which is a different matter entirely!

My purely subjective opinion as an Englishman. :slight_smile:

I think “freak” is too strong a word, but you’ll certainly be considered unusual if you don’t drink without having a definite reason for it. Nobody will consider you at all odd if you say “I don’t drink because I’m a Muslim/Mormon/my doctor has told me not to”, or something like that, but saying “I just don’t drink” is likely to get you some funny looks, and almost certainly provoke the question “Why?”.

Incidentally, one reason for this is that the UK does not have the restrictions on “under-age” drinking that exist in the USA. The legal age to drink is five, and, at fourteen, you can be served beer or wine (not spirits) in a restaurant. You can’t buy alcohol in a pub, supermarket, or off-licence until you’re 18, and you’re not supposed to buy alcohol for your under-age friends (as opposed to family), but neither of these laws is enforced over-enthusiastically.

as an englishman that doesn’t drink i’d say yeah, we are definately considered
freaks :smiley: well no, perhaps not but it does seriously limit your potential social group as its much harder to find fellow none drinkers than it is drinkers. pubbing and clubbing are the major pasttimes here.

i stopped drinking purey because i hated the way i acted when drunk (stupidly) af5er university. My list of close friends has dropped in the following years from around a dozen to three. i dont regret it for a second…

The restriction on beer or wine with a meal is 16, not 14, and it has to be purchased on your behalf by an adult.

I dunno. Hanging out with both Brits and Americans regularly, I don’t see where the Brits drink any more than we do. Actually less than I used to. I know some who drink heavily and some who drink moderately and some who don’t drink at all.

So there might just be a bit of hyperbole regarding how important alcohol is to British society?

I will say it’s hard to not drink here. At my work christmas luncheon my boss pre-arranged temp cover so we could all go home drunk afterwards. I felt quite odd staggering home drunk at 4pm! I’ve only met one englishman who didn’t drink and he was devoutly christian.

I can’t think of anybody that I’ve met who never drinks, other than for religious or medical reasons. But there’s a great many who will often choose to not drink in social situations (my mother is one), even though they’ll at other times happily sink a few large ones. And they don’t stick out like a sore thumb.

I’m also thinking of a couple of months back, when a friend was ordering soft drinks post-football (and post-victory, which made it doubly unusual). She got a bit of stick for it, but not much. A fortnight later she told us she was pregnant, which explained it all. Nobody had taken the piss to the point that they then felt guilty or foolish.

Just a bit.

All you have to do is say that you’re driving and then you get to commiserate with everyone about the drink-drive laws.

Ditto for Australia.

My boss (a brit) drinks in moderation. He likes his wine, but limits it to no more than one glass a day. Several days often go by when he has none (I asked him.)

His boss (a brit) drinks with me regularly. He drinks less than I do and far less than I used to. I would say on the Thursday before New Years he had 3 beers and I had 4 (I know because I bought that night.) On New Years he had 4 and switched to tonic water at 11:30(I know because I was sitting at the bar and he was ordering over my shoulder.) I had probably 6. His wife doesn’t drink at all. The test manager and his wife (both Brits) drink very heavily. They won’t come out and drink with us so that they don’t drink and drive. They will drink anything - vodka, wine, gin, whatever. They are both at least as heavy a drinker as I used to be. One of the testers (a brit) doesn’t really drink, but will come out with us. On very special occasions he might have a gin and tonic, but I have only seen him do this twice since I have known him.

I actually don’t know too many American adults who don’t drink who aren’t a) religeous, b) in training, or c) under doctors orders. That is not to say they all get fucked up every night. But most people do drink occassionally.

My last drink was in 1999 while in Australia. Had champagne, wine, and brandy over the course of a meal and it all tasted about the same to me, lousy. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a liver disease, so drinking alcohol is now a medical consideration, but before that I just didn’t like it.

As for the OP, when I was in the UK for 3 weeks in August, I went out to eat pretty much every night, including hitting a few pubs, and never had a drop of alcohol. Don’t think I really stood out for that. Not knowing how to order food in the pub made me stand out just a bit, but I lived with it. :smiley:

Being half American and half Australian and having lived in both countries (as well as England for a year), I can speak a bit to it In England and Australia alcohol is weaved way more into the society than in America. For some reason, in America…drinking is an issue…and so it is much easier not to drink there. I am not sure if this stems back to prohibition, or MADD and other special interest groups, but it is much more out in the open then it is in England and in Australia. If you order a beer for lunch, people with you may say…“oh your drinking?” This wouldnt happen in Australia (its changing though). In America, many times people go to a bar to get drunk first, socialize second. In England, you go to a pub, order a pint, relax, and i f you get drunk, its a by-product of the whole experience. This isnt always the case of course, and I guess the best way to put it is that drinking in America always comes with baggage, and in England in Australia it doesnt. Its really hard to explain. So I think when someone from England or Australia give up drinking its really going more against the grain than in America. I cant speak for England, but I think in Australia drinking has increasingly become more of an issue, and so it is easier to stop drinking in Australia, but still not to the level that it is in America.

All this typing, has sure made me thirsty…time for a beer.

Do you have a cite for this, maybe it is the Jan 2005 rule change. The only cite I have found http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/alcohol/alcohol_law2.shtml is pre Jan 2005 and seems to disagrees with your point.

http://www.ias.org.uk/factsheets/law.pdf (PDF warning)

No idea if it was 14 before the new legislation, though.

Thanks again, another change from since I left Blighty. Still at least the drinking age hasn’t gone up to 21 yet, I’m not sure how students survive without alcohol in Universities here in USA.

They don’t. There’s always older students willing to buy booze for younger students. And of course fake IDs. More drinking tends to take place in private (party, drom room, etc) than bars/clubs. Drinking for the purpose of getting drunk is more common than social drinking.