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Pour It Up: Comparing British & American Drinking Cultures Among Students

As a college student, the college party culture is an essential part of the American experience. From the red solo cup to the cheap liquor, drinking in the states is a sport rather than a leisure activity. After studying in London for five weeks, I have found that the British drinking culture is vastly different from the American drinking culture. As my fellow classmates and I visited various London pubs and clubs, I noticed quite a few stark differences between Americans and Brits in their drinking habits.

The Age Debate

Too many American college students, the most enticing part about traveling to the UK is the lower drinking age. In the UK, the legal drinking age is 18, unlike the US where it is 21. Because drinking comes relatively late to the student experience, American students have a lower alcohol tolerance, which has bred a culture of binging in the United States and is most common in young adults aged 18-24 years. This binge culture has been depicted across international media and has become a normal aspect of college parties. Every fall, an onslaught of underage drinking stories and tragedies are seen across American media, with little being done by universities and legislatures to prevent such tragedies every year. Although Brits consume more alcohol than any other nation, their alcohol tolerance is substantially higher than their cousins across the pond and young Brits are less likely to make hospital visits for alcohol consumption or poisoning. As The Guardian said, “college students do drink and, because it’s illegal, they are that much more likely to binge…Forbidden fruit encourages excess.”

Drinking Mentality

The depiction of American parties and drinking in film/television, such as “Project X” and “Superbad”, has solidified the drinking culture both domestically and abroad. For Brits, drinking is a normalized part of the student experience and is seen as enjoying a pint and friends rather than simply getting drunk and messy. In comparison American students, from personal experience, drinking is considered to be an event in itself. American students don’t drink to enjoy the drink, but rather to get drunk and “let loose” at parties or clubs. The college tradition of fraternity’s throwing parties has become idolized in American culture, and from experience is a night of downing punch from red solo cups. Britain also allows drinking openly in public, with many British students enjoying a pint in parks and other public spaces, unlike the US where one can be arrested for public intoxication.

Pick Your Poison

When at a British pub, the choice of drinks is usually a local variety of beers, IPA’s, ciders, and other options. Especially in London, local breweries such as Camden Brewery are very popular and there is a sort of cult following towards these businesses. In the United States, bars carry the most popular alcoholic drinks in the area, with Budweiser and Miller Lite being a staple at every American bar across the nation. The method of shots and chasers has become a standard for the American bar experience, especially for students seeking an easy way to drunkenness. Britain’s local breweries provide an unusual and genuine experience for pub attendees, while American bars provide a cheap and easy way to drunken oblivion amongst students.


About Sarah Berg

I am a junior Digital/Print Journalism student at the University of North Texas. After my undergraduate studies, I plan on pursuing a Masters’ degree in Social Media Analytics or Marketing. After college, I plan on pursuing a career in Social Media Management and Analytics in New York City, NY.



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