Alcohol culture in America

Alright. Random ramblings from that British guy “” take two. Here we go.

University life is very different for me here in Texas compared to what it would be back home in England. The general pattern of socializing and interpersonal interaction and communication may be similar, but there are some rather large differences that seem to revolve around one thing: drinking alcohol.

As the renowned scholar & philosopher Jonathan Smith (a.k.a. Lil’ Jon) once said, “Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, EVERYBODY”. This somewhat sums up the general feeling in the media about alcohol and how it is portrayed to us as young people. Alcohol is great and it’s fun and we should all get drunk together. Yay. But not according to the U.S. government. The legal drinking age may not seem like a deal breaker but honestly the entire structure of socializing and partying in America revolves around and is somewhat hindered by the necessity to be 21 to purchase booze.

Personally, I don’t drink. My parents do, I’ve worked as a bartender for over two years and I regularly socialize with my friends who are drinking. But it just isn’t for me. However, looking at it from a transatlantic perspective it’s really startling to me just how much the laws of America dictate what happens at Trinity. The drinking age in England is 18. So pretty much all first years at university have already had some contact with alcohol and will almost definitely begin drinking as soon as their parents have dropped them off at their new student accommodation.

This, I feel, is not the case at Trinity. Certainly, far more people here refrain from alcohol than in England, and drink in excess far less, perhaps due to the laws. For example, I remember one friend expressing her shock to me that somebody had “a handle of vodka” in their room. I looked at her in surprise. “Is that all she has?! She’s at university!” were my thoughts.

There are other differences too “” seemingly smoking cigarettes, drug use and casual sex are all far less prevalent among Trinity students than my people back home – but the changes are probably just down to different social upbringings. For example, orientation week at Trinity revolved around getting to know your new class and settling in on campus. The British equivalent, Fresher’s Week, revolves around going out to different clubs every night for a week, getting completely wasted and usually waking up in bed with a different person every morning. It’s not everybody’s idea of a perfect week, but it’s a clear example of just how different the attitudes to alcohol and sex are here.

It’s somewhat confusing for me that American citizens are able to drive, in some states, at age 15, join the army at 18 and yet are not able to drink a beer at your leisure until you’re 21. To me, those priorities seem somewhat skewed. I can’t see the logic in being able to go to war and risk your life, yet be unable to enjoy an alcoholic beverage if you so desire. Trinity’s new “Optimal Buzz” system in the freshman quad is refreshing as it allows people to drink, to a point, without punishment. Students are going to drink regardless of the rules “” it’s good that the establishment accepts that. However, friends of mine have been punished for being in the same room as people who were drinking, even if they weren’t drinking themselves. That, while hard to judge, seems ridiculous to me.

I think Trinity does a good job of balancing freedom for the students with its law enforcement responsibilities. So much of socializing between the ages of 18 and 22 revolves around alcohol, it’s refreshing to see more of an independence of thought here than I do at home. People seem more open to not drinking, and drinkers are more understanding of those who do not. I like that. There isn’t really a moral to this story, but I hope the next presidential administration decides to lower the drinking age. But drink responsibly in the meantime. And don’t play beer pong if, like me, you’re not very good. People make you run naked.

Callum Squires is a first year german major.