Northern Irish Drinking Culture by Michelle Taylor

One of the major cultural differences I’ve experienced here in Belfast is the drinking culture. One of the major reasons, of course, being that the drinking age here is 18, not 21, as it is in the States. This means that alcohol is much more a part of life in university in a casual way, a way it cannot be at American universities. For example, clubs and societies are able to serve drinks at gatherings or have socials where members go out to a bar or do a pub crawl. In addition, the university has a bar in the Student Union which is often the first stop of any night out. CofC certainly doesn’t have a bar and the idea seems quite far-fetched. It is also more typical for students to go out throughout the week rather than just on Fridays and Saturdays. If someone has something to celebrate or a club is having a particularly interesting theme night, going out Tuesday through Thursday is not uncommon. In addition to nights out with fellow students, more formal events tend to serve alcohol as well. Formal club dinners, networking events, and other social events will typically serve wine and beer. Having a drink in hand is a part of the social scene I had to adjust to. Drinking is common so people have less of a tendency to over imbibe, as it is less of a novelty as it would be in the States given the older drinking age we have here. Drinking is smoothly integrated into culture in Belfast to the point of not being a point worthy of note to those who live there. Overall, this has made for a more enjoyable experience for me as I’ve been able to go out with friends and try new things while knowing that my friends know their limits and I have someone to walk home with at the end of the night. And as anyone will tell you, if you visit Belfast, you have to try Guinness while you are there. It is quintessentially Irish, and whether you think you will like it or not, it’s something everyone should try once.

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