A is for Alcohol

Booze, beer, bevvies, moonshine, you name it we Brits like it, students too. I find this topic fascinating and like to raise questions about why people drink. I know all us Brits boast about drinking but why do we drink? Here are some things I’ve covered up to now:

1)Alcohol as a social lubricant and why it’s needed? Can we be social without it? Why not?

2)Binge drinking and the reasons ie peer pressure, lack of self-worth, depression etc.

3)Under age drinking and why it is ‘cool’ for 12 years olds to drink and why parents tolerate it.

4)Why do men have to boast about how much beer they drink and what is attractive about being drunk?

5)Why hangovers are seen as seen as a right of passage to some and even used as a valid excuse to miss appointments.

6)Why some men boast about being so drunk they..last night and how you are expected to say “wow…”.

7)How people blame their bad behaviour on alcohol.

8)At what point does your social drinking become alcoholism?

On a grander scale is alcohol a fuel for dumbing down the masses and keeping them in their place? Miserable after work? Then get drunk in the pub and you’ll forget all about it.

Things I’d use:

1)Videos of binge drinking teens and the damage they cause.

2)Videos of drunk football hooligans.

3)Photos of young kids passed out in the street (vomit optional).

4)Photos of a typical British pub compared with wine bars and night clubs.

5)Live interviews with staff/colleagues about their drinking habits.

6)Clips of American films/TV that often have scenes of washed up, alcoholic single men/ex-cops who use it to deal with their mistakes in life or middle-aged men who still get drink and act like 20 somethings (2 and a half men).

7)Everything and anything about IBIZA and other similar places.

Any comments? Would you feel OK using these snap shots of real English culture?



8 thoughts on “A is for Alcohol

  1. As a non- drinker, I often have conversations with students about two things:
    -the differences between attitudes to drink in their country and in the UK, and the corresponding atmosphere in pubs
    – the social acceptability of not drinking, and any disadvantages this could have – for example a Korean student told me that if he didn’t go out drinking eith his boss and colleagues he would be unlikely to get a promotion, or it would be much slower coming to him.
    A greeat set of conversation topics!

    • Excellent Sandy!! Yes, in some countries you have to go out and get plastered with the boss. In fact, in England you’d look boring if you didn’t go for after work drinks, like me. I’m very boring. For many cultures people only trust you when they’ve seen you drunk but many pretend.

  2. Visiting a bar or two in the area where you teach is usually good for material for a warmer or even a lesson.

    Watch who comes in – male female split, age of drinkers, who orders, what is ordered, especially the quantity and the names of the measures, who pays, do they drink everything before they leave, do they/can they sit down, how long are they in the bar, what is the average price of a drink, do they eat when drinking.

    If you teach under 18´s ask them when they drink, where they drink and what they drink, also ask them when they had their first drink and who gave it to them.

    So far my cross cultural investigations have involved Australians, Czechs, Poles, Spaniards, Basques, Chinese and Brits, all on their home turf. The answers to the above questions are varied, often surprising and never dull.

    Start the lesson – I was in Bar XX last night and I saw…………., that’s different to [select any other country], why do they do that? Sit back and moderate, after a while provide error correction.

    In Spain, wine was used to moisten bread for primary school children’s post school sugar sandwiches – students of a certain age told me tino – red wine – was regarded as food not drink. Similarly Poles told me beer was food not drink – I believe the Russians have only just changed beer´s status in law.

    Just for the record Phil, mines a pint of something almost flat and bitter. Cheers

    • Brilliant Dave! So that’s what you were doing in all those pubs and bars, researching!!

      The pub class is a controversial one indeed. I do and have known many teachers who just don’t want to teach so take their students to the pub with the excuse of “practising real English” but it would be good. If you looked at what you mention, use it to practise real English, discuss what people do and say and then engage with the staff/locals it could be great.

      I remember playing darts with one class over some drinks at the end of a trip to London Bridge market and afternoon tea (just next to the market). They loved it and will always remember that afternoon, they also relaxed and really spoke and loved the fact that they were able to interact fully with everyone.

      Of course, the conversations about who was drinking what was great and they informed me that Europeans don’t get rat-arsed like us Brits or that they do it with more sophistication.

      From their perspective the pub was part of Britain and you had to go there at least once a week, or day even. They also found the concept of ‘locals’ and their seats funny. I remember one student being told that he couldn’t sit in a certain place because it was Tony’s. He then claimed his own seat in the class and wouldn’t let others on it. How British!! He should’ve put a beach towel on it.

    • Oh yes.I always find it amusing when foreign students get a real taste of English drinking life.I had 2 great lads (19 Indonesian and Thai) who went to Ibiza for a week as it was cheap and they came back traumatised. Another French kid went straight to a night club the second he got of the Eurostar just to see what all the talk of drunk Brits was. He ended up running away from some local women who loved his accent.

      You can’t beat immersion can you?

  3. Really interesting stuff, Phil. Here’s a link to an award-winning short film on functioning alcoholics called Successful Alcoholics:

    At 23 minutes long, it’s a bit too long, but it’s entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time.

    All the best,


    • Fantastic!! That’s what we need in class. Alcohol is a social drug that, if you teach late teens/early 20s, they use and may be part of the whole “I drank 24 pints last night then woke up in Belgium” culture. It’s also interesting how it is part of many religious ceremonies and in some companies you have to drink with your colleagues and bosses. Why is certainly worth talking about. I do love asking heavy drinking friends why they drink so much and why they go “oh, you don’t drink” if you say you don’t. It shocks them probably more than if you say “I’m an alien from the planet Zlog”. Their answer would then be “great,lets have a beer”.

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