Expats and Alcohol

Bill_E

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So I’ve been reading this year’s “Best American Short Stories” anthology and came across these lines in the story “Muzungu” by Namwali Serpell,

“Her parents had settled into life in Zambia the way most expats do. They drank a lot.”

That got me thinking about the years I spent in Tokyo where all the expats I knew were heavy drinkers. And about the stresses of expat life, the isolation and loneliness that you can sometimes experience in a culture so different from your own, especially if you don’t know the language well. And the temptation to drown those feelings in alcohol.

Anyway, just curious what everyone’s thoughts are. Do you find yourself drinking more here than you did back home? Is heavy drinking a universal part of the expat experience?
 

arty

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I've always been a heavy drinker. I think part of the problem with me is how repressive drinking was in the USA. Now, I can go to the park and have a beer and not have to worry about a ticket or worse.

I also hang out with locals and they drink a lot too. It's not a big deal to drink all beer and fernet all afternoon/night til about 2-3am then go to the club and drink there.

If anything booze is a social lubricant that helps you meet new people and feel more comfortable in strange situations.
 

tangobob

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Not a true expat, but I too drink more when in BsAs. That is because I don't drive when there. I don't drink a lot but I am free to drink when I want.
I wonder though if it is sometimes just cultural belifes, when we are in milongas, the locals often give me strange looks as I sit there with a bottle of beer while they all drink water. My wife loves the local sidra and they always ask how many glasses we want, the faces are a picture when we say just one.
 

Bill_E

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Interesting perspectives. No doubt the culture we're in influences how much we drink. In Tokyo, drinking was a big part of socializing. You'd go out with your coworkers after work and drink. You'd go out with your friends on the weekends and drink. The last train of the night was always filled with staggering drunks.

I don't mean to suggest that all heavy drinkers have some kind of problem, and I definitely enjoy a good drink now and then. Was just curious how much drinking patterns are shaped by culture vs. the experience of being a "foreigner."
 

travis

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I've only been here a week and am already close to becoming a wino! For me it's a combination of no driving and excellent, inexpensive vino.
 

Bill_E

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travis said:
I've only been here a week and am already close to becoming a wino! For me it's a combination of no driving and excellent, inexpensive vino.
Yeah, I agree on the wine. I just spent a month in Chile and it was the same there. Good, cheap wine everywhere.
 

arty

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Bill_E said:
Yeah, I agree on the wine. I just spent a month in Chile and it was the same there. Good, cheap wine everywhere.
I think that's also why expats drink a lot. It's usually cheaper than were I come from and you can drink pretty much anywhere you want.

It's really nice to go out somewhere and not have to worry about last call. And if you do have to leave you can usually find another place open or someone willing to sell you a beer.
 

Trabano

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Same goes for me. I have been drinking more in Argentina because I do not drive here and wine is stupid cheap. In the hot afternoons I like to pretend I am a Porteno and drink Fernet from my balcony while shouting 'Hola Linda!' and all the cute portenas.
 

citygirl

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I think there are a lot of factors that play into heavier-than-normal consumption. A lot of extranjeros are here on some type of extended vacation (not working) and hence, have a lot of time on their hands. Yes, there is also the price point (yummy wine, not expensive). And without question, I think there is the loneliness/social lubrication factor - you may not know people and/or your Spanish may not be great, so having a few drinks before going out makes it easier.
When I moved here (and wasn't working), I drank a lot more than I did in NY. Now that I work, I rarely have the desire/time to go out and have more than one drink. I'm also not in my 20s anymore ;) - the hangovers just kill me so it's not worth it.
 
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