The drinking culture was encouraged by my adviser who often bought the first couple of rounds but never stayed past that. I went to these things because they were fun and I don’t have trouble if other people drink. I’d get something non-alcoholic and stay as long as I liked. I didn’t think this was a problem except it marked me out from his crowd of people and at conferences I was … rarely invited to the bar to meet other professors the way my adviser’s other students were. That might be because my adviser and I always had a good professional relationship but I don’t think I was his idea of someone he’d hang out with. I suspect in part because I didn’t drink. Vicious circle there.
I am now at a top tier PhD program in my field, at a school you have all heard of, in a small town that is often described as having only one other thing to do besides studying underwater basket weaving or hamster fur weaving. Everyone here has a list of the best places in town to get “cheap beer.” I do socialize with my peers here too. I go and I just order something non-alcoholic and don’t make a big deal of it. If someone offers me something of the pitcher on the table I just smile and say I don’t drink but thank them.
Is there a better way to handle this? Am I making myself look like a raging alcoholic or alternating an uptight asshole? It’s simply a matter of preference. I don’t like the taste or the lack of control, and while I wasn’t an alcoholic one of my parents was and I see no appeal in the stuff at all. I do offer to drive people home if they are going to walk home drunk (I’ve never actually seen anyone I thought shouldn’t drive try). I don’t dwell on the matter, and if the subject of my lack of drinking comes up it usually is brought up by someone else with a “well that must be a real handicap here…” Luckily enough my PhD advisers aren’t part of the issue the way my Master’s adviser was.
I honestly enjoy “beer night” or “pub night” when I go. I don’t think that I’m judging anyone. I’d like to continue to be invited.
Q: Is drinking a requirement of these social settings? If you do not drink and do not wish to start, is there a better way of handling it? What did you think of your colleagues or grad students who didn’t drink in these kinds of social situations?