What It's Like Being Someone Who Doesn't Drink In Ireland

I've always been fascinated by what make us Irish, is it our way with words, our sense of humour, or our hospitable nature that so many tourists talk about . It is a combination of all these things , but the one ingredient that everyone associates the Irish with, is drink. It has become as much a part of our culture as anything else. It has become so ingrained in Irish life that it seems like if someone doesn't drink, they're in some way less Irish.

Now I don't belittle anyone who drinks and I understand why, it's just that as a non-drinker, I always feel that people react differently when I tell them I don't drink. Most of the time people will say "Good for you" and "You're lucky" as if I'm just fighting temptation. The truth is that I  just choose not to, I don't abstain from drinking or have to give it up for a certain reason. I have just seen the damage it can do to families and how this horrible tragedy is becoming all too prevalent in Irish homes nowadays. So from the view of a non-drinker in Ireland I would like to give you some insight into what it's like being part of this drinking culture.

When I tell someone that I don't drink, I always get asked "Have you tried it before?" so yes,  I have tried It before and I've decided it's not for me. No, it's not that I don't like the taste, I just would rather not drink, it's that simple. I'm not someone who had a certain view about it and was immediately drawn away from it . It's just that over time I have realised that I don't need drink nor do I want it. So now that we have all the prejudices out of the way, it's time to delve deeper.

When we grew up we all took our pledge and promised that we wouldn't drink until we were 18. No one ever stuck it out  and most people in Ireland start drinking at a very young age, and it seems to be getting even younger. Underage drinking was always frowned upon, even though very little was done to actually stop young people from drinking. When you're older everyone drinks, so when you don't drink it comes off as a bit of a shock. At house parties, I was always offered a drink even though people knew I didn't drink. It was always just a bit of banter, as if I would just change my mind and start drinking. There was always this peer pressure that was there to drink and some of my friends who didn't drink initially, eventually  gave into this, whether they liked it or not. They probably would have started drinking anyway, but still, the fact that you were seen as being less sociable because you didn't drink stuck with me. It's seen as this right of passage that you have to go through to fit in. It can be quite an alienating experience for someone who doesn't drink.  


Whenever I order a drink at the bar, the barman always looks at me strange when I order a coke. I'm sure he is just used to the usual so it takes him by surprise. They don't say anything to me about it, but there is this undercurrent there that I've always felt that existed. When someone offers to buy rounds and I tell them that I don't drink, they would always try and convince me otherwise. It's all in good taste, but when I told them no a second time,  their opinion of me would change. When I told someone that I don't drink once before they said "So what do you on a night out", so I replied "The same as anyone else does, I have fun, except I'm sober".  I think the main problem from all this is being misunderstood, just because you don't drink doesn't mean you don't have the same social life as everyone else. I  just don't have a hangover the night after and I actually remember what happened the night before. Sometimes I actually don't tell people I meet that I don't drink because I know how they will react to it.

I'm lucky enough to have friends that understand why I don't drink and where I come from. My family as well aren't big drinkers, so they have a similar opinion. I'm lucky in that sense, but there always seems to be this stigma attached to people who don't drink,what with it being as rare as it is in Ireland. If you're a non-drinker, you're seen as different or unsociable to people on the outside. It wouldn't be as much of a problem if it wasn't such a prominent feature of Irish life. Some people don't drink because they play sports or are on certain medication that restrict them from drinking . For some reason, though it seems more acceptable to have some sort of excuse for not drinking, than not wanting to do it.

I would  just hope that in the future, it's more acceptable not to drink in Ireland. Younger generations have realised that they don't need drink to have a good time. In a country where drinking has become so commonplace, it leaves little room for those who don't. Hopefully people will have a better understanding of why people don't drink and won't  make so many assumptions about non-drinkers. Ireland has such a history with drink, that for once It would be nice if we had a future that wasn't marred by our country's drinking problem. Countless lives have been torn apart by drink in Ireland, and maybe if drink was less prevalent in Ireland they would be in a better place to deal with their problems.

Even though I feel there is a certain sense of social exclusion that comes with not drinking, I'm glad that I don't because of all the things I don't have to deal with. So If you will excuse me I will go back to drinking my coke.

Kenneth Fox
Article written by
I'm a musician and a writer, or a writer and a musician, I can't make up my mind, Either way I'm not particularly good at either. A bit of an old fashioned guy, who enjoys the simpler things in life, nothing fancy.

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