Being a British 20 something – And why perhaps we should be learning a thing or two from the Europeans.

Forgive me for breaking with convention but I thought I would write an article for fun. I hope you enjoy!

Another fine Sunday morning, another rather unpleasant groggy feeling and dry mouth. The combination of which will be familiar with anyone who has experienced a night out of drinking, albeit it is not exactly one that people remember fondly….

For some time I have always wondered why it is, that since I hit 18 (and my friends and acquaintances included), we go out every week (or second), spend a disproportionately large share of our income (either pre, during or post evening), to essentially poison ourselves, put on weight, feel rubbish and (depending on the individual) act like a total idiot.

And yet we do it again….and again….and again…..

Now I know every country in the world (legally or not) drinks to a certain extent and parties (some pretty damn hard), but what I don’t really understand is why it seems so consistent in the UK that the end game (or nearly always final result) of a night out for a 20 something in the UK ends up with them “sh*t-faced”…..again the question I ask is WHY??

So I thought I might take a punt and a speculation on why this is the case (And why this perhaps is very similar in certain countries in the world but not others). In essence I think it’s because of this:

“The reason why a large proportion of 20 something’s in the UK go out so consistently and get so hammered is because, whether they know it or admit it, we are all really f*cking terrified about everything”

That’s right. I think we are all really, really, really scared. And not just about one or two things but about everything:

As I see it by the time you hit 20 and before you clear 30 you seem to be stuck in this weird scenario for which nothing in your life to that point has prepared you for: namely full individual accountability for every aspect of your life and secondly full freedom to decide your own course in life (with no “Right” answer to follow).

Whether it is jobs, moving from home (or in my case trying to!), relationships (or lack thereof, whether intentional or other), lifestyle (work/life balance), choosing where home is (especially difficult if you don’t feel you can work where you have spent your life living or have never had a fixed home before).

What is also scary I think, and I believe most people will sympathise to various extents, is probably best explained by my analogy below:

“From birth to 18, life is like a ship sailing from the mouth of a river to the sea, with a fixed rudder and a firm wind in the breeze. Those on the boat may not like the route or the journey but it is a clear one they must follow none the less. Then suddenly, as the boat finally reaches the sea, the rudder relaxes and the wind dies. The boat is now cast adrift with no clear direction and the crew now have to decide what to do next.”

Cliched?….probably. But the point I still believe is pertinent. We all go through school and through childhood with certain socially imposed constraints that channel us to a fixed point in our lives: Nursery – pre-school – prep school – secondary school – …….

For some the decision gets kicked back longer. This is what is euphemistically called “Higher Education” or more accurately “Cr*p I am not ready for the real word! Lets learn something vaguely productive, hopefully meet some cool people and somehow earn more money than we would have done before hand when we leave. After all I can decide my career for the next 30-50 years in 3 years of studying right???”

This is why I think we all drink. We drink on dates because we are nervous (it loosens our guard), we drink with friends (it makes it easier for us to talk about what we are really interested in with a cover if the other party is unimpressed by content), we drink with family (that may be habit or awkwardness or higher alcohol quality related….all are valid) and we drink with work colleagues (because getting a straight answer from a sober work colleague is usually enough to drive you to drink).

Of course I do not mean by this that we would all be tee-total if we didn’t drink. Far from it. But I do think if we can learn one thing from our counterparts in Southern Europe (and many Latin origin states as well), it is that drinking can actually be enjoyed without being hammered at the end of it.

Now do people from southern Europe and Latin states get drunk? Obviously yes they do! But the mentally appears at least to my mind to be subtly different.

The pace of life I believe is the key.

In our 20’s we feel a huge amount of pressure to start jobs, find a life partner (Or at least be looking), find a new home (flat, house, etc) and all of these things, things that will define our lives, we have to decide before we have even past what by most modern estimates will be only slight more than the ¼ life mark in our existence (Latest figures are we will claim working pensions in the UK when we are 75…).

So I want to propose an idea for those who want to stop the “Binge Drinking” culture (which by any other historical reference should be more accurately referred to as “Drinking”!), which is to actually start to talk to people about what really is important to them in life as a fundamental part of our education.

It is remarkably consistent that regardless of age or nationality, this is a question that truly unites all 20 something’s worldwide. The only difference is on how we respond to it. In Europe (especially the South) people seem to have more time to decide and to move at their own pace. In the UK we seem to have to move from home and have a job the minute we finished studying (often at a much earlier age than in Europe) and then be married or on our way by 30…..That seems pretty terrifying.

So to end this long rant here is my simple thought encapsulated:

20 something’s often drink so much and so hard because we are all so scared about not knowing what we want, what’s expected of us and most importantly perhaps is how we get there.

If maybe we spent as much time learning about “skills needed for life” on actually thinking about what it is that people want from life then maybe we would all be a bit happier, a bit more sober and the alcohol companies a little poorer.

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