I was reminded by Rob over at The Inconsequential Opinion that Christmas tends to have a slightly more raucous edge to it back in Britain, which is encapsulated by some of the Christmas music, which includes songs by Slade and Wizzard that you don’t hear in the USA. In fact, I don’t think I have been anywhere that loves a drunken party as much as the British.
I first talked about this topic back in the early 1990s with a Canadian. We were in Germany, part of a group that included Germans, American, French, Irish and, of course, British and Canadians. Anyway, it was observed that the English-speaking peoples have a tendency to enjoy getting drunk and going a little crazy, whereas the Germans and French tend to prefer to drink and act in a much more controlled way.
I would actually go further than what I agreed with my Canadian friend at the time and say that the British (and Irish) probably also top the English speaking peoples for raucous partying. Americans, generally, are pretty civilized by comparison. I was slightly amused by an American friend recently asking me whether a spoken poetry event that we attend at a local bar was too raucous for me, as from my perspective, it was generally not at all rowdy by British standards. But her thoughts were understandable – what is usually projected to outsiders tends to be the rather quiet, civilized image of British culture and the other side is often glossed over.
Why do the Brits have this tendency? I think we are a very schizophrenic group, who, being famously repressed in everyday life, every now and then need to blow off some steam and go a bit ga-ga. The dark, damp weather is probably a factor too, it keeps you shut indoors and frankly, can get pretty depressing at times, especially in the North of England where I am from.
There is a pretty awful side to British partying culture too, of course, which never gets mentioned in the tourist adverts. It’s virtually impossible to go through the centre of any major town or city on a Friday or Saturday night without encountering groups of extremely drunken (mainly, but not exclusively young) people spilling out of the bars and clubs, stumbling into the road, puking, groping, shouting, scrapping, swearing and collapsing… It can all seem rather hellish to the sober observer (I have spoken to more than one taxi driver that expressed their absolute horror when they first encountered British drinking culture after arriving from Pakistan).
But despite the downsides, when you’re brought up in British culture, it is difficult not to miss a little of the raucous edge when abroad.
My favourite Christmas song: A Fairytale of New York, by The Pogues and Kirsty McColl (which my wife described as “far too depressing for Americans” hehe!)