Alcohol is very much a part of student life. In many parts of the world, it is used as a way to relax and engage in social situations, and Australia is no different. So, to help you navigate drinking culture in Australia, here is a handy guide to knowing how to drink safely, how to say no and what alternatives there are to alcoholic drinks.

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Australian drinking culture

Drinking is arguably a big part of Australian culture. In Australia, it’s strongly connected to social situations; you’ll struggle to find a party or gathering that doesn’t have alcohol in one form or another. It’s common to go out for drinks to relax after work, or to celebrate over a toast with friends and family. The legal drinking age in Australia is 18, so if you’re visiting from a country where the legal age is older, you might have your first drink here.

If you want to get a snapshot of Australian drinking culture, here are some statistics that might help you understand it better. In a 2017 poll, forty-four per cent of Australians admitted that they drink to get drunk, which is a higher number than in previous years. But overall, Australia’s attitude to drinking is improving. Sixty-three per cent of Australians limited their drinking to two standard drinks, with only 16% of Australians consuming more than five. Young adults and university students aged 18 to 24 are drinking less than they were in 2007, and more Australians don’t drink alcohol at all compared to ten years ago.

Ways to say no

In Australian culture, it can be a bit hard to say no to friends or family who are offering you a drink. Saying no might earn you a few strange looks, but there are other ways to turn down drinks without offending anyone.

“I’m driving.” Being the designated driver is the best excuse. No one wants you to drink and drive, so any offers of alcohol will be off the table. Plus, you can watch out for your friends and make sure they arrive home safely.

“I’ve got to get up early tomorrow.” Anyone who has had a bit too much to drink will be familiar with the awful wake-up call that is a hangover. Getting up early for work or other commitments is a great excuse, as it shows that you’re in control, not the alcohol.

“I’ve just finished a drink.” It’s usually not a good idea to have drinks one after the other if you’re out with friends or family. People will usually understand that you need time to eat, drink, and relax before having another drink, so they’ll be more accepting of your sobriety.

“I’ve reached my limit for tonight.” Most people will be aware that there’s a limit when it comes to social drinking. Your friends and family will respect your self-control.

Alternatives to alcohol

Even if you’re not drinking alcohol on a night out, you may still want to have something else. Water, of course, is the number one, and juices and soft drinks are also good alternatives. However, you might get sick of drinking soda after soda, and may want to enjoy something a little fancier. Virgin drinks and mocktails are great alcohol-free choices, as they have the same flavour and taste of usual cocktails, without the alcohol.

Lemon, lime and bitters: This drink is very popular in Australia. Its alcohol content is so low that it’s barely noticeable, although some bars may require identification to purchase it.

Ginger beer: Despite the name, most ginger beers don’t actually have alcohol in them. Alcoholic ginger beer does exist, so double-check you’re ordering the non-alcoholic version.

Shirley Temple: This cherry, ginger ale and grenadine drink is perfect for those with a sweet tooth.

Drinking safely

If you are going to drink alcohol, it’s important that you know how to drink safely.

Know your limit and stick to it

How much alcohol you can consume depends on your sex, age, weight, health, and many other factors. It is recommended that healthy men and women limit themselves to two standard drinks a day, but the above factors could lower that number. Make sure you don’t go over your limit.

Don’t drink too quickly

If you’re having drink after drink, it can be hard to tell how much alcohol you’ve had and what toll it’s going to take. Pace yourself so that you can tell what effect the alcohol is having on your mind and body.

Drink water or eat before each drink

Drinking water can keep you hydrated. Eating something will decrease the rate at which the alcohol is digested.