That Australia is a nation known for drinking is little surprise. It is widely thought that the first Australian settlers drank more alcohol per capita than any other population in history, and understandably so given that the country’s currency for a time was rum.
What isn’t so known, to outsiders anyway, is the concept of “shouting.” Going back through Australia’s long history with alcohol, it has always been considered bad form to drink alone here. And in the old days, when the nation was primarily a land of convicts, people used to buy drinks for others, perhaps as a test for character. If he returned the favor, he was okay—if not, he was someone best avoided.
My friends at Convict Creations wrote a fascinating piece about the social benefits of shouting, and how it has ironically saved a culture known for drinking from some of the catastrophic drinking-related problems of it’s Russian, South American or East Asian counterparts. So please go there for some interesting tidbits, while now I will focus on helping you understand the proper way to shout Down Under.
- There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch: Maybe you’ve heard this in Economics class, but it holds true here. If you aren’t going to return the favor, don’t accept a drink from someone. And don’t try to say you’ll pay them back next time!
- Don’t Knock Over That Man’s Beer: If you have the misfortune of knocking over someone else’s drink, you had better hope there is another full mug on the table. In some parts of Australia, spilling one’s beer earns the guilty party a punch in the arm from every other member of the group!
- Step Up to the Plate: It is up to you to step up to the plate and volunteer your shout. Nobody else is going to remind you unless it becomes painfully obvious that you’re attempting to breach your responsibilities to the group.
- Don’t be the Showy Offy Drink Snob!: Whatever everyone is drinking, keep it consistent. If you try to switch the good old VB to a round of Chimay because you tried it on your trip to Belgium and enjoyed it, you’ll look like a douche.
- Nobody’s Forcing You: In the event that you are starting to feel you had too much and want to bow out, wait until the end of a round. You don’t want to look like that guy mooching, nor do you want that round’s volunteer to appear cheap by not having to buy the same amount of drinks as everyone else. If you must drop out mid-round, try requesting a non-alcoholic drink. You may get a chuckle, but everyone saves face.
- Everyone is Equal: Unlike in some cultures, here it doesn’t matter who is rich, who is poor, who is man, who is woman. The same expectations and obligations apply to everyone.
Now that you know the rules of the game, enjoy your shout next time you find yourself in Australia, or just drinking with a group of mates from there!