When I tell my parents about where I’ve been, I tell them about the days and places. They like to hear about the regality of the temples, the museums of modern art and ancient history, the way the light broke just so over that sleepy little village in the mountains of the Philippines. It’s the kind of thing they’d do if they were abroad, so that’s what I give them. Appeasement shit.
When I tell my friends about where I’ve been, they get the nights and the people. It’s always more fun to tell, and the stories are always larger when you have to pantomime rude gestures to get the point across. I’m not saying these stories are more valuable than the others, and I’m definitely not saying getting hammered with a bunch of other tourists is a better cultural experience than a nice homestay in a rural village.
What I am saying is when it’s 7am and I’m stumbling back with a Kiwi over one shoulder and a Brit over the other, singing each others’ national anthems, I go to bed satisfied. I’m saying the best cultural osmosis — between likeminded foreigners, at least — takes place in an ethanol-based solution.
At the hostel, the International Drinking Rules are the best way to get the night going. They’re not a drinking game — they go into effect the instant the first beer is cracked, and they stay in effect no matter who pops in or passes out. They’re fun, they’re hilarious, and they’re a great way to share an aspect of your home country.
As you travel, you build up a repertoire of these rules that you can then share with others as you bounce from hostel to hostel. Think of them as the drunken backpacker version of a viral video.
1. Never drink with your primary hand
This one came from a kindly English gentleman. The “kindly” modifier, however, was only applicable when drinking from the off hand. Take a sip with your strong arm, and you may as well have thrown that beer at his elderly grandmother.
If somebody spots you doing it, they shout “BUFFALO!” and you are obligated to finish your beer and buy a new one. If you do it again, they shout “DUFFALO,” and again, “TRUFFALO,” with each being an additional beer chug. And if you do it again, well, just go home. You’re not going to have a good night.
2. Don’t say the D-word
This one’s from another jolly big Brit from Newcastle (the drinking capital of England, I’m told). The punishment for breaking this rule is pushups. Ten of them. It has to be, because if it were drinking, people would die.
In this rule, there are certain words you can’t say, including but not limited to: “drink,” “drunk,” “drank,” “me,” “mine,” “you,” “yours,” “ten” (to fuck with the people calling out for pushups), and any variations your crowd decides to temporarily outlaw. It’s harder than you’d think. Hope you’ve got some decent upper-body strength.
3. No swearing
It’s easy enough to avoid, so the punishment must be more severe. Drinking doesn’t cut it. Neither does pushups. If you swear, your head becomes a magnet that must always be in contact with something. A wall, the bar, a person. It doesn’t matter, as long as your forehead’s hidden. And it’s stuck there until you’re forgiven for your vulgarity.
This rule is the work of a sadistic American in Cambodia, and I shudder to think of it catching on.
No first names, no pointing. You may be wondering how avoiding names and indications would help you bond with strangers, but let’s be serious. You may not remember their names in the morning anyway.
When you’re forced to refer to each other as “Muscle Hobbit” or “Lobster Legs,” however, the little things, the details that make people who they are, tend to become more memorable. Failure to comply, you’ll imbibe.
The devilish brainchild of one particularly insane Kiwi, this rule guarantees the drunkest in the group becomes the butt of the joke. Whenever anybody says or does something particularly ridiculous, somebody can shout, “Copy!” Whenever that person then shouts, “Paste!” the person must repeat that phrase or action. No matter what.
It becomes most entertaining when you catch somebody stumbling or spilling their drink on themselves. Oh, you’ll try to watch what you say and do, but if you were sober enough to catch yourself, you’d be sober enough not to need to, and where’s the fun in that?
If copy/paste embarrasses you, then tell’er embarrasses everybody else. I learned it from an Aussie as a “one-up” on the aforementioned Kiwi. If you say something about somebody absent from the conversation — be it the cute girl across the bar or your mates back home — and somebody shouts, “tell’er!” then by your honor as a drinksman, you must go over to that cute girl, or get that friend on the phone, and tell them exactly what you said.
You can nullify the effects by saying, “off the record,” before somebody can call you out, but who will remember to do that? Alcohol is a truth serum, might as well embrace it.
7. The Canadian bathroom rules
These next few came in a bundle from a pair of Canadian girls. They involve bathroom etiquette, so they’re more difficult to enforce, but much more fun to play by.
When going to the bathroom, one must always — loudly — announce what duty they’re about to fulfill. And in the bathroom, one must always leave the stall door unlocked. If using the urinal, the rule is, “Pee like a primary schooler.” That is, pants around the ankles. It’s gross, it freaks out the bystanders, and you’ll always leave the bathroom laughing.
8. The little man
Imagine there’s a little guy just chillin’ on your beer. You don’t know how he got there. But you’re sure as hell not sharing. So each time you drink, you must remove the little man from your beer. But you’re not a monster, you’re not gonna leave this little guy hanging. So when you finish drinking, plop this invisible fellow back on your bottle.
It’s a hassle, and most people forget about the rule fairly quickly. But the enforcement is a killer: If you don’t properly remove and replace the little man on your beer, somebody can claim he wandered off, and you’ll have to go get him from wherever the rule enforcer claims he went. In the bathroom, in the café across the street, in an innocent bystander’s drink…happy travels. He’s a fast little guy.
9. The game of life
When you get your drink, fuck with the container. Turn the can’s tab. Tear the bottle’s label. Somebody’s going to come up to you and ask, “How you livin’?” If you’ve remembered to fuck with the container, you get to say, “I’m living well!” You’ll cheers and drink with your friend.
But if you’ve forgotten to mess with the bottle, well, sorry buddy, but you’re living poorly. You need to finish that beer and buy another one. This rule comes straight from Washington DC, where checking up on the lives of foreigners is rapidly becoming the norm.
10. No wingeing
This one has no origin; it’s a universal truth to life. It’s an English term for “no complaining.” You’re here to have fun, mate. If you don’t like the rules, don’t play by them. For everybody else, stay vigilant — you never know when you’ll catch somebody in the act.
And don’t let the alcohol get the better of you. You need to remember any new rules in the morning to spread them to your next stop.
***Explore the world party scene with 101 PLACES TO GET F*CKED UP BEFORE YOU DIE. Part travel guide, part drunken social commentary, 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die may have some of the most hilarious scenes and straight-up observations of youth culture of any book you’ve ever read.***
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