Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sixteen Ounces to Freedom

A beacon to the peoples of the world.

I had the interesting experience of spending my Fourth of July with, among others, about a half-dozen Europeans in the States for work. We ate corn on the cob, grilled burgers and brats, listened to violent, misogynist rap music and generally had an all-American afternoon.

But one thing really caught the attention of the Continentals: the red Solo cups. Very excited at the sight of disposable drinkware, the Yanks at this BBQ did the cultural exchange thing: we taught them flip cup.

Apparently, they don't sell large, brightly colored plastic cups in Europe, making them very noticeable in certain American college movies. Think about it: whenever anyone on an American college campus is having fun in the movies or on TV, they are surrounded by a sea of red or blue Solo cups. It turns out that the "red cup," as they call it, is a minor cultural touchstone.

As usual, I have a theory. By the time most Americans reach 21, they have been drinking for years at house parties, in dorm rooms or in dank frat basements. Once bars and clubs admit us, our drinking habits have largely been formed. Europeans, on the other hand, can go out to drink at a far younger age and thus never get the chance to entertain themselves with beer pong, flip cup and everything else that goes with drinking semi-incognito. That's why twentysomething Europeans are always impressed with our house parties and we're generally impressed with European bars and clubs.

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