You're probably thinking, this is not possible, you can't be French and not drink alcohol. Alcohol is so much a part of French culture, especially wine. It would be a sacrilege to be French and not drink alcohol.
Well, it does exist! But, I must admit that it is not so easy and pleasant sometimes.
This week in my French conversation group, Ohlala French Coffee, we are talking about alcohol and drugs. And I thought it would be interesting to share with you my point of view as a French person who doesn't drink alcohol and how I live it.
Since I was a little girl, I always hated alcohol! Alcohol was very present in my daily life and I saw the bad behaviors that people adopted because of alcohol. It disgusted me! I promised myself that I would never be like them!
I already tasted alcohol so as not to die stupid as they say, just to get an idea of the taste. I didn't like it! Especially strong alcohol!
As a teenager, not drinking alcohol totally conditioned my social life, especially in college. Alcohol and cigarettes are the cement of French social life. My closest friends drank very little alcohol or only occasionally and I was fine with that.
When I went to university parties, it was always the same scenario when I said I didn't drink alcohol. People would always ask me: What? But why? Why don't you drink alcohol?
That question always made me laugh! Why don't I drink alcohol? But why do you drink alcohol? That's the question you would normally ask!
But that wasn't the worst part! If I told someone that I didn't drink alcohol, he would, as a personal challenge, get me to drink alcohol! The guy, yes it was always men who reacted like this, would spend his evening forcing me to drink alcohol!
Why?! Why is it his problem that I don't drink alcohol? Leave me alone! I'm not stopping you from drinking alcohol. It's my choice and we have just as much fun without alcohol! Besides, you don't get a hangover the next day.
In France, there is this necessity that everyone drinks and likes alcohol. If it wasn't the case, people would look at you strangely, like an alien coming from another planet.
And I don't want to tell you the face of people if I tell them that I'm almost 30 years old and that I've never been drunk in my life and that I don't intend to be. They fall off their chairs!
And it's not just among the young! I told you about college parties, but older people have had the same amazement at seeing someone who doesn't drink alcohol.
You don't drink alcohol? Not even wine? How about beer? Rosé, maybe?
No, zero alcohol!
We are suspect! It is more suspicious in France not to drink alcohol than to drink it! You are considered as a strange person, a killjoy, rude, problematic, a mood breaker, sanctimonious.
When I say I don't drink to someone who likes it, I feel a barrier forming between us. We can never be friends, we can never get along. I offend her, I betray her, I break her heart.
"Come on, just one drink!" someone tells me.
"No. I don't drink alcohol."
"One little sip, one drop to please me."
"No. I don't drink alcohol."
It even got to the point, where for my birthday, I just had a wish. I don't care about gifts, I just want one thing: to spend my birthday party without alcohol, just the pleasure of having my loved ones sober around me. Can you believe that when the guests arrived and noticed that there was no alcohol, they went to the supermarket to buy some? It's true. I swear it really happened!
There is an incredible social pressure related to alcohol in France. It's cool to drink alcohol, it's as normal as buying a baguette. You have to have a mind of steel not to give in to this pressure.
I wanted to share my personal experience with you today to reassure you if, upon arriving in France, you may have felt a little weird about drinking. Alcohol is not a part of every foreign culture and it can be shocking to see this trivialization of alcohol in France.
Not drinking alcohol in France is possible. It's annoying, it's true. You have to be patient, persevering and self-confident, but it is possible.