Throughout time, younger generations have been associated with the party lifestyle. The club scenes, alcohol marketing, and nightlife are filled with twenty-somethings dancing, drinking, and partying. Since the culture for many young people today is closely tied to drinking alcohol, what social hurdles do non-drinkers among this group face?

Drinking Culture & Social Expectations

Just as we design our living room furniture around the television as its focal point, social interactions for many millennials are designed around alcohol. Bars, clubs, parties, and nightlife exist around alcohol as its catalyst. These popular social interactions make it pretty difficult to “fit in” without having a drink – or more commonly- a few drinks.

For those who don’t drink in a drinking culture, it’s like living in a foreign country without speaking the language. Non-drinkers have two options. Remain sober and accept the role of designated driver in order to socialize, or stay away from the ritual altogether.

Despite the fact that young people aren’t drinking as much on a regular basis, binge drinking episodes at clubs and bars are still common. For those who don’t drink, it can be difficult to be around intoxicated friends and business associates while refraining from drinking alcohol.

Everyone has their reasons

Millennial Magazine- non drinkers

There are many reasons people choose not to drink. Some are newly sober after battling issues with alcoholism, some don’t like the taste, others don’t like the way it makes them feel, and some have had bad experiences while drinking. The list is endless for why people make the decisions they make.

For those who don’t drink, the reason behind it can be difficult to talk about. Not participating in such a big social expectation associated with millennial culture is a difficult task, and if the reason for not drinking related to a negative experience it can be even harder.

Drinking in college can lead to a slew of negative consequences that deters many people in this age group from alcohol. The party lifestyle, social expectations, and Greek life associated with alcohol can be difficult to get away from. For some, the poor choices, negative consequences, or negative experiences associated with alcohol in college have caused them to make different choices out of school.

Alternative Options for Non-drinkers

Millennial Magazine- non drinkers

There are more and more alternative options for non-drinking millennials. Craft beer and a surprising amount of wine consumption has become a popular thing associated with the already popular drinking culture of millennials, but so is health and activity. Travelling, hiking, skiing, surfing, and a variety of other activities have become common pastimes for millennials as well. These activities are great alternatives for non-drinkers who would still like to be social with their drinking peers without spending time in heavy drinking environments.

Outdoor activities, movies, trying new restaurants, going to a concert, or attending a sporting event are all options for socializing without feeling pressured to drink. Be honest with your friends and suggest options other than bars and clubs if they make you uncomfortable.

Drinkers have the numbers

Millennials who drink are the rule rather than the exception. And the minority in any group has it harder than the majority. No one is forcing non-drinkers to drink or conform to the status quo, but it should be understood that the millennial culture and social expectations of drinking make non-drinkers stand out in the group.

For drinkers who spend time around non-drinkers, avoid pointing out their non-drinking status to others. Offer non-alcoholic options at parties, attend the non-drinking activities you are invited to, have fun with some non-alcoholic drink recipes, and take a few nights away from the bar to spend time with your friends who don’t drink.

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Chelsy Ranard


Boise, Idaho

Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She loves embarrassing television, listens to talk radio, and likes her cat more than she likes most people even if the feeling isn’t mutual.

All posts by Chelsy Ranard

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