Saturday, 18 June 2011

How to Outdrink the FRENCH

New series starting on my blog from today. I was pondering on what I had learnt by travelling around the world and how I could help others by that knowledge, and I thought this brief tactical manual on how to outdrink the different people of the world could come in aid of many people I know. Nay, even most of them (you know who you are).

So follow this brief guide over its panorama of the globe, and, barring the inevitable blunder, you'll soon be able to outdrink the planet!

One entry every two turnings of the sun, my good dandies. Today we're starting with my immediate neighbours, the French.


I'm going to start with the French if only because everybody seems to have an axe to grind with these guys. The English dislike them because these two people spent a hundred years killing each other (and eventually the Brits lost to an army led by an adolescent girl), the Italians dislike them due to antagonisms related to modern football, the Americans dislike them because George Bush convinced his country that the French have some kind of moral duty to send their eighteen-year-olds to get torn limb from limb in Iraq, the Russians dislike them because they still haven't got over Napoleon, and so on. Apparently even the French dislike the French, seen how a solid half of their modern art and literature, from Baudelaire and Rimbaud onwards, concerns hating their own society and the people surrounding them (the most recent I've heard is singer Damien Saez, whom I actually really enjoy, and the first chorus from the first song in his first album goes 'Another night and the French youth / goes out they'll have fun / because nothing here makes sense / and so we go dance / we act like we're happy / so we can close our eyes in peace / but nothing will be better tomorrow').

I'm starting with the French for another reason too, namely, that they're one of the lower 'difficulty levels.' As with other Mediterranean cultures, like Italy and Spain, and with no offence to anyone, these people are pussies when it comes to drinking. Drinking is more of an art than a sport to them. They know their wines backwards, like the Italians, and they really *understand* a drink when they bring it to their lips. In this sense, I mean it almost as a compliment when I say that French (and Italians) aren't good drinkers: they're just excessively sophisticated. They have too much respect for their glass to just down it.

Most French people can be steamrolled by a moderately competent or resilient drinker. In fact, if anyone aspires to learn how to drink and is willing to undergo a pilgrimage, I think the best place to start from is France. They're soft and they're friendlier than most people believe. A perfect training grounds.

Truth be told, they wouldn't even make it into this list if it weren't that to go drinking in France also involves some booby traps which have to be avoided, and which the newcomer has to be warned of. For, while the majority of the French couldn't outdrink a lizard of the desert, there *are* a few occasional individuals you'll meet in France who actually have the devil's stomach inside them, and these I shall refer to as the Elites.

A classical Elite, on the left.

Normally a population's drinking ability is distributed over a Gaussian curve, with lows at both ends and a peak at the average value (say, six pints on an empty stomach for the limit). France is tricky because these parameters do not apply. Instead, the individuals at the further extreme do not decrease exponentially in number as the pints go up. Your risk of finding one of the 'exceptions,' if your stay protracts itself, is considerable. The trick to outdrinking the French, then, is to identify your adversary before leaping head-first into battle. If the opponent displays indicators like a well-trimmed beard, stylish clothes, and a tendency to use words like 'aesthetical' in earnest, then finish him off. It will not take much of an effort. If other signs suggest to you that he may be an Elite, plan your approach with greater caution.

How do you recognise an Elite? Fortunately they are quite easy to spot. An Elite is a fat French man almost always above the age of 25, walking with bleary eyes and a constant big smile which he will flash whenever he sees you. His first gesture to greet you is a brutal pat in the back. He usually has an ill-shaved beard and reddened eyes, his room is a mess beyond reckoning, he picks his nose when alone AND in public, and his shoes look like something forgotten in a river two-hundred years ago and recovered after a war. My own first Elite went by the name of Stevo, a recluse who worked as a carpenter and lived by one of my best mates back when I was in the French Caribbean. We used to meet up for Pro Evolution Soccer sessions with beer and joints (lots and lots of joints) and on our first real session I made the mistake of underestimating him. I can't remember exactly what happened but judging by the photo in which I'm passed out on the carpet with fake moustache drawn onto my face, it seems things didn't turn out in my favour.

How do you deal with an Elite? It's not as hard as it may sound. Despite being drinkers of great stamina, Elites are normally incredibly stupid. As a consequence, they tend to break whatever rules you set up in the drinking challenge, but *to their own disadvantage*. Any smart drinker can just proceed at his/her own pace and let the Elite undo himself with his own hands. Don't hurry, let him slide into his fuck-ups without protesting, and you should make it just fine. And they won't even protest on the next day (unlike the Indians).

In conclusion, then, France is a great training ground and the French in general are an easy target to take down, but unseasoned visitors should beware of being lulled into complacency, at the risk of running into nasty surprises. Most commonly, these are represented by the Elites, but expect other contingencies to provide danger as well.

Also, have a modicum of care with French girls. They're much more able drinkers than their partners may suggest.

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