As I’m sure you’re all aware, the legal drinking age in the United States is 21. Turning 18 is a huge milestone and then you’re forced to wait three years that seem to drag on for twice as long until you can finally clink your frothy beverage with your friends’. However, in London, the only thing turning 21 indicates is the fact that you’re an adult. In London, your 18th birthday is often celebrated with a pint and your closest friends, the night commencing with a hearty “Cheers!” As a 21-year-old submerged in the London night life scene, it’s easy to feel out of place. Not that this doesn’t make the night enjoyable, it’s just a different experience. A different crowd. A different vibe.
Pubs line every street. And by the time the sun begins to set, crowds swarm and lines form outside the doors. Nightclubs with DJs and flashing lights lure you in, seducing you with their electric techno and neon laser displays. Abroad, they approach you. Here, they couldn’t care less if you walk into their bar or not. But there, they spot you from a half a kilometer down the street and yell things like “free admission!” and “free shots with admission!” That’s hard to turn away from, right? Free? College students? It’s the perfect pair!
If the partying aspect of London’s nighttime scene doesn’t seem all that thrilling to you, have no fear! There are plenty of other things to occupy your time by that are just as entertaining and fun. Dance lessons with cute British men, concerts by bands known in the United States just as well as they are in London, Blackbox productions, tattoo parlors, and more! People seem to be out more at night compared to during the day. Even members of the bands that are stopped in the city on tour are out roaming the streets of London, like members of Vampire Weekend.
LONDON AFTER HOURS
"You know how things you can't have will automatically enchant you?
Well, for Americans under 21, the obvious choice would be alcohol. I was very excited to have my first beer, but I never seemed to be able to find the right opportunity, the right people to be with, or the right motivation to break my streak of non-alcoholism.
One night I decided to just sit down at the bar at our hotel and go for it. It was quiet and the bartender was friendly and once we started talking, I felt like one of those stereotypical people that sit and tell the bartender all of their problems. The best part is that we were able to have such honest conversation. We both admitted there were things wrong with country, but that there was hope. We were able to talk like old friends, even though we had met only ten minutes before, and it was almost uplifting, in a sense.
He even let me sample beers without buying one because of how hesitant I was, and by the end of the night, we were both that much happier for some pleasant social interaction.
It's not quite the wild nightlife you might think you would experience, but I would take this peaceful experience any day."