Surviving Pattaya as a Non Drinker
Written by Adam Judd, Based on an interview with two close friends
Disclaimer: I am writing this based on an interview with two close friends who do not have much interest in any sort of writing and are not interested in having their name in public or on an article. However, they agreed with me that there is a lot of value in sharing their experiences as a common post on forums like Pattaya Addicts and Facebook groups are non drinkers concerned that the party city of Pattaya may not be for them. For the purpose of this blog, one subject is in his late thirties and has never had a sip of booze in his life. We will call him Darryl. (Not his real name) The other person is in his late fifties and a recovering thirty year heavy drinker who still struggles with several aspects. We will call him Barry. (Not his real name.)
This article mostly concerns TOURISTS who are coming here primarily for the attractions and…single women…that Pattaya has to offer. This does not concern expats with families or people who rarely if ever go into the tourist, bars or nightlife areas. This article assumes that those who are most interested in reading it are those who want to meet other foreigners, go to bars and nightclubs and experience the atmosphere and chat with the hostesses and staff, but not have any drinks themselves. Finally, I’m not a non drinker myself so am relying on the experience and statements of my friends. All opinions are theirs.
Adam: Hi Guys, thanks for taking the time to do this. I’ve known both of you for years since the time I ran Sexy in the City and met both of you there. I appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Darryl: No problem.
Barry: Yeah, I met you there and you immediately tried to get me to do fireball shots with you. (laughs)
Adam: Yes, Yes, haha. In the bar business, especially in Pattaya, most guys drink and the assumption, for better or worse, is that everyone else needs to drink to have a good time which is why many managers and hosts will offer free rounds or drinks to get the party started. Additionally you will often meet wingmen, other forum members, guys you know from Facebook groups in person and they will want to buy a round of shots for the group. How do you guys deal with this incredible peer pressure?
Darryl: For me, it’s no issue. As you know I’ve never had a drink in my life so any sort of peer pressure just has zero effect on me.
Adam: Never? Not even a sip of wine at say a communion, brandy sauce on a meal, a sip of beer once?
Darryl: That I am aware of, no. I even check that items I use like mouthwash, etc., have no alcohol in them.
Adam: It sounds like this was a careful decision on your part, care to explain why?
Darryl: Without getting into it too much, I grew up with relatives who had very bad drinking problems and made myself a promise at a very young age to never be like them. I have an addictive personality and I believe I’d like it too much. So I made a self decision to never have a drink and I’m very happy with that.
Adam: Ok. Barry, you have a very different background and used to drink heavily. What about you?
Barry: Well, I drank from about eighteen years old until my late forties, over thirty years. I was a heavy binge drinker…at my worst I was drinking a whole bottle of vodka a day on top of beers and other drinks. I was what people call a functioning drinker. I was rarely sober for that period. I can’t say it was all negative, I had a lot of great times, but I also had a lot of low points and finally made the decision to quit after a legal incident. Luckily, it never majorly affected my health.
Adam: Ok, so how do you deal with peer pressure in Pattaya to drink?
Barry: It was tough at first. As I joked, I would walk in a bar and someone who didn’t know me, like the first time I met you, would offer me a shot. Part of me wanted to take it but I knew that I needed to stay strong. For a long time, I would lie as you know and said I had a health condition, or was on antibiotics, or was sick and couldn’t drink. The truth was actually I had joined AA and was firmly against drinking. It took me a few years to admit that to other people because I felt it made me “the boring guy”.
Adam: Ok. What would you guys advise non drinkers in Pattaya who want to go to bars and socialize with other girls and wingmen they meet to do if they get pressure to do “just one shot” or have a drink?
Darryl: Smile, be friendly, say you don’t drink, at all. Sometimes I will deflect it and offer them a drink but being firm and polite works for me. I don’t lie about being sick, etc., I’m proud of the fact I don’t drink. I do think it’s important though to not act like you are better then other people for not drinking, most of my friends don’t drink and some of them act superior for not drinking and that can cause problems in my experience.
Barry: Well, if you are really bothered I don’t think a white lie is bad, to say you have health conditions etc. Of course if you really do, that works also. I now say I am a recovering drinker but like Darryl said, with a smile, a laugh. I’ll also sometimes buy a round if groups of other guys are but make it clear its for the drinkers. They often buy me a juice or a water back and I’m fine with that.
Adam: Ok, that mostly seems geared at other guys you meet in bars or clubs in Pattaya. What about bargirls that ask why you don’t drink?
Darryl: Same answer. Many of them are relieved that I am not going to buy them ten tequila shots, etc., and that I let them drink what they want. A lot of the hostesses in Pattaya, especially the older ones, really seem to enjoy the company of guys who don’t drink. I have met the young party animal crowd that don’t seem to like my answer but I’m a people person and I can dance, have a great time, laugh, etc. without a drink.
Barry: Was harder for me. I’m a lot shyer than Darryl and when I see the girls and guys all dancing drunk and partying and going nuts it was really hard for me at first. But I tell them I drank for many years and now like to watch other people drink. I am not anti drinking to other people, I am just anti drinking for myself. So now I actually enjoy buying drinks for the girls and others and watching them get drunk and have a good time.
Adam: Ok, great. What are some of the biggest misconceptions about non drinkers in Pattaya?
Darryl: That we are all boring, we don’t like to go out to clubs and dance and have a good time, we don’t know how to have fun. Yes, there are some examples of non drinkers like that, maybe even many, but there are plenty of examples of people who are heavy drinkers who think they are a lot of fun and aren’t.
Barry: That we are all Cheap Charlies. I walk in a bar and order a water and literally you can often see the whole staff and bar assume you aren’t there to spend any money or are going to bore them to death. Like Darryl, I’ve seen many examples of non drinkers who do this but don’t put everyone in the same book so to speak.
Adam: How would you advise a new visitor to Pattaya, especially if he is shyer like Barry and not like Darryl (laughs) to handle this cheap Charlie assumption? I know many non drinkers and it’s a common assumption from bar staff, etc.
Darryl: I would say why should he care? It’s his money and he shouldn’t care if they think he is cheap or not. Yes, I save a ton of money because I don’t drink, most of the guys spending huge amounts daily here are heavy drinkers, but I spend my money elsewhere.
Barry: Again, a bit different. I do care what people think so I will often buy rounds of drinks for the girls, even ring a bell once in a while to show that us “water drinkers” can have a good time also. For a new guy I would advise that they don’t have to splash cash, but make sure they are being polite, buying the girls drinks for their time, etc.
Darryl: Yeah, we are assuming here that the guy wants to socialize with bargirls and other guys so buying drinks for the girls for their time is a must.
Adam: What about the boring accusation you mentioned, Darryl?
Darryl: That can be tricky because it depends a lot on the person. I think the best thing to do is to understand that a long discussion about politics or deep analytical discussions in a bar because you are sober and everyone else wants to party….its just not the right place for it.
Barry: Best way is to smile, relax, let the others have fun and dance and enjoy themselves and live vicariously, at least for me.
Adam: Ok. What are some other issues or problems you see as non drinkers in Pattaya?
Darryl: (laughing) You are going to pay more for that water or juice or coke in most bars, gogos and nightclubs then booze.
Barry: Yep. A lot of first time non drinkers are shocked when they see a water costs double what a beer does in most nightlife places.
Adam: Why is that?
Darryl: Not tough to think about, people who are getting drunk are generally going to drink faster, drink more and spend more money then a guy on a water. So the price of water, juice etc. is more to compensate for that. I don’t have an issue with it. I just think non drinkers should be aware of it before they go out to bars and notice it.
Barry: And not to get pissed off by it, etc. The average non drinker saves so much by not drinking anyways that it doesn’t matter much in the end.
Adam: Do you guys ever pretend to drink in cases of extreme peer pressure or a party environment?
Barry: At times, sort of. If someone doesn’t want to get asked all the time why they are not drinking, a good trick is to ask for your water in a glass with ice and a lime. That way everyone assumes you are drinking a vodka something. I don’t fake doing shots, etc., although I know guys who do.
Darryl: I think it’s better to just be upfront. Yeah, you can ask for your water or coke in a glass and tell them to get rid of the can and claim you are doing a drink with booze but why does it really matter? I suppose for a newbie who is shy it’s not a bad strategy. I wouldn’t personally do it.
Adam: What annoys you guys about the majority who are drinking in Pattaya?
Darryl: I’m laid back and like to dance and have a good time so really loud or silly drunks don’t bother me. One advantage of being sober all the time is I am well aware if someone is crossing the line or potentially dangerous and I exit the scene quickly.
Barry: I’m older than Darryl and for me the music is just too loud. I understand why…it’s to appeal to drinkers and when you are drunk the music is quieter and it makes you want to dance and drink more. It’s also meant to discourage guys having deep conversations-
Darryl: Normally non drinkers, haha
Barry: Yes, so they crank up the music so that the main activity is to drink and dance. I’d say be aware of it in advance. I personally purchase skin tone earplugs that I wear out that I order online. This helps a lot and helps me hear what people and girls are saying to me.
Adam: What final advice do you have for a non drinker coming to arguably one of the biggest party/drinking culture places in the world?
Darryl: You are here for a reason, so embrace that reason. Haha. Have a good time, don’t worry too much about what others are doing and know that increasingly, especially with Japanese, guys coming in and ordering a coke or water is becoming more and more common. Smile, be proactive, don’t sit on a water and look bored and you can still have a great time.
Barry: Pattaya has a great AA program for people like me, there is a lot of temptation here and I make sure to visit at least once a trip. A good list can be found here: https://aathailand.org/all-meetings
Adam: All right guys, I think thats all for now and hopefully you have shown guys that don’t drink that can still come to Pattaya and have a great time. Any last thoughts?
Darryl: Yes. There is a TON to do here if you don’t drink and want other activities. As I don’t drink I wake up early when everyone else is hungover and passed out. You have several waterparks, go kart racing, hiking, islands, ATV off-road tracks, Ripley’s Believe it or not, Skydiving, shooting ranges, shows like Kaan and the ladyboy shows, animal attractions, Underwater world, Scuba diving, Cultural attractions like the Sanctuary of Truth, the 3D art museum, Nong Nooch, the open zoo, parasailing, ziplining, ice skating rinks, laser tag, paintball…there is a TON to do here. Don’t listen to the barflies who say that there is nothing to do here but drink.
Barry: Yeah, just don’t overthink it and come and have a great time. I’m a foodie, like a lot of non drinkers, and there are so many different and great options to eat here and experience. I also like going to the movies, exploring the shopping malls and walking around the city which is very walkable.
Adam: Thanks guys!
Are you a non drinker? What are your experiences in Pattaya? Tell us in the comments!