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I generally steer clear of sugary junk food such as beer, fruit juices, etc. I'm not really a fan of drinking alcohol either, as I like my sleep. So when I go out with a bunch of work colleagues and they offer to buy me a drink, I ask for water. Which is quite awkward to be honest, as it feels like I'm declining their offer to buy me a drink, and additionally, they start to ask me if they can buy me an apple juice, etc.

At the end of the day I'm not sure if they think I'm super-religious, or if they think I don't want to socialize with them. Neither is good.

Is there a way to minimize the exclusion I get from the group by not drinking?

EDIT: In response to the question of "Why not just tell them the truth", the reason is that it almost always results in a discussion about whether fruit juice is good or evil, carbs, etc. as everybody in the world is an expert on diet and nutrition and wants to give you their advice, then somebody disagrees, and then you have an argument. (It even happened in the comments below!)

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marked as duplicate by Jim G., ReallyTiredOfThisGame, gnat, Michael Grubey, Garrison Neely Oct 27 at 18:11

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Any reason not to just explain your reasons to your colleagues? I don't think anything there is particularly shameful so no reason not to just be honest about it from my view... –  Chris Jul 14 at 12:34
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A suggestion (not quite up to the level of an Answer): how do you feel about V-8 or tomato juice? Any halfway decent bar will carry those. They have no added sugar (at least in V-8; some tomato juices might have some), have half the calories of a can of Coke, and are an extremely healthy alternative. You could just get one of those on ice, or order a Virgin Mary and get the added seasonings and a celery stalk and lemon wedge, and your colleagues get the pleasure of buying you a drink (a benefit described in Kate Gregory's answer). –  iamnotmaynard Jul 14 at 14:50
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Please take discussion of the nutritional and medical effects of various drinks to chat. –  Monica Cellio Jul 14 at 15:55
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People drinking will not notice that you aren't drinking. Don't drink water though, they want to buy you something. –  Jasmine Jul 14 at 18:42
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What country are you in? The answer would be very different depending on whether you are in Japan or Niger. –  Nicolas Raoul Jul 15 at 10:08

8 Answers 8

up vote 93 down vote accepted

I know this sounds strange, but ask for something that costs money. Perrier, sparkling water, club soda, whatever it's called where you live, with a lime wedge. Part of the reason people are offering other options to you is that water is free. It also looks less like what they're drinking, and more like something you can have at home any time. So choose something a little celebratory and embrace the spirit of being out for a drink. There's no need to take in calories or anything else you want to avoid, nor to explain why you're avoiding them.

I regularly attend open bar events where people almost pressure me to drink. Having nothing gets repeated offers to bring me something while they get their own drink. Having club soda with lime is treated exactly like having wine, beer, or scotch.

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Exactly. You don't even have to actually drink it, or you can drink it extremely slowly. Allowing your workmates to include you by this, is exactly what you want. –  CGCampbell Jul 13 at 15:14
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While I like this answer, please note that water being free seems to be a US thing. In Europa, water costs money in a bar or restaurant. It is not even cheap, most of the time same price as basic juices. However, your point still applies, because it appears cheap. –  dirkk Jul 13 at 22:31
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@dirkk - in the UK, and I'm pretty sure other EU countries, bars do have to provide free (tap) water on request. Whether you want tap water in some countries is another matter. –  HorusKol Jul 13 at 23:33
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+1... when I was on my weightloss kick (lost 40 lbs in a year) I would either have club soda with a lime wedge if I didn't want to drink, or vodka + club + lime if I did. People are looking for you to participate in the fun, but whether that's participating by getting hammered or just having something more fun than water isn't nearly so important. –  durron597 Jul 14 at 14:57
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+1. This applies especially when you are at a bar. When you are at a bar, you should enjoy a beverage. Whether or not it is alcoholic is not really relevant. If you aren't drinking anything but water though, you aren't really participating in the function of going to a bar in the first place. It's similar to going to a restaurant and ordering no food while everyone else eats. The principle of group inclusion is just not as powerful. Getting a flavored, non-alcoholic drink sends a nonverbal message: "I'm here to enjoy myself and be a part of the group" –  Conor Jul 14 at 15:54

I can't believe that everybody are suggesting to pretend drinking, to fake the drink, to come up with false excuses.

I personally don't drink beer because don't like the taste, very rarely drink sugary drinks, don't like sparkling water, sprite, etc. In my sport club it is a custom to go for a drink after training. And I am thirsty. So I just ask for a big glass of tap water and everybody are OK with this. There is no need to justify my choice, if people ask me whether I am sure, I just smile and confirm that this is what I want. Don't see any reason to twist the truth.

If the people I am socializing with don't respect my personal drinking preferences I would consider stopping socializing with them. If drinking or faking drinking is vital for my career with this employer, I would probably start looking for another job because I don't want to work in a company where I am not respected. This paragraph is purely theoretical though - I have never had such problems.

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indeed. A company where your merits are judged based on what you drink (or how much you drink) during company parties is not one I'd want to work. Never had that problem, and I tend to just order water everywhere, or tea. Mostly you'd end up with bottled water anyway, not tap water, as "health and safety" regulations make it illegal here to serve tap water to your employees (a company I used to work for was actually fined for that about a decade ago). –  jwenting Jul 14 at 11:57
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@greenfingers haha nope good old Murica. NYC specifically. Definitely the case in finance (Goldman, Hedge Funds, VC Funds). –  Anatoliy Zaslavskiy Jul 17 at 3:00

Laugh, grin, have fun, and drink what you like. Works for me.

Apple juice can stand in for beer/cider if you'd rather pretend, although from the sounds of it, you don't like apple juice either.

You can also try the "I'm driving" excuse if you have a car.

I just tend to explain honestly that I like having firm control over my behaviour, and that I've seen alcohol ruin lives. I don't want to try to make them feel bad, so I also say that if you can drink and behave yourself, good for them.

Most of all, just have fun and be friendly. It's never let me down and I haven't had a drink in years. Sometimes people laugh at how much fun I manage to have, considering I'm not imbibing - attitude helps a lot.

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Show them just once that bingeing on water in no way hinders your style as a party animal, and most of them will stop feeling sorry for you in no time. They'll lose their focus on you faster than you can blink your eyes and they'll quickly focus on issues closer to home base like making sure that they are having their own fun.

If you aren't embarrassed and defensive about drinking just water, they won't be either. It's called fitting in while doing something different. In my case, it's brazenly fitting in while brazenly doing my own thingy :)

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You didn't actually say why you don't want to drink anything sweet or alcoholic. (Not that it's any of my business!)

If the reason is because you are trying really hard to lose weight, then say so. Then people can talk to you about this and you can exchange tips and so on, it's a conversation starter.

If there's a health reason, allergy, diabetes, whatever, say so, people will understand and may be interested to hear more, if you are willing to tell.

You did say it's not religion, that's good, because that's one thing people don't want to talk about.

If you drink tap water you can tell them you like the taste, comparing your home town to where you are and so on. This is what I do, I like tap water.

Whatever, stick to the truth, usually a good idea.

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+1 for sticking to the truth –  greenfingers Jul 14 at 14:59

Do you drive?

Everybody loves the designated driver. There will be no expectation on you to drink, and drinking any alcohol will actually be viewed negatively, you will be expected not to drink.

Also, you will make friends because you are giving them lifts home.

Even if you don't want to drive others home, drive to the event and make it apparent that you have your car with you, if you feel you have to then mention that you need to do some driving after the event (picking Grandma up from the airport etc).

Nobody responsible will try to offer you a drink with that knowledge, or judge you negatively.

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This doesn't really address the "they keep offering me Coke or fruit juice when I really would just prefer water" part of the situation. –  starsplusplus Jul 14 at 11:59

Would something sugar free work? Like a diet coke? Or tonic water?

If not, just ask for a water, or if you like it, sparkling water. There's nothing wrong with that and you should not feel awkward.

If the sleeping problems are a problem, just tell them that you won't be able to sleep if you drink sugar or alcohol. Normal people will understand that, just don't care about the others, it's not your problem.

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I thought of tonic water too, although, in general, it is not sugar-free. There is diet tonic water, although I don't think all that many bars carry it. –  iamnotmaynard Jul 14 at 14:42

There is a subtlety, here, regarding why people [on your team] want to drink / eat with you:

If you aren't comfortable telling your teammates about a basic thing like what you eat, then you may want to ensure that you're communicating and bonding in other ways. These gatherings happen because people want to learn more about you than they see at the office. Showing up is a tacit agreement to showing a bit more of your personality.

Your philosophy on food is an element of personality — and that character is one-such-thing your teammates want to connect with. If you're going out after work to bond, and then you're holding back and not bonding, then you might as well skip the whole affair. (You can claim family obligations, or any other excuse that basically takes you out of the obligation to bond).

If you're putting other cards on the table, then no worries. Just be aware that if your teammates realize that you're covering-over some discussion, then there may be more on the table than just beer and water....


If anyone had religious reasons for not consuming something, then best to go full-on with something like "Water! The staff of life!!" Play it to the hilt. At least the team will get to see one sliver of your authentic person (who, at heart, holds these private religious tenets).

I have done this, and very successfully. At best, you come off as having a funny-side, capable of well-placed drama, and holding a sense of humor. It's everything needed for this social litmus test. The people that like you may even try to find your favorite [water]!

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