It’s time to address some of the common social contexts in which you might find yourself during your trip to Earth.

As you have gathered, human interactions are complex and difficult for the outsider to fathom, but with a little groundwork, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy yourself while socializing with the locals.

One environment you might like to experience is the bar, also sometimes referred to as the pub, or more confusingly, as the watering hole. Coming as we do from a world of swamps and mud flats, the idea of meeting at a watering hole is instantly appealing, but please be aware that standards of behavior on Earth are drastically different from our own. As a rule, when humans socialize, they do not incorporate any form of public bathing, so arriving at the pub wearing nothing but a robe and carrying a towel will inevitably get you off on the wrong foot. Fully-clothed is the rule for most bars, although if you’re visiting the northern areas of England, wearing a coat or similar over-garment is regarded as a sign of weakness and should be avoided.

Once inside the bar, you’ll be confronted with a startling array of beverages, but after careful observation, I can assure you that most of the bottles on display on the illuminated shelves are merely decorative, and asking for all the labels to be read out to you will not endear you to the bartender. Similarly, please note that humans tend not to ask for detailed costings when ordering their drinks. This makes the purchasing of a beverage a unique experience since humans usually like to know the price of everything. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this, but it seems likely that people like to have one place in which they can throw off their cares and to hell with the expense!

At any rate, they don’t query the cost of each drink, so neither should you.

Most of the drinks in a bar will be palatable to the Gloabon, but please remember that Kahlua is made from coffee, so should be avoided. Also, steer well clear absinthe, Jägermeister, and crème de menthe. There’s nothing inherently dangerous in any of those drinks, but they taste disgusting.

You’ll see many people holding very large glasses of liquid, and these are called pints. If you’d like to enjoy the charming ritual of drinking a pint, don’t be tempted to give in to anyone who encourages you to drink it down in one go. Yes, you can do this with ease, but that doesn't mean you should. Our physiology is very good at processing large volumes of liquid, but we are more sensitive to alcohol than humans, and drinking it quickly may leave you feeling light-headed and land you in trouble. It has a similar effect on humans, but they can stagger home at the end of the evening and laugh off the consequences of their actions, while you will be zinged up to an orbiting space station where you will be called to account for your time on Earth. Be good, my friends, because nothing takes the shine off a night out more effectively than a few hours in the brig.

Having said that, a few pints of beer, if drunk slowly, will not do you any harm. Anything with ale in the title will be good, and don’t worry about the foam floating on the top. This is formed from small bubbles, and it is not toxic scum, so there’s no need to scrape it out with your fingers, and you should definitely not flick it onto the floor. Simply sip the liquid from beneath the foam. It’s a skill soon learned, and if, as tends to happen, some of the foam remains on your top lip, you can make a hilarious joke by pretending that you’ve grown a mustache. This really is very funny, and it doesn't matter how many times you repeat it; everyone will laugh. Trust me.

Having sampled the ale, you may wish to try something stronger. If trying wine, you may be presented with a long list of choices. In that case, always follow the advice given to me by an Andelian acquaintance, and choose the third one down from the top, assuming that the wines are arranged in ascending order of price. Please note that wine is an exception to the beverage price rule, probably because the drinking of wine is closely related to status among humans. Thus, choosing the cheapest wine is a mark of low status, and choosing the most expensive is crass and ostentatious. The third wine from the top is sufficiently ambiguous to allow plenty of wiggle room, so it’s always a safe option.

Alternatively, skip the wine altogether and try the spirits. These are essentially industrial cleaning solvents tempered with a variety of ingredients to add flavor, with the exception of vodka, which has had all the elements of flavor assiduously removed. Whiskey is a popular choice, and this is an organic solvent that has been left in a wooden container for so long that it has gone brown. It tastes not unlike damp soil, but with sufficient practice, many humans can develop a fondness for the flavor, and some take the consumption of this drink so seriously that they can talk of little else. If you meet an aficionado of this so-called water of life, describing the flavors of mud and the scent of damp mattresses may cause ill feeling, so instead of mud or wet compost say peat, and you will be greeted like an old friend.

Moving along the row of bottles, you may meet a drink called rum. This is exactly the same as whiskey only slightly worse. You’ll detect the faint fragrance of rotting fruit mingled with shoe polish.

Then comes gin. This is similar to vodka, but the flavor is somewhere between moldering leaves and freshly-cut grass. There are many variants of this drink, and all of them are exactly the same.

In the interest of spreading knowledge, I carried out an extensive taste test on several other spirits, but once I’d finished with the seventeen different kinds of gin, I misplaced my notes. And my shirt. And I think I might’ve lost a couple of days. But I managed to hitchhike back from Newfoundland eventually, so it all worked out in the end.

I’ll finish off with a word of warning. Moonshine, poteen, or anything with the word bathtub in the title: don’t. Because otherwise, you might learn to your cost that Newfoundland really isn't all that far. It isn’t that far at all. And I’ll tell you more about which drinks to avoid just as soon as I can remember them. Which ought to be soon. Because you can get a great deal of thinking done whilst you’re on a slow cargo ship out of Io. Believe me. A lot of thinking, but not many actual thoughts, just the same one over and over and over: never again.

Until next time, here’s mud in your eye.



You may comment below, but any foolishness may well result in you receiving a visit from a member of the Earth Liaison Unit. You have been warned. Thank you.

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