But I was struck by the more subtle effect that alcohol can have.
I work with a bunch of academics who are generally quite shy. They like talking shop (geeky science), but when it comes to interacting socially, really talking to people one on one, building relationships, they're not so good. And, since I'm not a scientist, and so can't talk scientific shop, they're generally at a bit of a loss with me.
However, at our work dinner, this all changed. With a few glasses of wine inside them, they suddenly came alive, engaging me in conversation about all sorts of things.
A bit later on in the evening, the conversation turned to alcohol and one of my newly-talkative colleagues said he thought it was interesting how the British needed alcohol in order to have a good time (he was drawing a comparison with his time living in the States where, he said, his American colleagues managed to have a good time, even without the aid of alcohol!).
His remarks made me smile. I'd consumed barely a glass of wine, was still sober, and had managed to have a good time, conversing with my colleagues in much the same way as I do at work. I felt that his observations may have more to do with his own personal state of mind, rather than being an accurate reflection of the national identity.
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