What are the rules when going out for drinks with a group?
May 6, 2014 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Now that our class is over, the other students would like to "go out for drinks." I have never "gone out for drinks," nor have I ever gone out with a group of people I do not know particularly well. What do I do?

I am quiet, shy, and awkward in social situations involving large (greater than two) groups of people. This will be as many as eight other people, so that's a lot for me. Additionally, I drink less than ten times per year. I do not plan on consuming much alcohol.
  • Do I bring business cards? The class is part of a certificate program and I have a feeling "networking" is involved.
  • What are the rules for buying a round of drinks?
  • How do I gracefully leave when it gets to be too much? At parties I can vanish without a trace easily enough but that is not an option here.
Are there any other unspoken rules and other bits of etiquette? The more I know, the more I can relax about it.
posted by adipocere to Human Relations (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It might be different from place to place. Are you still in Guam?
posted by janey47 at 12:01 PM on May 6, 2014

you can always order something non-alcoholic to have between your drinks - it will reduce your anxiety about looking like you're standing out by not having a drink.

there's no harm in bringing business cards. just hold on to them unless everyone is passing them around or someone asks for your contact info.

buying rounds isn't something that always happens, but it does happen sometimes. if someone buys a round and you don't want the drink, there is almost always someone willing to drink an extra. i don't think you need to worry about buying drinks for others.

when it's time to go just excuse yourself - "this has been great! i need to head home. hope to catch up with all of you soon!" as long as you make it through them drinking a couple drinks, people probably won't remember exactly when you left and won't really give it much thought.
posted by nadawi at 12:01 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I am in the United States.
posted by adipocere at 12:02 PM on May 6, 2014

Nobody cares if you do or don't drink alcohol. There are plenty of reasons why someone might choose to not imbibe, and you don't have to draw attention to that fact if you don't want to.

A nice way to raise goodwill is to buy some appetizers for the group to share -- anything from the cheapest basket of chips and salsa to a huge platter of fancy dips. Whatever you're comfortable with (and, again, not mandatory). If you leave early, this is also helpful because then people can say, "Yeah, adipocere could only stay for a bit, but wasn't that nice of him?"

Really, you can make an appearance -- literally, a very brief appearance -- and leave afterwards, and you'll still make an impression as someone who cares enough to play along with the group to make an effort, even if you have something else going on.

But if it'll make you uncomfortable, don't go. I give you permission :)
posted by Madamina at 12:04 PM on May 6, 2014 [17 favorites]

Where exactly are you? That might help guide social norms in your area

In general in the Americas/Northeast, "going out for drinks" involves at the very least 1-2 drinks standing up at a bar with a group. You show up to the bar, get a drink (beer, soda, glass of wine- and don't feel pressured to have alcohol) pick one or two people and have a 5-10 min conversation with them, and then either continue said conversation, or talk to other people in your general group. Initial conversation will most likely be slightly awkward/small talkish. After 15-30 mins when you have started to find threads of common interest, conversation should be a bit easier.

I wouldn't bring business cards unless you are never going to see these people again and they do not have your contact info.

Feel free to make up an excuse to leave after 30-45 mins if you really are uncomfortable- an errand to run etc. I'd much rather someone leave when they are comfortable than to linger an extra hour and then start to visibly be uncomfortable. go! its ok! no one will judge you!

Buying rounds doesn't happen as much in the US as in the UK....
posted by larthegreat at 12:04 PM on May 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

Since there are 8-10 people going I would bet there isn't going to be an "everyone buys one round" thing involved -- that's just too many rounds. When I've gone out with a similar crowd every has their own bill.

Not drinking is completely fine. There's really no difference between having a coke and having a rum and coke.

Nadawi is right: when it's time for you to go, just announce you have to head out, see you later! Don't stress. Some people might want to have six drinks and talk all night but that's definitely not for everyone -- I have to imagine there's going to be a variety of interest levels and (figurative) appetites for hanging out/drinking in a group of eight or so.
posted by kate blank at 12:04 PM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do I bring business cards?

I would bring and see what others do. If you offer them, do so in the spirit of swapping contact info, not a Networking Opportunity.

What are the rules for buying a round of drinks?

This heavily depends on location and culture. I'll speak to the rules if you are a (middle class? white?) American living in the US.

Don't worry about buying rounds. You can probably expect everyone to buy their own drinks. If you have a particular friend or someone who helped you out a lot, buy that person a drink if you want. But it's absolutely not expected, let alone required.

One thing to consider is if you're sitting at a table with people and there's restaurant style table service. One thing that can happen among a certain set (and this is why I parenthetically mentioned class above) is that the waitress will bring the check as in a restaurant, and someone will say the worst sentence in the world: "Should we just split it down the middle?" Which will screw you if you're relatively broke and have been choosing what to drink in a price-aware sort of way, and you're out with people who've been ordering top shelf cocktails. One solution to this potential issue is to just order your own drinks at the bar and pay as you go rather than ordering with the table folks.

How do I gracefully leave when it gets to be too much?

Just start saying your goodbyes. "Hey, so, I'm gonna head out, I think... It was great seeing you! Good luck with your interview next week!" Depending on the number of people you're out with, you might not have to say goodbye to everyone, but you should say goodbye to especial friends or people you'd been hanging out with a lot within the drinks outing. Nobody is going to judge you for leaving whenever you feel like leaving.
posted by Sara C. at 12:04 PM on May 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

1 -- Bring cards, but don't be the first person to trade them.

2 -- Buy the second round of drinks, then let it go around the table.

3 -- "Woo, time for me to hit the hay. Got a lot to do tomorrow. Well, okay, one more." (note: do this before you're actually ready to go, and then you can be "convinced" to stay until you actually do want to go)

Basically, follow other people's leads. If they're doing X, go along with it (if you want to). If no one is doing X, then consider whether X really needs to be done.
posted by Etrigan at 12:04 PM on May 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I remember this being stressful when I was first in this situation, but I got used to it quickly. I have never run into a situation where students were buying rounds of drinks. This is because some people drink quickly, others slowly, some drink $12 cocktails and others $3 beers. Also, if there are more than, say 3-5, people, that's just too many drinks unless people start to drink a lot. You might order a big appie (nachos or cheese fries, maybe?) or something to share with the table, if you wish. Or maybe people will order burgers and sandwiches, in which case you can order for yourself and, if you're unsure, order an appie to share. Sometimes people will buy sodas for the designated driver. Order a glass of water with each drink and you'll be better able to pace yourself. I would simply bring cash and a credit card. I'd bring business cards, just in case - you should always have a few on you anyway, if you're looking to network. Or just exchange cell phone umbers so you can text. When you're ready to leave, just say, "Hey, guys...I've got to get going soon. Early day tomorrow / bit wiped from exams / need to recharge / this has been fun." Then say it again about 15 minutes later and take care of your bill if you haven't.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:05 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do I bring business cards? The class is part of a certificate program and I have a feeling "networking" is involved.
Bring them. Do not be the first to bring them out. Usually when I "go out for drinks" it isn't a networking thing and business cards wouldn't be exchanged. If someone else asks for your card, or offers you theirs, then you'll be prepared.

What are the rules for buying a round of drinks?
Depends on the group, but if people don't know each other super well, I doubt it will be an "each person buys the whole round" setup. Expect to pay for each of your own drinks. Order whatever you want (ideally not just plain water, so that your server will get paid for helping you).

How do I gracefully leave when it gets to be too much? At parties I can vanish without a trace easily enough but that is not an option here.
Be prepared to pay in cash. When you're getting ready to go, ask the server if he/she can give you your tab (if you're not paying drink-to-drink). If he/she can't or won't separate the bill, leave an amount of cash that will easily cover your drinks and a generous tip with someone who is sitting close to you at the table. If you do get a separate bill, feel free to pay on a card if you want). Explain to the group that "it's a school night", "need to work on XXXX", or some other reason for leaving that isn't "you guys are boring", or "I'm getting to anxious to stay here".
posted by sparklemotion at 12:06 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you can totally get something non-alcoholic. One of my friends at a grad school doesn't drink at all, and he just gets diet Cokes and stuff at networking events.

I wouldn't worry about buying a round of drinks unless it turns out everyone does it, especially if you don't plan to be drinking much alcohol. I just thank people sincerely if they buy something for me.

Business cards wouldn't hurt but probably aren't necessary.

Agreed with nadawi about exiting. You'll be worrying about it, but the other people there won't think about it at all. When I'm nervous, I generally give it half an hour before allowing myself to bail.

One thing that's nice about a "going out for drinks" event is that it can involve just one conversation if the group is small, or several small group chats if it's a bit larger. You can probably just sit and listen if you want, and people will be happy to fill the space. Just remember to jump in occasionally when the conversation is relevant to your interests, if you want to treat this ias a networking opportunity.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:07 PM on May 6, 2014

I like to have a preplanned excuse for a graceful exit. "Well, I'd better head home, I need to get an early start tomorrow" is perfectly fine. You could even fake a phone call if you wanted (set an alarm with a ringtone that sounds like your phone is ringing). I guarantee no one will say "can you believe that person, leaving already?"

Bring business cards and bring cash. I find it's just easier to have cash with me than to worry about starting a tab on my own card or ending up on someone else's tab (if you do, you can give that person cash). I don't think you'll be expected to buy a round, but if you leave your cards at home and just bring a finite amount of cash you have a built-in limit there as well.
posted by payoto at 12:07 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do I bring business cards?

It is okay to bring them, but I wouldn't hand one out unless someone else asks for one or gives you their card.

What are the rules for buying a round of drinks?

In the U.S., it is more common to buy your own drinks individually. That said, if round buying starts up then just roll with it and buy one of the early rounds.

How do I gracefully leave when it gets to be too much? At parties I can vanish without a trace easily enough but that is not an option here.

Have one or two drinks, whatever is comfortable for you, chat with some people, and then say something like, "I've got to go. Thanks for seting this up [insert name]. It was nice to get together outside of school." In my experience, going out for drinks with this type of group isn't a commitment to spending the whole evening together.
posted by Area Man at 12:08 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

--It never hurts to have business cards with you, but I doubt there will be "networking" involved. Typically, these kinds of outings are to complain about the professor, or bemoan job opportunities, or whatever.

--Usually, what happens is that when people arrive, they'll head to the bar and get a drink. Periodically, when someone goes to the bar, they'll ask whether anybody needs anything (i.e., another drink). Accept or decline as you see fit. When they ask whether anyone needs anything, in virtually all cases, they're going to treat you. If they come back with your drink and ask for $4, they're a dick. At some point in the night, it's good form to offer to get people drinks, especially if they've gotten you a drink. But some people are more flush, and don't really care whether you reciprocate.

--When you want to go, just say goodnight, it's been fun! No one will care. Perhaps deceptively, it will probably be easier for you to extricate yourself earlier rather than later. When you leave early, there are more people to keep the party going, so your departure is less noticed. It's much harder to leave, IMO, when you're one of the final two or three people left at the bar.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:09 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

1) you can if you want

2) this depends a great deal on where you are and who you're with. In the US, and drinking with peers, I might offer to fetch drinks for the group by saying, "I'm going up to the bar, does anyone want anything," but I would expect people to give me money with their order. If I was the leader of a group --- a teacher drinking with adult students --- then I might offer to pay for a round of drinks for everyone, but would not expect reciprocation. I would say "first round's on me" or "I'm buying" to denote this.

In Ireland/UK the expectation us that if you with say 8 people or less you would at some point do the whole taking drink orders bit but you pay for the whole round, and everyone takes a turn doing so. If you want to have the option of ditching early you might decline the first offer, saying "oh, I'll go up with you, I have to make it an early night". You then go up to the bar with the round buyer and purchase your own drink while they get everyone else's chatting and helping to carry the stuff back to the table on your return.
posted by Diablevert at 12:10 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is a lot to be said for "I can only stay for a couple, but I'd love to come!" as an approach to these things – be positive, take part, and build in your easy exit.
posted by carbide at 12:11 PM on May 6, 2014

Do I bring business cards? The class is part of a certificate program and I have a feeling "networking" is involved.

Bring them just in case. Do you have one of those little carrying cases for business cards? If you don't, you can just put some in your wallet. It depends on the circle or the region whether people will actually exchange business cards, so it could go either way. If you're nervous, just wait until someone offers you his, and give the person yours, too.

What are the rules for buying a round of drinks?

This is really regional, too. In my experience, if people are seated at tables and there's a waitstaff, just go sit by your group, and the waiter will come and take your drink order. If the seating is more casual and/or there's not a waitstaff, when you arrive, go order your first drink yourself at the bar, and then look for your group. Either way, you can ask to open a tab. If people are ordering rounds after that first drink, you'll know, because they'll tell the waiter so or ask everyone what they want for the round.

I would actually advice against ordering appetizers or snacks (obviously, unless you're starving and need to get yourself something to eat), because it makes the bill confusing and nobody ever knows if they're supposed to eat any or not. I also don't eat any of the appetizers or snacks that other people order for that reason. That's probably uptight, but it always seems like it's more trouble than it's worth, because then at the end, everyone is shoving random dollar bills at whoever ordered the snacks or the person who ordered leaves early or...I don't know, it's always something.

How do I gracefully leave when it gets to be too much? At parties I can vanish without a trace easily enough but that is not an option here.

Tell the waitress or bar tender you want to settle up your tab. When you get the bill back and are sorting out the payment, people will probably start saying, "oh, you're going?" Just say you have to run, but that it's been great seeing them all. If people ask why you're going so early or asking you to stay but you don't know what to tell them, just mention again how wonderful it's been seeing them, should do it again sometime, etc. In some groups, everybody wants to hug goodbye. Just go with the flow.
posted by rue72 at 12:11 PM on May 6, 2014

Also, depending on where you live, perhaps some people can tell you typical drinks to order. I remember, when I first started going out, that I was quite worried about order the "wrong" drink. This was because of an early bullying experience in a bar but also because I was changing socio-economic groups and community. I'm fully comfortable now, but, in my early 20s, I still had a lot to learn about class signifiers and so on.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:12 PM on May 6, 2014

I've gone out with groups I don't know particularly well, or have felt socially awkward in the past.

Typically, if it's not a group that's acquainted, people don't tend to buy rounds of drinks. It's possible that if drinks are being brought out and paid for more than one at a time, someone may buy drinks, but if people are drifting in and out it's not likely to happen.

Don't feel any obligation to drink anything in particular. If you want to nurse a beer or glass of wine all night, or have a few glasses of soda, it doesn't matter. I would recommend buying at least one item, and tipping the staff, so you're at least a paying customer.

If you feel uncomfortable or have to be the first to leave, just politely say how it was nice to get together and that you must be going. If you feel social pressure, make a polite excuse, but I doubt it'd be necessary.

If you're in a class with people who have established careers, then sure, they might want to exchange business cards. Honestly, this hardly ever happens among groups I've been involved with, since coordinating such an event might involve email messages anyway, giving me an opportunity for contact info. If there's someone you want to continue a conversation with or network with, by all means give them a way to contact you.

What can you expect? Small talk about your class, an opportunity to vent about the certificate program, and maybe people trying to get a feel for how to continue in this path. beyond that, plain old small talk.
posted by mikeh at 12:13 PM on May 6, 2014

Do I bring business cards? If you want to, but don't expect to use them. If someone hands me a card when I'm drunk I'm probably going to leave it at the bar. Also, if it isn't a networking event, being the one person who goes in all Mercenary Networker might reflect poorly upon you, kind of in an "I'm not here to make friends" way.

What are the rules for buying a round of drinks? This is one that varies from country to country - I feel like buying rounds of drinks is generally a UK thing? Here most people buy their own. If you're just starting out you might find that prospective mentors or whatever might buy you drinks, but it generally doesn't happen the other way around.

How do I gracefully leave when it gets to be too much? The easy way is to invent somewhere you have to be next morning. If you're really worried, wait until one person already does this - usually around then there might be a cascade of people waiting for someone else to be the first one to go.
posted by dekathelon at 12:13 PM on May 6, 2014

One thing I haven't seen mentioned above is that it is really helpful to make sure you have cash in different denominations ($5, $10, and $20s) with you. If you go to a place with table service rather than somewhere that each person goes up to the bar and gets their own drink from the bartender, it can feel a bit awkward to want to leave before the bill comes (that is, before everyone is leaving) and to only have large bills to throw in for your share.

With a small supply of cash in different denominations, you can take your leave after one or two drinks and throw the cost of your drinks + 30% (to cover tax and tip) in cash to the center of the table, and say "I think that should cover my drinks, I've got to head out but it was really nice to hang out with all of you--see you later."
posted by iminurmefi at 12:14 PM on May 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

It's also worth noting that, if it's not a place where a reservation has been made, it's probably best to arrive a little late. If you'd be more comfortable having a small conversation with one or two people, and then having an entry to the group, get there early or on time. If you want to kind of hover and listen, arrive later. For everything in-between, the middle.
posted by mikeh at 12:15 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Set a drink limit for yourself and don't let anyone talk you past it. Switch to club soda with a lime garnish if people get weird about you not drinking.

If your self-chosen drink limit is in the tipsy range or above, plan how you're getting home safely.

Bring cash in case it's a splitting the check kind of sit-down affair so that you can leave early. Include tax + $1/drink or 15% tip. Alternately, you can get your own drink for yourself at the bar and start your own tab with a credit card. Don't forget to close your tab at the end.

Only people in movies buy rounds in my experience. There's no obligation in any event. You might go in for a pitcher, though.

Make small talk. If you're totally lost for a convo starter, ask what they're drinking or what their plans are now that the class is over. Feel free to excuse yourself from one convo and join another. Business cards aren't really needed if you want to exchange contact info in this email world.

Us awkward people can stick together. If I'm feeling really shy at a party, I'll look for another lonesome soul. Generally the conversation ain't deep but it makes me feel better and probably makes them feel better too.

There's an old tip about the way to join into a circle of people who are gabbing is to tap one on the shoulder. There's another old tip to always keep one hand free.

If someone pulls a line about, "why are you so quiet?" or "why aren't you socializing?" It's generally not worthwhile to be explanitory, apologetic or snarky. Just change the subject to something awesome, "I was planning my escape route for if a zombie apocalypse broke out right now..."

I read in a book about shyness that shy folks take time to adapt to new environments. As such, I have a one-drink rule. I don't pressure myself to socialize or to leave until I've at least finished one drink.

Do exchange contact info with anyone that you want to stay in contact with and then follow up within a week with at least a, "hi! What's up?"
posted by Skwirl at 12:20 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I barely drink and am often deaf in boisterous bar situations. That said, I like people and try to make the best of these occasions. I think people have already given you good advice including

- don't be nuts about being prompt
- carry small bills, easier to pay and/or tip and/or split things
- have a polite friendly excuse to leave and then just settle up the tab and go. It can feel weird but people are used to it and rarely expect everyone to stick around until the wee hours
- it's fine to have a small one-on-one conversation with someone at these things but if it's a not large group often there will be group conversation in which it's fine to be a person who mostly listens, nods, laughs, whatever

Also to add to this

- usually people who are drinking aren't too judgey about other people who are or are not drinking so feel totally AOK not getting a drink if you want or having one and calling that it
- people tend to tip what seems like a large amount (to me) in bars. So like handing over a $5 for a $4 beer or whatever can be normal. Tipping the bartender/server generally is something that people do.
- now is a good time to informally chat with people who you may have had to be more formal with in the past. If there was something you'd always wanted to know about someone or something you'd meant to follow up on, now is the time.

I have no advice on business cards, but if people know your name it's easy enough to follow up on facebook or linked in.
posted by jessamyn at 12:24 PM on May 6, 2014

2nding bringing small bills so you can pay with minimum hassle. It can help shyness if you think of some conversational starters, like "What did you think of the final project" or whatever.
posted by theora55 at 12:34 PM on May 6, 2014

If it was me, I simply wouldn't go. If someone asks why, tell them you have a previous engagement.
posted by tommasz at 12:36 PM on May 6, 2014

A lot of great stuff here! One thing I'd say if you're a little bit unsure of what to talk about...ask people about themselves. It's the easiest way to get the conversation going.
posted by xingcat at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2014

I've rarely been to a "let's go for drinks" thing that involved people actually buying rounds for the whole group (this is in the US). If the group is more of a beer group, then buying a pitcher or two, if it's the kind of bar that does pitchers, is totally fine. We've done this at mefi meetups, for example. But at bars that don't do pitchers, everyone is responsible for their own drinks.

If I've been in a class with people, I would only offer or exchange business cards in the spirit of staying in touch, as this doesn't sound to me like a networking event.

You've been in class with them, so talk about class-related stuff to start with - readings, exams, funny thing that happened that time, etc.

(For the future: call or go to a mefi meetup - they are great practice for chatting with people you sort of know but not well from one particular context, and how the conversation can segue from "That crazy thread was so crazy!" to more personal, meatspace topics. )
posted by rtha at 12:43 PM on May 6, 2014

Do I bring business cards? The class is part of a certificate program and I have a feeling "networking" is involved.
Personally, I would assume this is just a friendly celebration, not a networking event. You all graduated, and now you are congratulating yourselves and each other! You can bring business cards if it will make you feel prepared in case others start exchanging them, but I would be surprised if that happened. People might want to exchange phone numbers and emails to keep in touch but that's about it.

What are the rules for buying a round of drinks?
Not usually done in the United States, especially among students where the whole group is aware is that everyone is probably on a tight budget. I wouldn't.

How do I gracefully leave when it gets to be too much? At parties I can vanish without a trace easily enough but that is not an option here.
"I've got to get going - great seeing you all!" Make sure you keep track of how much you've paid and bring cash to give to someone for when it's time to pay the bill.

Are there any other unspoken rules and other bits of etiquette?
Don't worry if you don't feel like the most talkative person - shy people exist and everyone knows that. Let others do the talking, and yes, ask questions, let people talk about themselves. I'm shy and awkward around new people too, and things go best for me when I sit back and let others take charge.

This may not apply to you, but I definitely find that because I have some social anxiety, I always think people are paying attention to me and judging my behavior - oh, she did that thing? that's so weird - but the real truth is, no one is scrutinizing you. They have lots of other things going on in their heads and they're mostly focused on themselves. Even people who seem like the life of the party could internally be just as shy and uncertain as you.

Also, I've been out to bars with non-drinkers and no one gave anyone a hard time about ordering a Coke/Sprite/Arnold Palmer/what have you, so don't feel you need to drink if you aren't comfortable doing that.
posted by capricorn at 12:48 PM on May 6, 2014

nthing, you won't have to buy a round. If you go to a bar, you'll all just pay as you go with the bartender. If you get a table, then you'll split the check. I'd be shocked if that's what's happening though, usually, that's 'grab a bite.'

You don't have to drink alcohol if you don't want to. Just order what you like and drink that. I like sparklikng water, ginger ale (with a cherry and lime) or diet soda. They may have some fun non-alcoholic drinks available

Join a couple of folks and listen to what they're talking about, and see if you can chime in. I find that asking a question is a good way to slide into a conversation, "So, what was the deal with that last test question, that was a joke, right?"

When you're ready to leave, shake some hands and say, "Let's keep in touch, I've gotta bounce." You may exchange cards, or someone may get everyone's email and send it out as a list for y'all. You could volunteer to do that so that you can connect with everyone.

"Hey, I'm collecting emails for a list for us. Just write it here on this paper and I'll send it to everyone over the weekend."

I'm still friends with folks from grad school. It's worth it to keep in touch!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:53 PM on May 6, 2014

Buying rounds isn't super common in the US, so I wouldn't worry about it. Like rtha said, someone might buy a pitcher to share, and if you're all planning to stay a while and get more than tipsy, then you might have an informal buying rounds process with the pitchers, but I've only ever done that when camped out at a bar with a group for a long period of time (i.e. for watching a series of sports events). In general, everyone pays for their own drinks, unless it's a special occasion like someone's birthday where people will buy drinks for the birthday person.

I find leaving to be the most awkward thing, particularly if I'm among the first people to leave. I find it helps to leave at around the same time as someone else, so you can take a look at the time and say something like, "oh wow, I've got to get going too. I'm gonna head out, awesome seeing all of you, bye!"
posted by yasaman at 12:55 PM on May 6, 2014

Every single time I've gone out for drinks with a group of people in similar circumstances (either after a class, or more likely after a play), it was more about "yay we all lived through that" rather than there being any networking. Nobody really bought rounds for everyone, it was more like everyone paid for their own drinks at the bar, or if we all got a table they'd chip in to the bill at the end ("okay, I had one glass of wine, and we got one plate of nachos for the table so here's a couple extra bucks towards that and the tip").

There were also always plenty of people who got just one drink for themselves and then left because of an early day job/audition/kids' school thing/whatever. Either they'd make sure to get their drink from the bar, or if we were all at a table they would leave enough money behind to cover their drink.

I've also had to do this for office parties where I wasn't really buddy-buddy with anyone; if it was the kind of thing where everyone was just standing around at a bar, I would usually make myself stay for one drink, nursing it a bit and making small talk with people; that usually would get me through at least about 45 minutes, at which point I'd start making noises about how I had to go home (I'd blame the lengthy commute and needing to be at work the next day). 45 minutes is a decent enough length of time that no one will look at you funny; in fact, a lot of other people were getting ready to leave themselves too. Sometimes, too, it'd be even longer, or I'd have gotten caught up in a conversation with someone and didn't mind that I was still there.

I don't ever remember trading business cards at such events unless someone specifically asked for contact information afterward ("hey, is there a good way to reach you now that the show's closing?").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:08 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Part of the point here is to get to know each other in a social setting, beyond classmates or colleagues. Be prepared for questions about your broader life: where you are from, are you dating, what neighborhood do you live in, what's your job like. You can tell them about your new cat or talk about a TV show you are really into or whatever.

Make a mental list of some questions you can ask if you get to a lull in conversation that feels awkward. You can turn to someone new and ask these things, or say them to the person you've been talking to.

"So, where are you from/where did you grow up/where did you go to school?"
"So, how long have you lived in OUR CITY?"
"Got any fun plans for the weekend?"
"I'm so glad Memorial Day is coming up...3 day weekend! Got any fun plans?"
"How's the martini/margarita/your drink?"
posted by amaire at 1:11 PM on May 6, 2014

It's a general rule to have a couple of business cards tucked into your wallet. As a rule, you'd want to check that supply before you go out on a business-related social outing (which is different from networking), and adjust the number accordingly, but you won't need enough for everyone in the class, you won't be handing them out like candy at a parade. Bring a pen, that way you'll be prepared; I often end up using my own business cards as notecards for contact info of a 3rd party (like they say "hey you should call up professor A at UCSD and ask about internships" and I'll either give Buddy my card that says "send me Prof A's info!" or I'll write "Prof A, UCSD, ref. Buddy from class" and stick it in my pocket). But no, this outing is probably not about networking, so the cards and pen will probably stay in your pocket - but hey, you're prepared.

Regarding food/drink, my methods from most to least optimal:
1. order your own at the bar, and pay for it then.
1. a. if you owe someone a favor, buy them the first round.
1. b. if you'd like to "be a nice guy" then buy an easily-shared appetizer
note, it's hard to buy things for people when the bill comes at the end and you have to argue out, no, Buddy, you only have 2 beers not 3, because I was buying the first one... it just gets silly, and the impression ends up being "belabors the point" not "nice guy".
2. Pay for the first drink from the bar, then move to the table tab.
3. Everyone's sitting at a table, the server presents a shared bill at the end. In this case, you'd be very aware of what you've ordered, be sure you don't forget a drink. Add a 20% tip to that. Assume that any "basket of fries for the table" that Buddy ordered is 10% your responsibility unless Buddy explicitly said he was covering it. Then throw in an extra $2, or round up to the nearest $5. Basically, there's a $2-5 leaving-early-fee so that when the bill comes at the end, people say nothing but good things about you.
3.a. If your plan to leave early matches up to a bunch of people leaving at the same time, you might get the bill, and everything will get passed around and tallyed up, and it'll be a pain. Have small bills and be willing to throw money at the problem.
3.b. If you leave before the bill arrives, that's no big deal, just leave money on the table. ("I've gotta go - this will cover my part"). But be sure it more than covers your part.
posted by aimedwander at 1:24 PM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

My cohort in grad school was a good sized group and most of us were drinkers. We met for drinks after classes and even throughout the summer from time to time. There were one or two folks that consistently went with us and either nursed a single beer the whole time or had a soda. I never judged or was concerned that they weren't drinking. I was just happy they wanted to hang out with us.

As one of the more outgoing people in the group, I tried to converse with all the folks that came out with us, even the quiet ones. But, if someone was really quiet, I typically would assume they just weren't a talker and it was no big deal. If someone left early in the night, it was assumed they had a thing or were tired. Also no big deal.

The only time rounds were "bought" was when it was an all-you-can drink from 5:30-11:00. Then that was just fetching drinks from the bar. We were all in grad school, so not a lot of cash laying around to treat others.

The only time I judged anyone for their choice of beverage was that one girl who always got Rumplemintz shots and wanted me to do them with her.
posted by teleri025 at 1:25 PM on May 6, 2014

What I do, is I go straight to the bar and order my one drink and pay for it, including tip. Then, drink in hand, I go find the group. The drink-in-hand provides a wordless explanation for why I don't want to split a pitcher (I think that's what people do in my region moreso than buying rounds), and the fact that I'm already drinking something (even if it is club soda) helps prevent awkward conversations with annoying people who want to tell me what I should be drinking.

Since I've already paid, vanishing without a trace remains an option. But usually, when I'm getting ready to go, I'll reconfirm things with people that we talked about "so, I'll send you a link to that website? and you'll give me her contact info?" and sometimes I'll write it on the back of my card if the person seems to be fumbling for a way to remind themselves. I generally don't say why I'm leaving, because sometimes people use that as an opening to challenge me on whether I really need that much sleep or whatever. I just say something like "this was great" "I'm so glad we got together" "so good to see all of you."
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:06 PM on May 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Be prepared to slag your teacher(s). It's standard bonding conversation.
posted by kinetic at 5:10 PM on May 6, 2014

Relax. Drink what you want, or nothing. Same with food. Nobody really cares.
Be thoughtful about money. Throw in enough to cover your food + booze + tax + a generous tip + a couple bucks for the experience & to cover the pikers.
If everybody buys a round, buy one. If they buy 2, buy 2. That's the cost of socializing.
Talk to whoever you're next to. Ask them about their job, their kids, their sports, their D&D prowess, their fantasy football, their dreams. Don't fake interest. BE interested.
If you can do that -- you can do that -- the rest is easy.
posted by LonnieK at 6:42 PM on May 6, 2014

Don't hand out business cards. Don't buy a round of drinks. Have a beer or two. Relax and talk to people. Pay in cash for your own drinks on your own schedule, and then when you want to leave, just tell people you have to get going, and go.
posted by John Cohen at 9:45 PM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

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