how to avoid alcohol at dinner interviews

A reader writes:

A friend of mine just came back from a campus visit. At dinner after the presentation, she was asked to choose the wine. She doesn’t partake for religious reasons, so she was rather stumped for a moment before explaining the situation.

I’m in a similar boat, in that I don’t drink. (Not a religious thing, but I learned in college that alcohol and I are not friends.) I’m fine with people around me drinking; I just try to avoid it myself. Is there a easy way to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m just going to have water or an iced tea. Go ahead and order what you’d prefer.” Does that seem acceptable?

Sure. It’s also fine to simply say, “Oh, no thank you, I don’t drink” and leave it at that.

Lots of people don’t drink, for religious reasons, for medical reasons, for recovery reasons, or simply because they don’t enjoy it. And lots of other people do drink but prefer to avoid it in business situations. (In that last case, you might simply say, “Oh, none for me tonight, thank you.”)

As long as you don’t make a big deal out of it and instead just treat it matter-of-factly, most other people will follow your lead. And the rare ones who won’t are waving a big red flag about themselves.

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