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An American Explains Spring Break to British People

Is it really a bunch of 'roid-heads doing keg stands to Pitbull remixes?

My American friend John and I like nothing more than to enlighten each other on our respective countries’ ways. I’ve explained British TV and real football to him, he’s explained American football and politics to me. What’s normal to him seems amazing to me and vice versa. We’re basically those really funny and profound people you hear in pubs bonding loudly over the different meanings of the word “pants”.


With Spring Breakers convincing everyone that being a teenager was actually a lot more fun than the shitty holiday in social anxiety you remember it as, I thought it'd be a good time to ask my American friend what spring break is actually like. His step-by-step guide should be useful to all of you who are attempting to recreate spring break by hotboxing your freezing Novas and jamming Example in a Newquay carpark right now. I hope that's going really well for you.

1. Sex
Limey Oscar says: Okay, so sex is the whole point of spring break, right? You’ve spent all winter watching your body turn into a cross between a shrivelled worm and a frozen turd in the bathroom mirror and you need to fly south to bask in the sun and let its rays reawaken your libido. Which sounds amazing, but is there a downside? Is there a kind of “what happens in Napa, stays in Napa” thing going on with spring break, or do people's lives get ruined quite regularly?

Yankee John replies: No, what happens on spring break doesn't stay on spring break any more; it goes on Instagram with a Kelvin filter and a hashtag. So yes – considering you're young and away from home and surrounded by strangers, and you spend hours every day in the blazing sun drinking so much alcohol that liquid starts to lose its taste, spring break does ruin lives fairly regularly. You will do too much stuff that is bad for you and make too many awful decisions for there to be no lasting evidence of your mistakes. But at least when you look back on them, they'll be preserved forever in lovely sepia-tone.


2. Drugs
Limey Oscar says: Even though Miami and Cancún and all the other brinks beloved of spring breakers are drug hotspots, I always got the impression that the kind of student who does spring break is only really into drinking and maybe an occasional toke on the devil's lettuce. Americans don't get the hard stuff, do they? They're the sort of people who have some kind of a puritanical disapproval of drugs and think Coldplay are a bit edgy because they’re British and Chris Martin isn’t into poverty. Right?

Yankee John replies: Roughly a quarter of 18 to 20 year olds here are down to party. Yes, weed is the most popular method of doing that (who knew?), but no one knows how to abuse prescription drugs like American students who've spent years guiltlessly throwing back Vicodin and Adderall because mom and dad will enjoy the upturn in grades. "Molly" (MDMA) is also huge if you're into that kind of thing. But you’re right, it’s mostly going to be beer, Jagermeister and cheap tequila.

3. Jocks
Limey Oscar says: Our impression of spring break is that it's basically a zoo full of raging idiots who play games like American football and lacrosse (we find the fact that your tough guys play lacrosse really funny, by the way). Is this true? Do people who voluntarily read ever “do” spring break? Are the jocks who dominate spring break violent bullies or are they chill bros? I’m imagining a situation similar to the majority of films starring Freddie Prinze Jr – a nerd getting whaled on by a pack of square-jawed, Progain Efrons. Tell me these things happen. My smug sense of European satisfaction needs a bit of a bolstering after George Osborne's recent media attention.


Yankee John replies: Yes, us Americans done be idiots. We could surely learn from the noble Englishman on holiday, so austere and quietly dignified. Granted, the folks at spring break probably aren’t our best and brightest, but you can’t very well criticise kids for having a good time. It’s the fraternity and sorority crowd – a mostly harmless exercise in conformist revelry. The guys punch each other and the girls whooo and everyone gets drunk and sleeps around. It’s more egalitarian than Revenge of the Nerds would have you believe. Anyway, ever since Bon Iver released that workout video – his greatest notch on the bedposts of culture – it's become basically impossible to classify people into social groups like we used to.

4. Rock and Roll
Limey Oscar says: What music is going to most define spring break this year? Recently, it seems to have been designed for rutting – here’s Pitbull showing us how aggressively unattractive he is, for example – but once upon a time, it seems pop punk was the go-to soundtrack (witness Blink 182 letting rip back in the halcyon days of 2000). So what's up this year? And does every single party really revolve that much around MTV's cellophaned vision of popular culture?

Yankee John replies: MTV didn’t invent spring break, but it's probably responsible for its popularity as a hedonistic rite of passage. They're now synonymous with an event that has neither a set time or location – a piece of absolute branding genius. Someone smart somewhere is writing a thesis on MTV spring break and the commodification of adolescent sexuality, and I look forward to the Pauly Shore chapter in particular. Pauly’s Twitter line now reads: “Look at my life half full, not half empty. Dance with the devil don't become the devil,” which seems relevant. Perhaps they can connect that line to the US having the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world. Or maybe it's all the Skrillex you'll hear at spring break this year.


5. Mexico
Limey Oscar says: It used to be mostly about getting Four Loko'd with alligators in Florida, right? But then I guess the drinking age thing became a bit of a problem and you all gravitated down to Cancún. Now it's become the prime destination, is there some kind of horrible global economy/imperialism thing at work where American kids go down there to shit on/be exploited by locals? This is what happens with British tourists in various southern European locales and it’s always a horror show involving English breakfasts at 4PM and drunken idiots trying to smash glass windows with plastic furniture.

Yankee John replies: Cancún is the city that makes me feel worst about being American. Man, we just plain ruin things sometimes. It’s not even cultural imperialism because we don’t interact with the native people and never explore past the hotel’s protective barriers, except en route to Señor Frogs. We just want a new place to do the same old shit we do at home. It’s terrible. My plea to the spring breakers: please just go to Florida. That land accepts and venerates tackiness. Its chief export is suspect stories about insane people. Leave Mexico alone, we’ve done enough to those people.

6. Branding
Limey Oscar says: Is everything sponsored by Coke, Pizza Hut and Halliburton? And if it is, is this a subtle (completely transparent) way of establishing brand loyalty for life? So that that when you look back on all your magical spring breaks you think, 'Ah, I remember that cool, refreshing Coke I had getting blown on the beach,' or, 'How about that time Tyler blacked out and went into a coma, wasn’t the Pizza Hut we had in the hospital just the best?' Or, 'Remember all that oil Halliburton gave us after the Macklemore show?'


Yankee John replies: As Americans, we’re used to being advertised to during every single moment of our daily lives – this consumer culture isn’t just going to feed itself. There are ads in urinals, on the plane’s tray-table, in my Twitter feed and I can't even begin to fathom the number of Geico ads I've seen in my life. So yes, everything is branded, but that's not exactly anything new.

7. Alternative Spring Break
Limey Oscar says: I hear that, instead of being perpetually hungover, you can volunteer for the Peace Corps or work on an organic farm or help run a camp for economically-impoverished teenagers. Also, I'm not sure that these exist, but I like the idea that there might be evil alternatives to these do-gooder scenarios, like being an intern at GE, lobbying for the NRA or helping maximise the Daily Mail’s American web traffic.

Yankee John replies: Yeah, our aspiring Lisa Simpsons need something to do over the break, too. They haven't yet been deadened by the persistent, crushing inevitability of life, so why not let them bask in dreams of world-changing glory?


In closing, special shouts to everyone who has to work and doesn’t have the funds (or parent plastic) to gallivant around Florida for a week. May your bitter spite propel you to future glory.

Follow Oscar (@oscarrickettnow) and John (@jasperjohnny) on Twitter.

Photos by Emiliano Granado, originally published here.


More times John and Oscar have explained stuff to each other:

Explaining British TV to the Americans

Explaining Football to America

Explaining American Football to the British

Explaining American Politics to the British