Beverages: An American Obsession

NOTE: I write this surrounded by beverages, I am nursing a medium cappuccino and have a glass of water on standby.

I have a drinking problem, but I don’t think it’s just me. I think the majority of Americans have a drinking problem to some degree, although much depends on geography. While at work, my desk is littered with cups, all with varying degrees of fullness. I don’t feel comfortable without a thermos of water in my bag.  When I apply the brakes in my car, beverage bottles roll and rattle.

I didn’t fully realize the extent of my obsession with beverages until I started hanging out with my friend Tania, who is French. She brought it to my attention that whenever we went for a coffee I would order mine in a to-go cup and she would order hers for “here.” Her idea of a coffee involves sitting down and taking her time to enjoy it.  I always assume that I won’t have time to finish any of my beverages so I should have them ready to go.  This is when she pointed out that Americans always have a drink in their hand.

Two starbucks beverages on a table in to go cups, next to a plant.

Beverages must always be in to go cups!

Really? It’s true. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I think a cup acts much like a security blanket. Having a cup announces to passersby, look, I’ve been somewhere, I’ve done something, I’m someone who has a full life and needs to drink on the go to accommodate it. Maybe it didn’t start out that way, but I think, as a culture, we are obsessed with looking busy. We seem to associate levels of business with levels of importance.

One sec, I need another water. Free refills, also American.

Are Americans drinking more than other countries or just toting drinks around? The United States certainly ranks highly in coffee consumption, according to this article from The Telegraph, but it doesn’t quite make the top 20.

According to The Washington Post, the United States consumes more carbonated soft drinks than almost any other country. I’ve lived on both coasts and it’s not soda cans I see people carrying around.  It’s coffee cups and water bottles. I called my mom who lives in the Midwest and asked her if she sees people carrying around coffee or soda as they go about their day. She said no, but that she likes to have water in her purse. Maybe I got that from her?

A drink is never far from us. We have an abundance of cup holders in our cars. I’ve learned from research that our cup holders are larger than other countries’. When looking for a new car last year I snubbed a perfectly fine car because as I declared “There aren’t enough cup holders.” My husband laughed at me but I insisted it was an important consideration.


Luggage cup holder allows you to carry two drinks at a time! One in your hand and on on your luggage.

Luggage cup holder allows you to carry two drinks at a time! One in your hand and one on your luggage.

Strollers even have cup holders. I also ran across this nifty product that made even me giggle.

Maybe I don’t have a drinking problem. Maybe it’s the drinking equivalent of food for foodies? Maybe I’ve internalized the movement to stay hydrated that has overtaken the country in the last 15 years. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I do know that I’m a happy participant in this American phenomenon and have embraced it fully. It’s time to leave the coffee shop and my cappuccino isn’t finished.  I knew I should have gotten it to go.



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About Jessica H

I have spent my life exploring my surroundings. I grew up in Michigan and made a career in marketing. I followed my husband to NY, NJ and now CA for his career. I have a passion for traveling and experiencing other cultures. I love being out of my comfort zone. I currently work as a contracted Marketing Product Manager at Google. I love the Bay Area. The sun, relaxed environment and access to outdoor activities is very different from the East Coast.

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