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Thursday, May 23, 2024
UK V. US. Night Life Culture Graphic Hailey Johnson.jpg

Nightlife in London is nothing like Madison

Do the Brits have more fun?

After spending the past three months exploring the vibrant nightlife of London, I can tell you it is an entirely different world from anything I have ever experienced. The city of London is an entire world in itself. But once the sun sets, the city transforms into something that is truly out of this world. Whether it's spending the early hours of the evening at a quiet pub, strolling through the streets of Soho to find a lively jazz bar or spending a ridiculous amount of pounds to get into the swankiest club in the city, there is never a dull moment. 

One of the most popular destinations for a night out in London is, hands down, the pub. According to Historic UK, a pub is the shortened version of “public houses,” which are historical establishments that didn’t include accommodation but felt like an open living room, with invitations to the public. Based on a study from Time Out, the city of London has roughly 3,500 pubs, with 480 just in the borough of Westminster. It’s very common for people to go to the pub straight from work in order to cool off and grab a drink and a snack before dinner. 

To those in the United States, a pub is a place where the “pregame” happens before the big night out. Pregaming culture is considered a quintessential American tradition to the British. A night out at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is guaranteed to have started with a pregame at a friend’s apartment or house before the actual trip to the bar or party. The purpose of pregaming can be anything from saving money on expensive drinks at the bar to spending quality time with friends before going out. 

However, the concept of pregaming isn’t exclusive to a single culture. It’s just done differently. A night that starts out at the pub with a drink or two and ends at the club is a lot more fun, safer and easier to navigate, especially in a huge friend group. There are so many different options of places to go in London compared to Madison. The variety and choices of which place to hit on a night out in London leaves room for something different every week and keeps it exciting. 

Another difference between Americans and the British is the drinking age. It’s what most people bring up when discussing nightlife in both countries. Brits begin drinking and going out to clubs and bars a lot younger than Americans do. The drinking age in the United Kingdom is 18 years old, whereas in America it’s infamously 21. Moreover, parties in the U.K. are more so gatherings of friends where everyone brings their own alcohol and cigarettes to share. According to, smoking cigarettes on a night out is extremely common in London. Around 18.1% of adults over the age of 18 will smoke either in party settings or on a daily basis. Vapes are the closest version of this in Madison. 

According to the CDC, a vape is less harmful for your lungs than a cigarette; however, I’ve noticed that most Americans will hit their vape multiple times in the bars or at a house party, and the dangerous chemicals will disperse regardless. In London and most of the United Kingdom, there are smoking sections and areas where you can smoke more freely so that you are not blowing it in people’s faces. The culture around smoking is so much more acceptable in London and isn’t seen as taboo. No one is crucified for doing it or not.

In addition, there is a lot less peer pressure regarding smoking and drinking during a night out as opposed to the United States. Most people in London are going out to have a good time, blow off steam and meet new people. Abroad, there is less of a pressure to “black out” and consider drinking a regular, social activity.  

Clubbing in London is one of the most fascinating experiences of British nightlife. Some of the best places to go are in the heart of Mayfair and on the streets of Soho. It’s expensive, exclusive and exhausting. At the same time, it's freeing and fun. Most of the clubs and bars around London actually play American hits from the 2010s.

However, be prepared for a long night. Most clubs open around 11 p.m. and some don’t close until around 5 or 6 a.m. When I first started going out in London, that was a huge adjustment for a lot of people in my program, including me. In Madison, my friends and I would go out around 11 p.m. and come home around 3 a.m., which was considered late. But coming home anytime before 5 a.m. in London is pretty early. I love the thrill of starting the night out late. It makes everything more of a mystery, and you never know where the night will lead you. A perfect night out consists of leaving the pub around closing time at 11 p.m and hitting the bar by 12 a.m. But you have to make sure you’re in line for the club before 1 a.m. because it gets busy, especially on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The pipeline of getting drinks at the pub in your local neighborhood and ending it at a club in Soho or Mayfair is the definition of a typical yet classic night out in London. One of the best things about coming home from a night out in London is that there are restaurants and fast food chains still open, a perfect cure for your impending hangover. 

While British nightlife is exciting and full of spontaneity, there is something so special about the going-out scene in the small town of Madison, Wisconsin. Being able to recognize the bouncer at Mondays or give your usual order to the UU bartender is comforting. True enjoyment during a night out in Madison comes from the people you spend it with and how you’ll be able to drink an entire fishbowl at Wando’s on Thursday night and still show up to your 9:00 a.m. the next morning. The close-knit community in Madison is unmatched. Of course, the going-out scene in Madison is vastly different from London. Sometimes, when I sit in the tube for 25 minutes on the way to Soho, I find myself missing my Thursday nights in Madison with all of my best friends at Vintage Spirits and Grill before we decide we want to walk across the street to Brats. The convenience is unmatched. 

London and Madison are two very different cities with unique ways to celebrate the end of a long week. London is the perfect place to explore nightlife in your 20s. The city is so much more vast and diverse in people, culture and places to enjoy a night out. There are a plethora of places to spend your evening and the city is never short of things to do when going out. As cheesy as it sounds, going to a rooftop bar in Westminster and seeing the London skyline makes life feel surreal. London’s charm and opportunities in networking, meeting people with similar goals, ambitions and the idea to change their lives is something unlike anywhere else in the world. 

Hana Razvi is a staff writer and a junior studying journalism and strategic communication. Do you agree that there are major differences in nightlife between London and Madison? Send all comments to

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