I am a serial and consistent "notter"¹: I do not drink (alcohol or coffee), smoke, do any form of drugs, I'm a vegetarian, etc.

All of these things have been consistent for me for a decade or more.

I am ending up in situations, recently, where people have disbelieved my behavior and questioned it. And I frankly do not have good answers for why I made these choices, but by now they are just nature to me.

How can you be a notter when people are 'countering' you with questions you cannot answer?

I am a Dutch male in his mid-twenties recently moved from the Netherlands to England, with most of my currently developing circle consisting of secondary school teachers and IT developers ranging from my age to the low 50s. We live in a city but not one of the big ones.

¹ someone who does not do a lot of common things

  • 10
    By the way, where did you live in the Netherlands that this was the norm? It doesn't seem all that usual for folks here to not drink, smoke, do drugs or eat meat either. Might it be that you've just moved to a new circle of friends now?
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:55
  • @Erik Zeeland. Perhaps it was still not the norm there, but people sure are a lot more confrontational about it here!
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:56
  • When you say you cannot answer do you mean you don't want to? Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 13:20

14 Answers 14


Most of these other answers come off as very judgmental, which will not endear people to you. Granted, it's rude of the askers to be questioning your personal choices, but a simple

No thanks, it's not for me.

will hopefully avoid further questions. Giving solid excuses or reasons just invites people to give their unsoliticted opinions on why you're wrong. ("One drink has health benefits!" "One burger won't hurt you!")

If they really press you, follow up with

I just don't like it.

If they keep going,

Why do you care so much about my health choices?

will probably give them the hint.

(I enjoy most of the vices you've described, but I also regularly take breaks from them, and I get all these questions and recognize how annoying they are. Most people just want to know that you're not judging them for making different choices than you are. Make sure you're not.)

  • Unfortunately this is my current strategy. It invited follow-up questions in the forms of "why not" "have you ever tried it?"
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 13:15
  • 1
    You can't answer because that just makes them think you're interested in discussing it.
    – user3306
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 13:16
  • 3
    Sorry, I meant "you can't offer an excuse/explanation." A generic "Not for me," doesn't give them anything to go off of. (You may have to repeat yourself a few times).
    – user3306
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 13:21
  • 22
    "Health reasons I don't wish to discuss" also works, and is not a lie.
    – user3306
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 13:22
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    This answer is fine for people you do not care about, but it would be rude to use this strategy for closer acquaintances. It's like "hey, buddy! What have you been doing today? - Why do you care?".
    – Shautieh
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 4:22

This answer focusses more on personal integrity than conflict-aversion.

I am a Dutch male in my early 30s and I have lived in The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Canada, and (currently) England. I have always been at universities, as an undergraduate, graduate student, and now as a post-doctoral research associate. I have lived in large-ish (>100k) cities except in Sweden, when I lived in a small (<20k) remote city with a lot of nature around. I am vegetarian, I have never smoked, I drink no alcohol or coffee. My drug usage is limited to the caffeine in the occasional cup of black tea.

I have found that social life in The Netherlands and England is very much focussed on the consumption of alcohol. I found the university introduction in The Netherlands difficult. Our activity groups explicitly had a competition on which group had best learned to drink alcohol. I joined a table tennis club for a while, but at a social after the training, I was ridiculed for drinking apple juice rather than beer. I tried to fit but I didn't. In all social circles, I frequently and annoyingly found myself questioned: “Why don't you drink?”. My French spouse experienced the same (in France). I don't think I've ever been asked why I don't smoke.

In Sweden, nobody questioned me for not drinking. I much enjoyed the university introduction, and met several other non-drinkers (the topic did arise but in a more tolerant fashion). Now that I live in England it has restarted, although much less than when I lived in The Netherlands >10 years ago, but I suspect that this has to do with the maturity of people around me. I don't think the Dutch and English cultures are all that different when it comes to drinking alcohol.

When I am asked why I don't drink, smoke, eat meat, etc., I answer the question if asked politely and ignore it if asked/remarked in a condescending way ("ha ha, apple juice again?").

I don't really get asked why I don't smoke. I know very few smokers.

The meat one is trickiest; people may get annoyed. Even when they initiate the conversation (why do you not eat meat?), the response may be perceived as if I consider myself to make superior moral choices.

For alcohol, I tend to say:

  • I don't like alcohol,
  • I don't like to poison my liver,
  • My brain is messed up enough as it is, no need to mess it up more,
  • I like to stay in control of myself,
  • Drunk people are not exactly a good advertisement for alcohol. I might mention I have seen the consequences of alcoholism in the family and choose to steer away from it.

The specific answer depends on the audience. When speaking to someone you don't know well the first answer is probably the safest (unless the asker also doesn't drink, when probably any answer is fine: you have a bond!). The final answer is probably the most provocative, depending on how it's formulated, and I only say it for people I know somewhat well. Typically, those answers may work to move on to another topic, for better or worse; it may be that I have unwillingly insulted people, I'm quite bad at telling when I do!

Finally: if a group of people go to the pub, you can still join even though you don't drink alcohol. They are probably only going to drink (certainly in England where I find that pub food is usually disgusting). You can take water or juice. Just because you don't drink alcohol doesn't mean you need to exclude yourself socially. Fortunately, smoke-free is the norm nowadays — it was much worse for us 20 years ago.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 18:48

If you get questions like this a lot, but don't have answers, my suggestion for this is:

Come up with answers.

Acceptable answers to not doing any of the things you list are one of these:

  • It is expensive
  • It is unhealthy
  • I don't like it

But I don't think this is your actual problem.

You find yourself in a counter-cultural situation. That which is the "norm" for "everyone else" is not the norm for you, and all of the ways being social involve this activity.

Here's an example of such a thing in my own life:

I live in the United States, and am male, and live in Wisconsin. The standard expectation for a male Wisconsinite is to be interested in American Football, and more specifically to like the team of the Green Bay Packers.

I do not care one bit about football, and so naturally do not have a favorite team.

"I don't like football" is not an acceptable social answer where I live. They will ask if I like a number of teams, then ask if I like a number of other sports (which I similarly don't follow). Eventually, they conclude that they have nothing to talk to me about, because that is the only thing to talk about, at least in their minds.

Basically, your lack of "vices" challenges their worldview of normalcy, which they see as involving the "vice" regularly in life. Even if you are not overtly condemning their choices, your lack of participation is perceived as a passive condemnation to at least some of them.

How to overcome this and "fit in"? I wish I knew.


I would answer every single question simply.

I just feel my best when I don't.

You may be surprised how well it works. I do not relate on all your items, but most I do.

Where I can relate more about how people react is with the way I chose to do pregnancy and birth, etc. Where I live I am very much a minority in refusing unneeded medication. I honestly don't care what other people do. I have no interest in telling others what they should do, but I do feel best if I do not put anything I don't need into my system. I do not like medications if they can be avoided, so I did no pain control, etc.

This is the one most people seem to think I may judge them for. I do not. I have no opinion on others in that regard. For me, I truly just feel best if I don't. You do what you want to do. That is why I say that works well. I have found that is the most gentle way to state your reasons while it also sets a clear boundary that this isn't something you will change.

Believe it or not, from the moment I was pregnant, everyone in all my appointments and my arrival at the hospital was all encouraging me to take pain control for labor and after. It is how it is where I live. Even after the birth I was encouraged to take pills I did not want, including sleeping pills.

It is not how I operate. It is okay if others do. I know not all countries are like this. Not all places in the USA are like this. But since it is that way here, I had so many odd things said to me, including my 1st pediatrician telling me she didn't understand why I'm trying to "make myself a martyr to motherhood".

So I understand that the topic may be different, but when you do something you think is "better" for you, people will often infer you think it would be "better" for everyone else too. If you say it makes you feel your best, I think it removes that connotation and people usually calm down and stop asking, pushing, or commenting so much. It works well for me at least.

  • 1
    Good answer with one caveat: we are talking about people who drink, smoke and consume caffeine; these people could also truthfully say "I just feel my best when I don't" but then go right ahead and do it anyway, suffering the hangovers, the racking coughs and the jittery stomach for the pleasure they get from acquiring them. Don't get me wrong, I drink and smoke and do understand your point but some like me simply won't: to them you'll feel at your best eventually anyway, so why not have a few beers and a smoke tonight? You'll be fine by Saturday! Go on - it's my round! etc. etc. etc.
    – Spratty
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 13:20
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    Well I don't drink and yet I don't get urged to drink once I say that. That is why I said I do relate on most of that. I am not a vegetarian nor have I ever been but I have seen plenty of people give people a hard time on that issue. If someone said, " I feel better too but I am going to do it anyway", I would laugh & good heartedly say "Well I guess you mus enjoy those things more than I do then, because I don't find them worth it".
    – threetimes
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 13:33

Don't stop the conversation right where you'd like it to move on from

Imagine someone were to tell you they never go out after dark, or listen to classical music, and they don't own a cell phone.

Quick, what do you want to ask them about?

Then they say something like, "My reasons are my own."

If you're being polite, I imagine there will be some awkward silence, while you try to think of something else to say.

You want to avoid the above, and respond in a way that keeps the conversation rolling...onto some other subject.

Have you tried your own answer?

I wonder if you've ever told you coworkers this exactly:

I frankly do not have good answers for why I made these choices, but by now they are just nature to me.

That's honest, forthright, and not too personal.

Acknowledge folks' concerns

I wouldn't want to drink in front of an alcoholic. Or dive into a pile of wings in front of someone who had to stop eating them on doctor's orders. But finding those things out is always awkward.

In your case, these are just personal preferences, so let folks know they can enjoy themselves. Thank them for their concern. Once they are no longer worrying about making you uncomfortable, they can more easily move onto other subjects.

Change the subject

When you'd like to talk about something else, do it. Volunteer an interesting fact about yourself, bring up something else you'd prefer to talk about, give a compliment, or ask someone a question. Most folks will jump at the chance to leave the awkwardness behind.

If people get stuck on the subject, just take the focus off of yourself. Ask questions about what other folks do or don't like, or wax philosophical about the subject.

Don't let people get a rise out of you

Some folks will just be chummy and try to provoke you a little. If you get all flustered when somebody brings up your choice of beverage, don't be surprised if that becomes a running joke. That's just how people are.

Hearing the same comments all the time gets old, but if it weren't about the apple juice, it would probably be something else. You can just smile and nod at this behavior.


Sometimes people want to "convert" you, sometimes they are just glad to find something to chat about.

I have lived without alcohol for health reasons, so I could say "Doctor's orders." I also never drink and drive "Nope, I'm driving". And sometimes I just don't want to; "not today" and sometimes "I'm trying a year without." All valid things to say which can't really be disputed.

Also, I don't eat red meat "no, no, my stomach disagrees with it". I was once a vegetarian, so "seeing if I can live without. No, don't tempt me please."

Then again, I don't normally drink coffee. "No, I really prefer tea," "no, it stops me from sleeping," "no, I feel like just drinking juice," "the tap water in this town is really fine, have you tried it?" (No joke, I like tap water and drink it wherever I am.)

I've never done recreational drugs. "No, no for me. Just don't fancy it".

It is important to keep polite and positive. Don't imply any moral superiority "How can you eat dead animals, yuck!", rather go for "barbecued vegetables, gorgeous, here, try one". You don't need to give a reason or enter into a discussion - just say, "not for me today, thank you". They don't want to be converted either.


Ok, so here is the thing.

You are weird!

By very definition, because you are making choices counter to your culture and the culture of those around you, you are weird, and you should be aware of that. There is nothing wrong with that, but you can't expect others to know that your weird and not want to learn more. It's human nature. Your different so lets talk about how your different.

So as humans we try to do two very different things. First we try to explore and understand what makes us different. Second we try to make everyone uniform and the same. It's really odd that we would try to do both at the same time, but we do. What can I say, well all a bunch of wack-a-dos.

The Exploring Questions

Now, from your post you don't have a problem with the first part. People trying to question and "explore" your reasons. That's good, because while it's annoying (to you) it's also the only way anyone is ever going to understand you, and understanding is the only way your going to be able to participate in a community.

The only advice I will give there is try extra hard to answer those "explore" questions honestly, but without judgement. Suggest that I am less then you because I like my moo cow, and well, then your opinion just became lower then dirt to me. But if we have a conversion where I ask you "So why don't you eat steak?" and you respond with an answer that is honest and not aimed at making other less then you, and all of the sudden I may have learned something, at the very least I will make sure to have salad stuff when I invite you over for dinner.

This is easy, just use your I feel statements. And answer with your honest opinion. "I feel that eating beef is unhealthy," is much better then "Eating beef is unhealthy." Just be honest, non-judgmental, accept that your different and that people are going to ask, and your good.

The Conformity Questions

These are the bad ones. Well there not too bad, but they are the questions where people try to convince you that your way is wrong and there way is right. A lot of times, this is the "second" question.

For example "Why don't you want a steak?" "I feel that eating beef is unhealthy." "Well, do you have any data to back that up?"

Now the real trick with these questions is that you need to be open to them. If you don't eat meat, and you know why, then it doesn't really mater, unless your reason is invalidated. You should always re-evaluate every stance. That's how you grow. But while you may want to re-evaluate, the point is, that your not ready now to conform to the "normal" practice of eating cow.

I suggest a two step approach. First, re-state your I feel answer. Then if that doesn't work, leave. Honestly, it's fine for people to try to convince you. But if someone is going to ignore your feelings and beleifes then there not worth talking to anyway.

I'm not talking about a conversation where your willing to talk about your way of doing things. That's different and your agreeing to have, and participate in that. I am talking about the conversation where your just trying to eat your lunch and someone keeps pushing.

For example. "Why don't you want a steak?" "I feel that eating beef is unhealthy." "Well, do you have any data to back that up?" "Not really, but I still feel like eating beef is unhealthy." "Yeah but without any data, how do you know. One sirloin isn't gonna kill ya and you might like it." "I hear you but it's not something I want. Like I said, I feel I am making a healthier choice." "Come on just try a little one, there really good here." -- This is when you just leave.


Your a weirdo, get used to. Others will want to ask about it, but expect others to respect your feelings, and try not to come off judgmental your self. It all else fails, just walk away.


The most important thing to survive as a "NOT-ter" is to not make judgment calls when asked about it.

What really ticks people off is personal life choices make the "NOT-ter" a better person. All too often you hear an explanation with a between lines message. Avoid that message. For instance the "I don't eat meat, because killing animals is evil.": you just told the person you're talking with and does eat meat, that he's evil. People don't want to be evil, so such a statement will get you resentment.

A: "I don't eat meat because I don't want to." is much better.

Most people I know don't have any issue with NOT-ters. There's NOT-ting wrong with making your own personal choices how to live your life.


As a lifelong Vegan from a family of the same, I've had to deal with exactly this situation my entire life.

The most common question (even above the old "how do you get protein?") is some variant on "you've never tried meat?" in mixed tones of shock, awe, surprise or horror.

My usual response is that you can't miss what you've never experienced.

I find the best solution is a patient resilience, I'm not trying to challenge other people's worldview, simply absorbing their attempts to do the same to me.

If pushed, I have the arguments, ethical and health based to support my decision, but ultimately I don't care to have the conversation unless it's purely an intellectual exercise. I don't fight with my friends, and I don't care about strangers opinions.

I've never had to defend being a non-smoker, but I've been offered once or twice and politely refused "no thanks, I don't smoke". Nothing further came of that.

Different tack. I'm not a sports fan, being the pasty nerd that I am. the latest Sportsball doesn't interest me at all. That said, I live in Manchester. home of one of englands biggest football teams. Not having a team is considered weird, and if you do, it better be one of the two Manchester teams (united or city) If asked, I support Manchester city. because I like to live dangerously and I'm already wearing blue. Nobody has ever asked.

My strongest advice is, honesty and good humour will take you past virtually every social situation with few hiccups along the way. if all else fails, just smile and nod and wait for them to go away.


One: Good for you!
Your personal life style choices are good, healthy, sustainable.

Two: These are your personal life style choices!
Nothing to explain. It simply is.

Three: Educate the yessers.

  1. (Recreational) Drugs are illegal.
    I'm referring to weed et al here, alcohol, nicotine and even caffeine excepted. If you DO them explanations would be in order, not when you don't. If this is problematic your are running with the wrong crowd.

  2. Smoking should speak for itself, public opinion has swerved to abstention some time ago now.

  3. Drink.
    Very personal choice this. If you want, do explain. But you do not have to. If bothered, ask about the other person's choice.

  4. Vegetarianism.
    Explain if you want, I expect this to go the same way smoking has. Eating meat costs the earth a bundle. Vegetarian and vegan ingredients and recipes have become truly tasty. It is a growing market. Did you know that a meatless diet in India is associated with higher social standing?
    Cook up something good, let them taste! It is the taste of the future.
    Also Googling a bit about social trends and the reasons for them will help you illuminating good reasons why to the unbeliever.

  • Thanks for this, although I'd like to point out many recreational drugs are perfectly legal in the UK. People get creative.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 11:57
  • 2
    It's just that a lot of people find "It's illegal" a terrible argument against doing something and politics ridiculously outdated on the subject of recreational drugs. You would earn no respect from me for saying you refused to do something only because you weren't allowed to.
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 12:16
  • @Erik but that is not what I'm saying. I'm stating that there is no need to be defensive about it at all, for example if someone is prodding you about it. I must say I find prodding someone about not doing what is illegal ..very questionable.
    – Bookeater
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 15:19
  • 1
    You seem to be strongly suggesting that "it's illegal" is, by itself, some kind of reason for not doing things. If that's not what you are saying, I would suggest you update the answer to make this clearer.
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 15:27

I have a similar situation and responding about these things comes somehow natural to me, so I'll try to share my experiences.

First of all, remember that most people don't outright question you with "why not?" if they want to understand you. They want to prove you wrong and convince you to change to right way. Treat it as an attack.

You told that you don't exactly your reasons, it's just your nature. Well, one thing's sure - you know your reasons better than they will ever do, so just enjoy the fact. When you receive a "why not?", instead of being confused with "hmm, I'm not sure why", just troll the asker into understanding that he won't understand. It's retarded and it works to make yourself content with your choices.

Two examples


I don't smoke and don't drink. Lying works very good this. Just don't be a true liar, make your conversation partner you are lying and he won't get the answer. The easiest route is making your every answer contradict the previous answer.

Some default points that I like to emphasize are these fake and contradictory facts:

  • I don't like beer because it's too bitter.
  • I like coca-cola because of the bitterness.
  • I have never tasted alcohol in my life.
  • I don't like strong alcohol, because, well, the taste is really bad.
  • I don't drink alcohol because it's not healthy.
  • I prefer Coca-Cola - I always just enjoy unhealthy stuff.


I don't eat that disgusting thing. I don't eat other stuff like eggs, fish, mushrooms...

I'll try to present a fleshed out conversation that I've had many times in various variations (lousy translation, I know more inappropriate/awkward words in my native language):

  • I'ma eat me some pizza, you want some
  • [exclaim like the answer is obvious] No!? I don't eat pizza.
  • Why don't you?
  • [explain it's obvious] It's not tasty, obviously.
  • Let's go to Lulu's they got all kinds of tasty pizza, do you like pineapples?
  • [mislead] Yes
  • So let's get the big pizza with pineapples and dead fish
  • [crush] No.
  • Why not, you'll like it.
  • [explain] No, I don't like pizza.
  • Why not?
  • [explain] I don't like cheese.
  • Waah? Cheese is soooo tasty, I can eat anything with cheese.
  • [keep listening without disturbing]
  • Wlorb, cheese is greaty, how can you not like it?
  • [explain] It's not tasty.
  • It's sooo tasty, don't you ever like cheese?
  • [explain] I never eat it.
  • Haven't you tasted it?
  • [bait into the next line] Of course not.
  • Well try it? How would you know you don't like it?
  • [deliver punchline] Why would I try it if I don't like it?

After this it should be a knock-out. Your doubter will probably say few more things, but it's over already. He will give up with a thought that you are strange.


I once had a dream where every piece of meat I ate killed a pink unicorn and their families kept crying. It was heartbreaking.

You don't have to explain yourself.

Sometimes people say things without thinking. Asking you why you don't drink (or whatever) is one of those occasions. If they are genuinely interested in the answer, then they won't feel like the truth is an attack on them.

However, most people aren't. They think it's odd that you don't drink (etc) and use the question as a way to let you know. They might even mean well, trying to get you to fit in more. But while they are literally questioning your choices, an answer that might even only slightly imply that you might question theirs is suddenly you being arrogant or rude.

There are a lot of good answers here but I'll suggest a different approach:

Instead of trying to find a neutral, but informative answer, one kind of effective strategy is to counter question them.


So... why don't you drink alcohol?

Are you implying not drinking makes me less of a person?

What? No... It's just that everyone else does it.

So you mean I should just do it because everyone does it? Give in to peer pressure?

Well it's not like one drink is actually harmful.

I still don't really understand why you're trying so hard to get me to do something I don't like...

How do you know you don't like it though? Have you ever tried it?

Is it really that important to you that I drink? Why?

It's not important, it's just that I think it's something you might enjoy.

So you enjoy it?


But can't we be friends without me having to force myself to enjoy it, too?

And so on.

Important when using this strategy: Never(!) answer any questions. If you run out of counters, just say nothing and think for a moment. You don't have to question their question ( :D ). You can just ask something entirely different to distract from the fact you're not actually answering.

They'll probably get tired at some point and give up sooner or later. Sometimes though, you'll find really annoying people that just won't stop.

The great thing about this strategy is that instead of having to explain why you like it, it very quickly turns into them trying to explain why it's great without you taking the moral highground. So when you're finally out of ideas, you can just say that you feel you're being pressured and you don't really want to be. Should make any reasonable person stop.

  • 3
    Why should I never answer any question? Won't that make the asker annoyed?
    – gerrit
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 9:22
  • 1
    Because once you start answering questions, you're actually discussing it. Once you start answering, you will give them points to attack. Once you start answering, you will be very likely to say the wrong thing. Also you want them to ask the same question again so your "being pressured" argument in the end is more convincing. Also as long as you ask questions, it's a lot more difficult for them to realize you haven't answered because they'll be busy thinking of an answer themselves.
    – Mark
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 9:50

Whatever other's standpoint is on drinking alcohol and eating animal products:

They are choices that have strong consequences. No one can deny that alcohol comes with a risk of addiction, and that consuming more than you are comfortable with doesn't exactly make you feel good. No one can deny that animal welfare is at least a serious issue with animal based foods.

Also, what you put INSIDE yourself (food and drink) is a very intimate choice - parallel to other areas of life perfectly intended.

Both are more than good enough reasons to argue that YOU should decide what, when, and to what extent to consume of these - not anyone else or their social norm.

But: Don't complain too much ("why does this place not offer better vegetarian foods etc etc...", "why are these and these people so ignorant") - own your choices and live them.


It's probably too late now, but for future iterations of this scenario I recommend lying -- anything from little white lies to real whoppers. Here are some simple ones to get you started:

  1. "I'm allergic." People are allergic to everything these days. You can dress this up with alternatives such as "I lack an essential enzyme to digest xyz."

  2. "I promised my grandmother on her death bed that I would stop drinking, etc."

  3. "No drugs or alcohol were conditions of my parole and then they just became habitual."

  4. "My friend [brother, cousin, lover] was killed by a drunk driver."

Good luck!

  • 1
    Lying is never really an option. Not just because morals, but because then you have to keep straight which lies your told to who. If your honest, you can just be honest. Real honesty can be difficult, but this is not one of those times.
    – coteyr
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 10:19
  • 1
    The bigger problem is that the lying absurdly confirms that you think you have to justify your behaviour to others. Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 13:00

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