Oxford Etiquette: Balls

This article first appeared in The Oxford Student on 5 March 2015.

Balls can be a real issue at Oxford (you there at the back! Yes, you! Stop sniggering!). At the end of every term there’s always at least one social event involving evening dress and vast quantities of overpriced alcohol to which one feels a moral obligation to attend- after all, what Oxford Student experience is complete without at least once instance of making a complete fool of oneself in as spectacular a way and as expensive a tie as possible?

While this column has to great extent been concerned with observing the many strange quirks and foibles of Oxford, this is perhaps the strangest it has yet covered: the average Oxford student’s apparent inability to look themselves in the eye at the end of term and simply say ‘We’re going to have a piss-up’ without wearing black tie and a gown. Or failing that, a kilt. It speaks to the Oxford student’s melodramatic nature to call for the maximum amount of pomp and circumstance possible when, really, pretty much the same effect could be achieved by a dozen mates and some reasonably-priced wine enjoyed in student accommodation of an evening, rather than several hours of wandering around in uncomfortable suits and evening dresses, desperately trying to neck enough of the ultra-expensive booze to make the inevitable prospect of dancing even remotely tolerable. Balls are just so…loud, whereas I find that the best socialising is accomplished in relatively quiet rooms with a few good friends, preferably with pizza and ‘The Best of Queen’ playing at discreet volume in the background. But maybe that’s just me.

At any rate, one ought to go into a ball equipped with the knowledge of proper conduct. Firstly, while alcohol is in many ways essential to the experience, for God’s sake don’t overdo it- hired suits do not generally respond well to spilled alcopops, vomit, et cetera. Don’t try and sneak out early, either- believe me, I learned this the hard way. If you go then you’re there for the long haul, no two ways about it. Beyond that, relax. Have fun. It is only a ball, after all.

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