Drinking in America – Part I

Drinking in America - Part 1

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Hey all, today is about the (drinking) culture shock !

If you have ever been in both countries, you might have noticed the big difference between the two.

First of all, drinking is not a big deal in Europe

In most european countries, you can buy and consume alcohol at 18, although it’s not rare to start drinking before that. This might seem shocking, but in countries like France or Italy, drinking is part of the meal, so no big deal in giving your teen a glass of wine. Wine is actually a protected part of our “Patrimoine Culturel” just like fireworks would be to Americans on the 4th of July.

We even have what we call the “Apéritif” which is a drink to share before starting a meal.
So overall, drinking is more about sharing a good moment together than getting drunk for the sake of it.

Now teens and young adults do get shitfaced just like their american counterparts, don’t get me wrong ! But this whole attitude explains why it’s so much easier to buy alcohol in supermarket or bars.


You have to be 21 to drink and they make sure of that

One thing I learned is that every state has its own laws, but all of them decided on 21 years old being the legal age of drinking. In theory they could individually lower that age to 18, but would then lose millions of dollars in highway funding.

But the funny thing is how strict everyone is in making sure that you are of age. You might be flattered to be carded but I’ve seen older ladies still get denied from bars when they didn’t have their IDs on them. As I understood, one transgression and they might lose their licence, so definitely not worth your $30 purchase inside their establishment.
Same in supermarkets, while it’s also forbidden to sell alcohol to minors, I’ve rarely seen anyone carded in France, and 16 years old pass easily. However in America, you better have your ID on you AND so does your friend.
I personnally don’t like to carry my passport everywhere as it’s a very important document, but we almost couldn’t buy a pack of beers in a supermarket because I didn’t have it on me. Luckily the cashier was pretty lax and my boyfriend had his ID, but I’m pretty sure that if we tried to buy liquor we would have been denied.


Why is it so strict ? What makes it different ?

I have a few theories on why the drinking culture and laws are so differents from one country to another :

  • First of all the culture, like I said in the first paragraph. Americans, for the most part, tend to go hard or go home.
  • How big American cities are. It’s hard to realize how big states can be before visiting, but going to a bar is often at least a 15min drive. The lack of public transport makes it also hard to go back home without your car, so getting a DUI and endangering other people is a real risk. Thankfully, the rise of services like Uber and Lyft make it easier to avoid drinking and driving (except if you live in a very rural area)
  • How hard it is to get your driving licence in France. No shame : I still don’t even have mine and I’m 26. It’s not the lack of trying either, but I spent around 2000€ on it, failed once and ran out of funds. It’s pretty common to get your licence on your second or third try, and for the first 3 years, you have 6 points instead of 12. If you commit infractions such as speeding, or parking in the wrong place, those points get docked until you completly lose your licence.
    So I’m gonna guess that french people are very very careful about not losing their driving licence considering the amount of money we poured into it.

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