For most college students, a typical weekend starts with happy hour on Friday, going out later that night, getting completely sloshed, waking up on Saturday with a killer hangover, then doing it all over again next weekend. It is no surprise that this behavior can put young adults in compromising situations, not only personally but physically. I have never been one of those kids that parties every weekend, but I was always aware that it was happening around me. It seemed normal until I saw a video on drinking in America versus drinking in Italy. I always knew America had much different laws than other countries in Europe, but I never knew just how much they could affect drinking culture.
As we all know, the legal drinking age and minimum age of purchase in the United States is 21. This law was pushed for by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and implemented more than 30 years ago. This meant that a person was completely prohibited from handling alcohol until they reached a “mature age”. In Europe, most countries’ minimum purchase age is 18. Some have an even lower age of purchase at 16 for beer and wine. I was also surprised to find out that some countries don’t even have a minimum drinking age. Alcohol is a part of every culture as a social activity. For some countries in Europe, like Italy for example, children are eased into the drinking culture. It is normal for children and their parents to have a glass of wine with dinner. They are taught at an early age that alcohol is something to drink casually and in moderation, not to get drunk. Whereas in America, young people especially engage in binge drinking. Their goal for drinking alcohol is to get drunk. Sometimes they end up blacking out or worse. Nevertheless, they continue to do it.
I think that drinking laws have something to do with how people of different countries view alcohol. Families in America are very strict when it comes to drinking, and I think we all know what happens when you tell a teenager not to do something. Binge drinking is like a sport to young people. It’s glorified by movies, TV shows and the kids that think it’s cool. I think that our drinking culture would be more like cultures in Europe if we taught kids how to be responsible when we reach the legal age instead of trying to prevent them from drinking underage altogether. It’s like throwing a toddler into a pool before they are taught how to swim. By the time we reach that age, we don’t know how to control ourselves because our families never leveled with us and taught us how to drink in moderation. If the drinking age was lower and consumption more family oriented and integrated, maybe by the time we turned 21 we would know how to be responsible.
I am in no way advocating underage drinking. I just think it is very interesting to see the differences between our culture and different cultures around the world. I like to imagine what college life in America would be like if we had adopted the same culture as our neighbors across the pond. Maybe our hospitals wouldn’t have to pump as many stomachs or tell as many families that their loved one has died from alcohol poisoning. I learn about how different it is in countries with a lower minimum drinking age and wonder if the high minimum drinking age in the United States does more harm than good.