I started looking into the alcohol culture of Austria before I left for my two-week trip, it was already pre-determined that I was going to try as much German and Austrian beer and wine as I could.
For the first half of the trip, I had no problems ordering my beverage of choice, that is until I decided to order a "hard" beer my first night in Salzburg. When I asked the waiter for the Schneider Weisse Tap 6--an 8% ABV beer--he immediately shot me down and said that it was too strong of a beer for a girl my size.
I can see where he would think that; I'm a small, 120 pounds 20-year-old. However, I'm more than aware of my limits. A pint that high in content, I would've been at a happy, composed state and wouldn't have ordered more for the rest of the night. The waiter and I got into a little banter; I kept saying I'd be fine, and he kept saying no.
Eventually, I ended up caving and reluctantly ordered the Tap 4--about 5.6% ABV, which is standard. And, of course, my big and burly male friend across from me orders the Tap 6 out of spite that I couldn't (and to also let me try it, we were both drooling over the flavor profile).
And, of course, he had no qualms in ordering it. In the end, I was more than fine with my beer choice. It was a delicious, light amber wheat beer that actually went pretty well with the fish I ordered.
I know the waiter meant no offense by trying to talk me out of ordering the higher beer, but I had never been told, "no," when trying to order a drink before (yes, even as a minor in the States).
My time in Austria leading up to that, I hadn't experienced any discomfort because of my gender. I hadn't felt alienated or discriminated for how I looked, until that night. I know I'm a "little" girl; I'm aware I'm pretty small and young, but--and this goes towards any situation, abroad or not--I don't think a bartender should be weighing in on what I drink unless I ask him, or if I had already had a couple too many and he's doing his job.
Men's input on what a woman drinks is international. We're too small and dainty for the manly drinks, but if we were to order the Sauvignon Blanc spritzer we would fall into a stereotype.
Even when I was at a wine tasting cellar in Vienna, the bartender thought I was drunk off a total of a glass and a half because I kept forgetting to take my tasting card out of the slot, when in reality, that was just me being forgetful and trying to stay in the moment with my friends.
Anytime I would go to try a different wine, the bartender would direct me to a different one that I would, "like," better. And, again, I know he was just doing his job and trying to suggest wines that he believed would suit me, but he doesn't know me, and I never asked him to do so. In the back of my mind, it felt like one of those situations where someone was trying to purposefully get me drunker, and it definitely felt like that towards the end of our tasting when he slid his hand on my back and rubbed it.
So, while the drinking culture in Austria is drastically different from America's with open street vendors selling beer, and alcohol being cheaper than a Coke, the drinking culture attitude towards women is similar enough to bring you back to reality on your fantasy get-away; reminding you--a woman--that men everywhere will either encourage you to drink more, or tell you that you're too small to drink that much. A never-ending paradox that follows throughout your twenties at every bar.