Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: September 2011

I couldn’t do a blog about drinking and not include Germany because it ranks fifth in the top heaviest drinking nations and also because it has a special law toward drinking that is found in very few places. So in honor of Oktoberfest this weekend in San Francisco, let’s put on our lederhosen and dive into Germany.

I titled this post “Beer as Cheap as Water” because it really is in Germany and this has a huge affect on drinking culture. If an alcoholic beverage is the same price as water that means that it is readily available because it is treated like a soda. For example here in the Unites States a pint or bottle of beer is about 5 dollars at the least and (if you are going to a Giant’s game) 10 dollars at the most( and yes we do have our dollar beer night for our college students but that is only one night a week). As opposed to water and other non alcoholic beverages which are about 1 to 3 dollars at the most. We do this in our country because for the average American ,  it makes consumers think that alcohol is something to be limited because it isn’t cheap to buy.  So this makes consumers think about their alcohol consumption even if it is just because of price which limits their level of intoxication. For example maybe an average American will have a 15 dollar limit for alcohol for one night which buys them about 3 drink, now if that person had the same limit but alcohol was 2 dollars a bottle that would buy him seven drinks which will get the average person under the legal limit. Therefore the Germans treat alcohol much more commonly than we do here which means they consume more alcohol.

According to an article titled, “The Highs and Lows of Germany’s Drinking Culture”, this is one of the contributing factors to Germany’s problem with alcohoism. Also in Germany alcohol it isn’t illegal for alcohol to be consumed in public places like subways and parks; it is also sold in almost every local place from newspaper stands to coffee shops. Recent Data says that in Germany 1.7 million people need alcohol treatment and 2.7 million use alcohol in a harmful way. This is out of Germany’s 88 million people. As opposed to The United States which has a population of 300 million people and there are 7.91 million people dependent on alcohol and need treatment.

Now let’s get to the second part of why Germany is important because of its different law for alcohol consumption. In Germany there are two different drinking ages depending on the alcohol proof; 16 years for beer and wine and 18 years for spirits ( hard liquor). There has been some talk  about changing Germany’s drinking age to 18  because alcohol is such a problem for the country but this will be quite a shock for citizens. Therefore people agree that Germany needs a comprehensive approach on alcohol to change the drinking culture.


This picture was taken right after a sucker was taken from this child's mouth. Picture courtesy of Ginny Atkins Photography

I also found an interesting blog from an American woman who has been visiting Germany and researching the alcohol consumption culture there. The blog is titled, “The drinking culture in Germany”  and in her most recent post on May 26,2008 she in her blog post titled, “You Will  Always Want What You Can’t Have” she brings up an interesting point on underage drinking in Germany. Coming from The United States where the drinking age is 21 year the author of this blog thought the drinking age in Germany was really low. Therefore she figured that there wouldn’t be any underage drinking  in Germany, however she was surprised to find out kids under the age of 16 still want to drink and do so at private house parties for the thrill of it. Since alcohol is illegal for these kids they have the urge to drink because of that. She then tied this to the drinking age in the United States and thought what is the sense of lowering the drinking age in the US if this same situation could potentially be the case for us as well. I believe this is a good issue to bring up, and it surprised me that people under the age of 16 drink in Germany. However this is always going to be an issue for humans because it is a human condition, whether you are 16 or 25 people always want what they can’t have whether it is alcohol or designer shoes. I think it is a good point to consider but we shouldn’t not lower the drinking age because of this but maybe have a higher punishment for underage drinking?


The next region that I am going to explore is the Middle East, by looking at a different point of view we can get some perspective on the drinking age in the US. Most Middle Eastern countries practice Islam-some countries even make this religion their law- and in Islam consuming alcohol is a sin. The countries in the Middle East where alcohol isn’t illegal have a drinking age of 20 – 21 years old. Some countries have different laws for Muslims and Non Muslims.Though I would love to go through every Middle Eastern  Country in this blog post I fear you wouldn’t read it if I did. So I am going to explain three countries that represent three ways of thinking about drinking in the Middle East which will give a good idea the issue in this area.

Iran: In the forum called, “Alcohol in Muslim/ Middle Eastern Countries” I found some information about alcohol laws in the Middle East and have used some of my own knowledge as well. Iran is ruled under theocracy meaning that Islam delegates the law. So that means alcohol is strictly forbidden. The punishment for having alcohol on you or being drunk is lashes. Now it is possible to procure this illegal juice from other countries but this is deffinately an underground process. The mindset that surrounds drinking in Iran is this, people who drink are alcoholics and lower class people. Those people known to have had a drink or been drunk are looked down upon because this is a pretty big sin. Countries with this similar mentality : Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia.

Based on the United Nations Global Rape Statistic for 2002 the  Sexual Assault Rate for 100,000 people is:

Saudi Arabia: .27, Azerbijan .48, Morocco 3.42

Keep in mind though that these countries have a history of not reporting as many rapes.

India: Although India’s primary religion isn’t Islam, it has very similar attitudes toward drinking. The minimum drinking age in India is 21 years but according to “India:Alcohol in a Changing Women’s Culture”, India has among the bottom 15 percent in alcohol consumption for the past 4o years. This is because in the Brahmans religion, people who are in highers castes are forbidden to drink. It seems that those in lower classes have also followed suit and adopted this custom as well. In this article is also says that women are less likely to consume alcohol than men which is a common practice in the Middle East. I believe this is because consuming alcohol is better handled by people who are heavier which tends to be men, and drinking alcohol also seems to be associated with manliness.

According to Nationmaster Sexual Assault rate for India is 1.431 per 100,000 people for the year 2000.

Turkey: Since Turkey borders the European Union it has picked up many western philosophies even though it is a Muslim country. For example alcohol is not illegal in Turkey and the minimum drinking age is 18 years which is very similar to the drinking age in some European countries. People usually drink more heavily in big cities that attract tourists like Ankara, Istanbul, and Izmir. Also drinking is very popular in beach resorts and in fancy hotels. In these places drinking culture is very similar to that of Europe. However in smaller farm villages and in the eastern part of the country drinking isn’t as popular but is still legal. Countries in the Middle East with similar laws: Pakistan, and Egypt.

According to Nationmaster Turkey has a Sexual Assault Rate of 1.808 per 100,000 people for the year 2000.

The battle has been here for ages it seems at least one kid in every generation asks “Why is the drinking age in America 21?” and then ” every where else in the world has a drinking age of 18″ seems to follow.  To those that are offically adults it seems unfair to have to wait until their 21rst birthday. So they don’t. This leads to underage drinking and usually recklessness.  Which brings up the two sides of the battle 1) is it better to have a higher drinking age and have most people underage drink illegally behind the scences or 2) should we lower the drinking age and just allow those who want to drink to do so in public so they don’t have to hide it. From the outside it seems that those in Europe and other countries are more relaxed about drinking which prevents youth from getting drunk because drinking is normalized. However is that really true? In this blog I am here to answer that question by looking at each individual country’s date rape rates, percentage of alcoholics, marriage/ divorce rates etc to see if  a lower drinking age is the best for our country. I am here to crack open the case and get to the bottom of the issue one country at a time.

So let’s start with the good old home county, The United States. Let’s start by getting some history on the topic, in the article titled,” Why is the drinking age 21” author Ethan Trex explains why the drinking age was changed from 18 to 21 years. In 1984 there was a law called National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 which stated that if states allowed persons under 21 to imbibe they would loose a great deal of federal funding for their highways. This didn’t prevent those who are under 21 from drinking but just from possessing and posesing alcohol in public. The reasoning behind changing choosing 21 as a good age to be able to drink came from English common law centuries ago. At the time this was the age that a person could vote and become a knight so it seemed appropriate he could drink then too. During World War II the drinking age in the United States was lowered to 18 because people thought it was unfair that men could be drafted at the age of 18 but couldn’t drink. So the 21rst amendment was added by FDR which gave the decision to individual states. Therefore some states lowered their drinking age to 18 but others still kept the drinking age 21. So those young people under 21 who lived in these states would trek the journey to the more lenitant states so they could imbibe legally. Now after their night these people still had to get home which caused a lot of traffic accidents. This is why today the drinking age is 21 because organizations like MADD- Mothers Agnaist Drunk Driving- fought for a uniform national drinking age to prevent these car accidents and keep alcohol away from immature 18 year olds. I believe this article brings up many valid points, after looking into the issues history it seems that these laws weren’t made to protect young adults but were just arbitrary laws. For example the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was passed so that states wouldn’t loose their federal funding and the age 21 was chosen because centuries ago in English common law 21 was the age of knighthood. The United Kingdom doesn’t even enforce that law today in their country. However MADD also brings up a good point in their questionaire, “Why 21″.  A common counter argument to the American drinking age being too high is that Europe has everything under control because they have lowered their drinking age to 18 which normalizes drinking. MADD counters and say that Europe has more problems with rape, injury, intoxication and school problems due to alcohol. That’s the purpose of this blog to see which way of thinking is correct or more supported by the facts.