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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Whenever someone mentions the word Ireland, the first things to come to mind are the color green, St.Patrick’s Day and of course drinking.  When I told someone I had my first drink in Ireland, they gave me an “of course you did” kind of look and laughed heartily. They also added wittily, isn’t the drink age like 12 over there? Just for the record the drinking and purchasing age in Ireland is 18 years old, which is two years older than Germany. So where does the assumption come from that Ireland and drinking are one in the same? These are my thoughts about this idea, its not so much the age that affects the Irish love for alcohol, it’s the culture. Also Ireland is one of the finest producers of alcohol with some famous drinks such as Irish Coffee, Jameson Whiskey, Irish Cider and propably the most noteworthy Guinness Stout.

 

Picture courtesy of "The Temple Bar"

In Ireland a beer isn’t just a beer but there’s a whole pub culture behind imbibing. Pub is short for public house which occording to the Compact  Oxford English Dictionary means ‘an establishment for the sale and consumption of beer and other drinks.’ Which is just a fancy term for a comfy place where people like to drink and catch up with friends. Drinking is so interwined in Ireland’s culture that the pubs are open all day long. You can see a good amout of Irish in any given pub during lunch having a pint. Now this is what I like about Irish culture, I feel an openness to alcohol is important. So if young people are exposed to alcohol more regularly , it prevents them from overdoing it when they become of age. However there is a dark side to this openness to alcohol consumption.

When my mother and I were in Ireland, she discussed her overall dislike WITH Ireland’s drinking habits. Every street had mass amounts of broken beer bottles, and pubs and hostels were filled with those old guys that have been drinking the whole day long. The ones that get a little too friendly  and a bit handsy. Another characteristic of Ireland is their utter relaxed attitude about ( it seems to be) everything.  For example if you have any ailment from a back ache to a train being late the typical Irish response is to just have a Guinness. Now all of this may seem like great fun to our younger generation or for those travellers looking for a good time. However it tends to become a problem in Ireland.  According to the article “Ireland’s Alcholic Curse” there are many social problems in Ireland because of alcohol. This article talks about Irish openness to drunkeness instead of just drinking meaning that it is more socially acceptable to drink large amounts of alcohol. However most Irish people , going along with their usual attitude, just shrug it off and say just have another Guinness. The article also mentions these shocking facts, “We now top the European Union league in alcohol expenditure per person and this development has been reflected in weekend binge drinking, addicted youngsters, drunk-driving, late-night street violence and overcrowded accident and emergency hospital wards”. This doesn’t seem like the Ireland I love to visit and I am starting to wonder if MADD are right. We will have to survey more countries to get to the bottom of this.

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The Aussies! Where ever they roam there is sure to be big groups and and a good time. When I visited Ireland a few years back there were plenty of Aussies roaming the streets of Dublin. It seemed that they were always together in a big group and even if two Australians didn’t know each other they would treat each other like long lost cousins. Most of the Aussies I  met in Ireland were extroverted and always at the pubs having a good time with their friends. Even an Australian man from The Department of Public Health, Milton Lewis, in his article, “Alcohol in Australia: The intertwining of social and personal histories” admits that ” Like most Australian men of my generation, I grew up with an understanding that alcohol and cigarettes were a ritual of manhood and subsequently went through my student days and into my early adulthood drinking heavily.” From this experience, in my mind, Australia had a reputation for drinking and a good time, however I was surprised to find out this isn’t the case….

The drinking age in Australia is 18 years however minors can drink legally in private homes with parent permission.

In her blog called “C’est Christine” an American woman visits Australia and tells of her experience in the country  while working as a bartender. In her blog post on March 31, 2o11 called “The Australian Alcohol Conundrum”  she talks about her similar expectations to mine. When she arrived in Australia she still saw pubs filled with Aussies and a good amount of imbibing. What surprised however was the expensive drink prices and the overall lack of drunk people in bars. After taking her required six hour alcohol education course to become a bartender, Christine learned a bit more about the Australian drinking culture.  What surprised her was the stricter rules of imbibing in Australia because of her preconceived notions that Australian had a relaxed drinking culture. First of all the limits placed on driving while under the influence are less leaninte. In the United States our legal limit is .08 Blood Alcohol Content but in Australia the legal limit is .05. Remember how I said beer is as cheap as water in Germany, well not in Australia. The Australian government doesn’t allow specials on alcohol or drinking games in bars to prevent people from getting too drunk and causing trouble. This is because Australia has a big problem with binge drinking among young people, the prime minister even said that binge drinking problems were at epidemic levels. So he put 53 million dollars in a campaign to combat this national problem. Also in Australia a bar can be severely fined if they serve an intoxicated person, 11, 000 dollars to be precise. Christine has experienced these restrictions while working in a bar in Australia, for example they have heavy security in bars to make sure things don’t get too out of hand and they  also have to be careful about serving people who are intoxicated.

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These rules are so strict because drinking is a big part of Australian culture and is present at almost every outing. For example for a girls night out you need a bottle of wine, for a sporting game you need cans of beer and if you don’t drink people become suspicious of you. Therefore binge drinking has become a big problem in this country and is now being dealt with. So that is why when young Australians go out and travel they let loose because they have a chance to experience nightlife without all these rules. It must be hard to have alcohol be such an inherent part of your culture but not have your laws match that mentality. Our young people in America also do this  but it seems different because alcohol is more shunned in our community.