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Thread: Which Countries Have The Worst Drinking Cultures?

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    Which Countries Have The Worst Drinking Cultures?

    From savouring flavours in France to binge drinking in Australia – readers talk about the alcohol culture where they live

    How much alcohol is safe to drink? It is a question scientists have been trying to get to the bottom of for centuries, and now a survey exploring drinking advice around the world has found that the answer varies greatly depending on where you live.

    In the US, for example, three or four drinks a day (42g for women and 56g for men) is thought to be safe, but in Sweden that is well over the amount health authorities recommend: 10g for women and 20g for men. What’s more, a “standard drink” in Iceland and the UK is 8g of alcohol, compared to 20g in Austria.

    Can these variations be attributed to the fact that each place has its unique drinking culture? We asked readers to summarise their country’s attitude towards alcohol and the – unscientific, we should stress – results seem to suggest we might all be tipping the scale when it comes to .

    South Africa
    “It is varied, but most people drink socially, not generally to excess, but responsible drinking (not drinking and driving for example) is rare. We should have tighter drinking and driving laws.” – Dickon, 40

    Spain
    “In the Spanish equivalent of a greasy spoon, workers stop for brunch with a beer followed by a big brandy then get into their cars and go back to ‘work’. It’s the drink-driving that I don’t like.” – Anonymous, 45

    Australia
    “Binge drinking is glorified in Australia, and the focus is not on drinking in moderation or for enjoyment. We should be encouraging alcohol-free days. I am probably not a true representative of the Australian drinking population as I am a very light drinker – I drink maybe once a month.” – Anonymous, 44

    New Zealand
    “There is a big binge-drinking culture among the youth in the country and a huge part of the health budget and policing budget is spent on dealing with drink-driving, accident and emergency services, and other long-term harmful effects of alcohol. We have a robust liquor industry that lobbies the government fiercely to prevent regulation of alcohol sales. Advertising here has been grudgingly curtailed.” – Anonymous, 50

    Japan
    “People often go to Izakayas [Japanese-style ‘pub’] after work on Fridays or special occasions with their colleagues. However, alcohol is nearly always drunk here alongside snacks or food, meaning very few people get incredibly drunk. There are some cases of people with alcohol-related problems in this country, but people don’t drink alcohol in order to get drunk, but rather to relax.

    “Japan’s alcohol safety guidelines seem roughly around the same as my home country [the UK]. However, you need to be 20 years old to buy alcohol in Japan, although unless you look underage they won’t ask you for ID, especially if you look non-Japanese.” – Anonymous, 23

    Belgium
    “Beer sold in every frituur [chip shop], open bottles of wine to help yourself to in supermarkets – but drunkenness is socially unacceptable. The guidelines seem fair enough, especially having at least two non-drinking days a week.” – Elspeth Morlin, 46

    France
    “In France people drink extensively and steadily, but in small units. Even though I have seen a couple of people drunk, I have never seen any aggression. At a dinner party you will ordinarily have an apéritif, three glasses of different wines and a digestif but all in small quantities. There will also be water on the table. The guidelines in France are sensible, although here there is a tradition of ignoring regulations and laws anyway. The French drink to savour the flavours and to enhance their food.” – Peter, 62

    Italy
    “In Italy, consuming alcohol revolves around food. So you are either drinking to accompany your meal (wine will always be on the table at an Italian meal), or you are being given free snacks to soak up your drink when at a bar. So the idea is that you order a drink at a standardised price and you are given crisps or other bite-sized food. Or you can help yourself from a generous buffet.

    “The whole point of aperitivo is that you have it before dinner and drinking on an empty stomach generally leads to unpleasant circumstances (especially as typical aperitivo drinks are of the likes of the killer negroni). Hence the free food. This has led to the creation of a sub-culture: the one of apericena [a hybrid of aperitivo and cena: dinner]. So people, instead of going for a drink and then on to dinner, go to the bar with the best buffet, order a drink (normally £8-£10) and then just hit the buffet and stuff their faces, scoring a very cheap dinner.” – Benedetta, 31

    Philippines
    “Once a bottle is opened it must be finished; it’s never closed while still full. I think 14g a day for women seems reasonable, but 28g a day for a man seems a little high. However, I have never seen these guidelines published or talked about anywhere in this country.” – Richard Hartland, 39

    UK
    “In the UK the notion of enjoying yourself in the evening without alcohol is so unusual it can lead to you being called a freak (or at least miserable and antisocial) whereas drinking yourself insensible is not only acceptable, it is admired. Unfortunately (and I am a drinker) all advice given seems to be decided upon somewhat arbitrarily and although most doctors agree alcohol is bad for you, limits seem to be plucked out of the air with no real evidential statistics.

    “While most would agree that binge drinking in the UK is deplorable and turns our towns and cities into ugly and threatening places at night, I find the nanny state response of telling us that any amount of drink can give us cancer or liver failure somewhat unhelpful. In Europe people seem to drink as part of a food experience and it is an accompaniment, not an end in itself. We have much to learn but our history suggests an entrenched way of relating to alcohol.” – Fergus, 68

    US
    “We would have a lot less underage drinking problems if we lowered the drinking age to 18. Young adults are getting targeted at parties and social events at universities where police know there will be alcohol and the people who are there and under 21 get underage drinking charges (and people over 21 get charged with the supply of alcohol to minor). I am not even a huge drinker, just seems absurd that freshman and sophomores have to be sneaky about it, which leads to more issues. There is also a binge-drinking culture generally in the US” – Karina, 23
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/...nking-cultures

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    The Highs and Lows of Germany's Drinking Culture


    Anytime Anywhere


    In Germany, beer is about the same price as water, and drinking alcohol in public is common as well as legal. But has the ease with which people can consume cheap alcohol created a harmful drinking culture?



    Germany is one of the heaviest alcohol-drinking nations in Europe, placed fifth after Luxembourg, Hungary, Czech Republic and Ireland. Only around 5% of Germans consider themselves teetotalers, making it -- after Luxembourg -- the European country with the lowest percentage of people who abstain from drinking.



    According to the World Health Organization the European region has the highest alcohol intake of all other regions in the world and per capita consumption twice as high as the world average.



    "Biggest social problem"




    Alcoholism is a significant problem in Germany, according to Peter Lang, head of drug prevention and abuse at the German Center for Health Education.


    Alcohol abuse is considered one of the biggest social problems in Germany


    "It's difficult to say what is causing this, because alcohol is more or less an accepted drug in a lot of circumstances, like for parties or other social occasions," Lang said. "If you compare Germany to countries like the US, there is drinking in public that is different and more accepted. Consuming alcohol during the day is really more accepted here in Germany," he added.

    Most recent data shows that that 1.7 million Germans are dependent on alcohol and need treatment, whilst, 2.7 million use alcohol in a harmful way. Compared to the US, the most recent annual data from 2001-2002 shows that of a population of nearly 300 million, there are 7.91 million people dependent on alcohol.

    "German society as a whole doesn't have a positive image of excessive drinking, but in general, awareness of the dangers of excessive consumption is growing," said Gabriele Barsch of the German Center for Addiction Issues.

    "The per capita consumption of pure alcohol in Germany has been regressive for about six years, and fatalities caused by alcohol related accidents has halved since 1995," Barsch said.

    "But for young people drinking alcohol is part of their lifestyle, particularly on weekends and parties," she added. Alcohol is consumed "too thoughtlessly and too carelessly."



    Drinking, but not alcohol abuse has a 'positive image' in Germany



    Mark, who did not want his last name mentioned, is an American who is the coordinator for the English-speaking Alcoholics Anonymous in Germany. He has noticed that German culture is more accepting of alcohol use.
    "However, it seems just as socially unacceptable to drink large quantities and let your drinking get out of control here as in other societies," Mark said. "A common misperception, both in Germany and the US, is that if you only drink beer or wine, you cannot be an alcoholic," he said. "This seems to be an even more prevalent attitude here in Germany."



    Is 16 years too young?


    The legal drinking age in Germany is 16, though kids must wait until they're 18 to drink spirits. That five-year difference to the US, where the drinking age is 21, appears to be significant. The drinking age of 16 is one of the youngest legal drinking ages. "If you drink especially when you are under 18, it can cause massive damage as there is still brain development happening in these years," Lang said. "But to change the law to 18, this cannot be done without health awareness campaigns."

    Barsch said she would like to see the minimum age for buying and consuming alcohol increased to 18. "But we are aware that you cannot reduce the harm done by alcohol by only introducing one new measure or law," she said. "What we need is a comprehensive approach of the problem."



    Drink anywhere, anytime


    In Germany, alcohol can be purchased in grocery stores, gas stations and even newspaper stands. It can be consumed in restaurants, cafes and snack bars, and it's not uncommon to see people drinking in parks, on the streets and even on public transport.


    Drinking in public so openly is a phenomenon that only began about five years ago, according to Lang. He posited that the development might have had to with the increased popularity of alcopops, alcohol mixed with soda designed to appeal to young consumers. But they don't stop at that. "At the moment you see younger and younger people drinking beer, which is becoming more accepted," he added.



    Beer is as cheap as water


    In Germany, the price of alcohol in relation to the general costs of living is among the lowest in Europe.



    Does the cheap price of alcohol contribute to drinking problems?


    Barsch said alcohol is too cheap in Germany. She pointed out that when a tax was imposed on the sale of alcopops, consumption fell significantly.


    "Germany as a wine producing country and with a long beer-tradition as well, certainly runs a high risk of alcohol related problems," Barsch said.


    "(However) there is a lack of information on how harmful alcohol consumption is, and action to turn around the social norms where alcohol is accepted," she added.



    The Highs and Lows of Germany′s Drinking Culture | Germany ...18 IX 2019.


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