In just a few days I turn 21, one of the biggest milestones in American culture, why? Alcohol! The oh-so sacred birthday that means you’re legally allowed to get wasted.
Now since I’ve been living in Europe for the past few years the whole ‘turning 21’ thing doesn’t change anything for me, only the fact that I know now that when I go back home to visit I’ll legally be allowed to go to a bar and order an alcoholic beverage, as I have been doing here, for the past 3 years…
Now all this has made me reflect on the drinking ages, US vs. Europe!
Here’s a brief on how the system works:
In the US of A, you are considered officially an adult at the age of 18 (be enlisted in the army, do adult things…), and you can officially have your first (legal) beer at the age of 21. Keeping this all in mind, American teenagers can start driving as early as 15 years old (depending on the state). To get this straight, you can drive, go to war, open a credit line all by the age of 18 but you better not let of drop of alcohol touch your lips until the day you turn 21.
In Europe, you are legally allowed to order an alcoholic beverage in a bar at the age of 18. But that’s only if they card you. Most bars skip the whole carding process and a lot of teenagers start going to bars and buying alcohol around the age of 16 or 17. However, you can’t legally drive until you’re 18, and they are quite strict on this. To get your permit here, you have to go to hours and hours of Drivers Ed, and in all it generally costs about 1000€ to get your permit here. Some people pay up to 3000€. It’s insane.
Now with all that in mind:
Because Americans have to wait so long to legally drink, I have the impression that alcohol has become idolized. To the point where it’s a bragging right to get wasted and party so hard you wake up not knowing where or who you are. What’s with that? With this kind of mentality no wonder people wake up in hospitals, or have to get their stomach pumped on their 21’st. When you idolize alcohol and then make people wait so long to access it, of course there is going to be a whole lot of abuse. But that is just my opinion.
Another point, driving vs. drinking age. Americans learn to drive before they learn to drink and Europeans the opposite. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m pretty sure there are more drunk driving incidents in the US than in Europe. I would say that when you learn your drinking limit before driving, you know when too much is too much for you to be safe behind the wheel. But if you already know how to drive, and you start drinking at 21, you have to learn your drinking limit, and that can be extremely dangerous for someone who is confident in their driving skills, but hasn’t figured out yet their drinking limit.
Anyways, those are just my views and I thought it would be an appropriate time to share them seeing as I’m 21 in two days!