Since this forum looks about as dead as the feeling of humanity in Dick Cheney’s brain, I’ll open a new topic about a major cultural difference between France and the US that I happen to care about : attitude towards ALCOHOL !!
I remember when I was a kid, when we’d go and visit my grandparents, my grandpa would usually open a bottle of white wine — my grandpa’s family is originally from Savoie, so they’ve always had a thing for white wine. Well, after I turned about 12 or 13, I remember my grandpa starting to offer me the glass of wine, too. And when I would refuse (I started enjoying wine quite late, and never really had the thing for white wine anyway), my grandpa would have this disappointed look in his eyes. As for my parents, they wouldn’t really bother. In fact, during late high school years, when I was about 17 and started to attend to *cool* parties, my dad would eventually provide me with an occasional liquor bottle to bring in.
A few years later I started my first trips to the US by myself. What a surprise to find out that I couldn’t go to any cool place (such as live music clubs) if I was not twenty-one. I was not, so I had to go through all the stupid tricks teenagers in the US do, such as lying, pretending, and faking IDs. A friend of mine got pulled over in MA with a trunk full of beer. The cops had them empty every cans on the side of the road. I also remember these two young Brits in some youth hostel I was staying in, who had to beg other residents every day to go and shop for them for their daily beer.
So, I’m asking : why all this madness ? Any teenager in France can go to a bar and order a double scotch. Even if there are rules indeed, no one respects nor enforces them. Nobody cares. Does this mean teenagers and young adults in France are hopeless drunks with a life expectancy of 45 ? Of course not. On the other hand, are families in the US looking to protect their 19 or 20 yr old children from the evil of alcohol ?
I want to know !
14 Comments On Booze / gnole
crc95: I think our attitude towards booze and "minors" has more to do with our fixation on automobiles than anything else. Everyone needs to have at least two cars and at the earliest age possible. Mix that cultural fact with alcohol and its a bad mix. Unavoidable but bad. Kids, booze, and cars is a high risk proposition. Personally, I don’t know how I lived thru it. Probably a combination of luck and occasional good judgement. Its a tough issue. All my contemporaries went thru what you described and we sure don’t want to see our kids get hurt. The number of cars and people have increased so much. I am surprised those cops in my fair State made the kids pour out the beer. In my day they always kept it. When I was at college, I always made sure my parents would call ahead before they would visit. Myself and my roommates would be role models for decorum during those times. I think the European attitude towards alcohol is much more civilized -as is their approach to sex and nudity. At this point, no one here wants to have anything to do with legislation that might result in another death on the highway or rape. The driving skills of our youth is about the same as those in their late seventies. BTW, did anyone introduce you to Long Island Ice Tea while you were here?
There’s another aspect too. France is supposedly a Catholic country. Catholics can drink . . . and do so with abandon! The US was settled by a LOT of Protestant denominations that do not permit alcoholic drinks. Many of them have loosened up over the years, but there is still a prohibition of alcohol in most (if not all) fundamentalist churches. Baptists and Methodists are pretty mainstream and even they still tout the idea of abstinence from alcohol. Keep in mind that Methodists use grape juice for communion.
Obviously, many of these people drink, but they do it somewhat secretly. Perhaps because of this, many kids (and older people) think it’s true freedom to go out and get totally drunk every weekend. Many Americans simply drink to get drunk. They don’t care what the stuff tastes like and the cheaper the better. Strange attitude that you don’t see often in Europe although there certainly are drinking problems there too. It is, after all, addictive and requires a certain self control. Many Americans are not seriously into self control either!
A lot of our inhibitions refer back to our Protestant heritage. There is an old joke about a hotel bartender who says, "We do quite well when we have Episcopalian and Catholic conventions here because they drink quite a bit. The Lutherans are pretty good too but we love the Baptists." Reply: "How is that, the Baptists don’t drink?" Bartender: "You have to serve it under the table, but they sure do outdrink the others!"
SalB: France is not supposedly Catholic. It is Catholic. I don’t think religion has anything to do with the issue that crc95 raised with respect to the USA. Europe – whether it be France, Germany, England, etc. has a much more enlightened approach to the issue of alcohol and sex. It is part of their culture which is passed on to their offspring. When the "do gooders" try to suppress – it usually backfires – as well it should. Donerail
That is exactly why the Methodists left England.
Although you two know better the US point of view about this, I’d say I agree with SalB that the answer is to be found rather in culture or religion than within the mere DUI problem. Drinking and driving drunk are two different things. Drinking is your own personal problem, or just a health problem, while driving drunk is a dangerous, hazardous and harmful act, punished by the law.
That said, I am truly sorry to acknowledge that I have never been introduced to the Long Island Ice Tea When in the US I usually have frozen Margheritas. You guys sure know how to fix them, and Tequila is not so popular here. Besides the Margherita mix is nowhere to be found I also like the Southern Comfort liquor, also hard to find here. Its 53Â° proof keep me warm in the winter
Americans ought to be ashamed of their beers though. But I guess I’m not the first one to tell you that !
whats wrong with beer?I like to have a good cold one after a long week at work and school.I havent tryed french wine yet but i fine that wine here in the us is well not good to say the lest.Whats the best type of wine in france?
The beer scene is actually getting better here. There are little microbreweries popping up all over the country. Some of them are quite good. You have to get to know your local ones . . . but it’s a GREAT research project.
SalB, I had a friend from Portland OR and that’s EXACTLY what she would tell me, about the very good local breweries and how they were so different from the eastern / midwestern crap (Bud, Miller, and so on). You’re right, maybe I should go and try these. But that implies going to the West coast
ALCOHOL! MY favorite subject!
I’m not the typical American. My Quebecois father would give me wine when i was a little girl, however it was heavily diluted with water. Only for special occassions, though. When I was about 12 years old, I got to taste cognac heavily diluted with water. The older I became, the less water there was in it. By the time i was 17, I drank wine without water and and a bit of cognac without water. My parents always said that drinking is to enhance a meal, NOT FOR GETTING DRUNK. In high school, I could serve myself if I wanted a glass of wine or some cognac. My parents trusted me to be responsible, however, if i took too much, then they’d cut me off for the night.
99% of Americans would NEVER NEVER bring their children up in this manner (including my sister). They think alcohol is taboo until you’re 21 years old. However, this IS the problem. Because it is a taboo item for anybody under 21, as soon as a person turns 21 the first thing they do is rush to drink legally. Being less than fully knowledgable about alcohol effects, they binge drink, because their previous (and illegal) experiences with alcohol were mostly at parties wtih other teenagers where they experimented with alcohol. Had their parents taught them HOW to use alcohol responsibly, then alcohol related deaths would go down considerably.
We’ve all gotten drunk a few times in our lives. However, people who have been taught how to drink alcohol responsibly are not apt to binge drink, as compared to people whose families refused them a glass of wine until they were "of the correct age."
Remember, Prohibition was NOT in Europe. It was in the United States. (My Alsacian family made wines and kirsch (spelling?) in their cellar all the time to get around that stupid law.)
LVB : thanks for the post. You’re absolutely right, I have the feeling that alcohol in the US is still viewed as the forbidden fruit, the thing only *cool adults* do. Relax people, enjoy your glass for what’s inside, and loose the whole attitude !
crc: next time you’re in NYC, I know a VERY VERY good diner/bar that makes DA BEST Long Island Iced Tea around! The bartender is from Poland and he surely knows his alcoholic recipies. The Long Island Iced Tea is a mix of various alcohols/whiskeys. If it’s made correctly, it goes down very very smooth and you think you’re fine, until the alcohol hits your brain like a truck at high speed.
They’re actually very tasty
1 part Vodka
1 part Tequila
1 part Rum
1 part Gin
1 part Triple Sec
1 1/2 parts Sweet and Sour Mix
1 splash Coca-Cola
Got it. I have everything they need except for the ‘Sweet and Sour Mix’ … what do they mean by that ?
And Triple Sec is the way you call Grand MArnier or Cointreau, right ?
Oh, and where’s the tea ???
crc95: The Long Island Ice Tea is usually prepared just for your date. He or she would not know that he or she is not drinking ice tea. Then it kicks in as it is supposed to. Perhaps LVB can enlighten us as to the effect as she has been there. By the way, Sam Adams beer is probably the best in the world and is available at all fine retail establishments in the USA. The problem with Sam Adams, as with European beer as well, is that you just can’t pound ’em down like you can Bud or Miller.