Alcohol Around the World

Alcohol is very different in many ways throughout the world. Whether it be culture or laws, it will be discussed in this page.

Drinking Culture File:Reunion de gentilhommes autour d une table dans un interieur van Schuppen.jpg

Drinking culture refers to the customs and practices associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Although alcoholic beverages and social attitudes toward drinking vary around the world, nearly every civilization has independently discovered the processes of brewing beer, fermenting wine, and distilling spirits. The many different cultural reasons why people around the world drink alcohol will be explained below.

  • Social drinking: “Social drinking” refers to casual drinking in a social setting without an intent to get drunk. Good news is often celebrated by a group of people having a few drinks. For example, drinks may be served to “wet the baby’s head” in the celebration of a birth. Buying someone a drink is a gesture of goodwill. It may be an expression of gratitude, or it may mark the resolution of a dispute.
  • Drinking Etiquette: For the purposes of buying rounds of drinks in English public houses, William Greaves, a retired London journalist, devised a set of etiquette guidelines. When an individual arrives at a pub, common practice invites the newcomer to unilaterally offer a drink to a companion, with the unspoken understanding that when the drink has been nearly consumed, his/her companion will reciprocate. Trust and fair play are the root of the rules, though there are occasions (such as a requirement of one of the drinkers to need to carry out more important jobs, if any can be conceived of) where the rules can be broken. When taking alcohol to a BYOB (bring your own booze/beer) party, it is proper to leave any of your alcohol there that has not been consumed. It shows appreciation to the host and shows responsibility on your part. It is rude to take any alcohol back with you.
  • Free Drinks: Various cultures and traditions feature the social practice of providing free alcoholic drinks for others. For example, during a wedding reception, or a bar mitzvah, free drinks are often served to guests, a practice that is known as “an open bar.” Free drinks may also be offered to increase attendance at a social or business function. They are commonly offered to casino patrons to entice them to continue gambling.
  • Session Drinking: Session drinking is a chiefly British term that refers to drinking a large quantity of beer during a “session” (i.e. a specific period of time) without becoming intoxicated. A session is generally a social occasion.A “session beer”, such as a session bitter, is a beer that has a moderate or relative low alcohol content.
    In the United States, a recent session beer definition has been proposed by beer writer Lew Bryson. His Session Beer Project blog includes a definition of 4.5% ABV or less for session beer. Followers of this definition include Notch Brewing, a session only beer brand. The Brewer Association has adopted a new category within their Great American Beer Fest competition which states a “session beer” is from 4.0%-5.1% ABV. 
  • Binge Drinking: Binge drinking is sometimes defined as drinking alcohol solely for the purpose of intoxication. It is quite common for binge drinking to occur in a social situation, which creates some overlap between social drinking and binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA] defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration [BAC] to 0.08 grams percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks [men], or four or more drinks [women], in about 2 hours. Alcohol abuse is associated with a variety of negative health and safety outcomes. This is true no matter the individual’s or the ethnic group’s perceived ability to “handle alcohol”. Persons who believe themselves immune to the effects of alcohol may often be the most at risk for health concerns and the most dangerous of all operating a vehicle.
  • Speed Drinking: Speed drinking or competitive drinking is the drinking of a small or moderate quantity of beer in the shortest period of time, without an intention of getting heavily intoxicated. Unlike binge drinking, its focus is on competition or the establishment of a record. Speed drinkers typically drink a light beer, such as lager, and they allow it to warm and lose its carbonation in order to shorten the drinking time. The Guinness World Records (1990 edition, p. 464) listed several records for speed drinking. Among these were:
  • Peter G. Dowdeswell (born July 29, 1940) of Earls Barton, Northamptonshire, England, drank 2 litres (3.5 imperial pints; about 66.7 U.S.fluid ounces) in 6 seconds on February 7, 1975.
  • Steven Petrosino (born November, 1951) of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, drank 1 litre (33 U.S. fluid ounces) in 1.3 seconds on June 22, 1977, at the Gingerbread Man Pub in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.[10]

Neither of these records had been defeated when Guinness World Records banned all alcohol-related records from their book in 1991.
Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke held a record for the fastest consumption of “a yard” of beer. He drank 2.5 pints (1.4 litres) in 12 seconds.

Alcohol Consumption Laws

There are many differences to be discussed about alcohol consumption laws around the globe, here are a couple examples of how various laws compare.

  • Legal Drinking Age: The legal drinking age is the age at which a person can consume or purchase alcoholic food or alcoholic beverages. These laws cover a wide range of issues and behaviours, addressing when and where alcohol can be consumed. The minimum age alcohol can be legally consumed can be different from the age when it can be purchased. These laws vary among different countries and many laws have exemptions or special circumstances. Most laws apply only to drinking alcohol in public places, with alcohol consumption in the home being mostly unregulated. Some countries also have different age limits for different types of alcoholic drinks. For example, the legal drinking age in the UK and Australia is 18, whereas the law in the USA is 21. Some countries such as Cambodia don’t have a set limit and on the other side of the coin, alcohol consumption is illegal in places like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. 
  • Legal Driving Limit: Blood alcohol content (BAC), also called blood alcohol concentration, blood ethanol concentration, or blood alcohol level is most commonly used as a metric of alcohol intoxication for legal or medical purposes.Blood alcohol content is usually expressed as a percentage of alcohol (generally in the sense of ethanol) in the blood. For instance, a BAC of 0.10 means that 0.10% (one tenth of one percent) of a person’s blood, by volume (usually, but in some countries by mass), is alcoholHere are a few examples of the different set laws in various countries.

0.0 mg/ml: Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic

0.3 mg/ml: Russia, India, Sweden, Norway, Japan

0.5 mg/ml: Australia, Argentina, Turkey, France, Spain, Italy, South Africa

0.8 mg/ml: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand

This has highlighted the key points about alcohol worldwide, hope this has helped with your understanding of the various ways countries differ with their culture and laws for alcohol.


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