One of the best things about moving to France is the younger drinking age. I am legally allowed to purchase and drink alcoholic beverages. It is SO cool. Coming from the U.S. where the drinking age is 21 and very strongly enforced, it’s been so awesome to get to drink without having to hide it.
Drinking is a part of the culture. Some kids will have a glass of wine with dinner starting around 14 or 15 years old. It’s not about getting drunk really. It’s just about having a drink that complements your food and loosens you up after a long day. That’s not to say that people don’t get drunk I mean c’mon people definitely get drunk but it’s not all that drinking is about. In America, whenever I would drink it was to get drunk. Why would I drink otherwise? I’d take my water bottle of vodka with me and chug it when the time came. It made for some pretty epic nights. But also for some nights that I didn’t remember and some where I ended up throwing up everything in my stomach and more. There were definitely ups and downs about it. As there are about drinking in France. While drinking is legal and you don’t have to hide it, people like to drink it in more of a classy like old people. I feel like my parents sometimes when I drink in France. Some nights my friends will ask me if I want to come over and have dinner with wine… That’s something my parents do. And as cool as it might sound to some of you, it’s generally pretty boring unless you’re with the right people.
One thing that french people always seem to be confused about is our drinking age versus our driving age. In France you can only drive at 18 years old once you have done everything in order to obtain a license and you can also drink at 18. Once you are an adult you can legally do pretty much everything. But in America you can technically drive at 16 years old with a license but you have to wait until you’re 21 to drink. Along with the mind-boggling fact that even soldiers under 21 are not legally aloud to have a drink. These people can serve and possibly die for their country but they are not allowed to have a drink?! That is crazy. Not only is that crazy to many French people but it is to many American’s as well.
I believe that the issue with this is that since people legally can’t drink until 21, they hide it. And when one has to take the effort to hide the alcohol they tend to take smaller amounts of incredibly strong alcohol in order to get drunk. The fact that people have to hide it not only leads to chugging super strong alcohol but also leads people to try and hide being drunk from their parents by not coming home or even driving their car home even though they shouldn’t. The idea that drinking (much like sex) is being taught in an abstinent kind of way has the opposite effect on it’s targets. Instead of learning about responsibly drinking, we are learning that it’s super wrong and that we shouldn’t do it at all. Which let’s be honest, won’t stop us.
Anyways, I just went off onto a bit of a rant because this was always something that confused me and my French peers about in America. Being able to drink in France is definitely one of the perks. For example, on the first day of school I made a couple of friends and later, to get to know each other we went out and grabbed a beer! It was so simple and so awesome. Also as they say, alcohol is “liquid courage” which is so true because I have no fear speaking in French when I drink. I’m like 10x more fluent when I have a beer or a glass of wine. If you’ve never tried speaking in a different language while drinking, I recommend it. You might surprise yourself. My roommate told me that when I went out with her and I was about 5 drinks in or so, I started speaking in Spanish! I don’t even speak Spanish…
All that to say that it’s been a good time. Getting to buy and drink alcohol is definitely a perk of living France.