Monday, May 26, 2008

You Will Always Want What You Can't Have

After spending two weeks in Germany, and doing some research about the drinking age, underage drinking, and just drinking in general, we have come to a conclusion that there is a problem with underage drinking in Germany.

It really doesn't matter what the drinking age is, kids will always want to start drinking before the legal age. This is because of the temptation and the thrill that people get out of doing something they know is illegal.

Germany is really not that different than the US with underage drinking. There is a problem and they are trying to get rid of it by educating students, just like the US does. They have programs like D.A.R.E. that teach students in class about the consequences that drinking has on underage kids.

We came to Germany thinking that they did not have a problem with underage drinking because the legal drinking age for beer and wine is 16 but for hard liquor or 'spirits' it is 18. In the US the drinking age is 21 and kids start to drink a lot younger than that. We thought that because the drinking age was so young that kids wouldn't start drinking until 16 because there wouldn't be any real temptation or thrill out of drinking earlier than that because the thrill wouldn't be there.

We were soon to find out that our preconceived notion was wrong. Even though drinking is a more cultural event, Germany still struggles with kids drinking before the legal age. A couple differences that we have found out after talking to many people from 16-25 is that Germans tend to be smarter about their drinking habits. Not many young people have their own cars, so it cuts down on people drinking and driving.

If young people want to drink, they normally do it at a private party, not somewhere out in public. Also, when drinking, they use the trains and the subway as form of their transportation. After talking with a bunch of kids our age, it is clear to us now that there is in fact underage drinking occurring in Germany even though their age limit is a lot lower than ours.

So, would the US benefit from lowering the drinking age? That is a question that I am sure has been pondered by a lot of people for quite some time, and still we don't have the answer. Because no matter where you are, what your age is, people are always going to want what they can't have!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lower the Drinking Age…Maybe Not!!

Perceptions are not always what they seem. After visiting the Munich Police and the IFT our group has found that underage alcohol abuse is just as prevalent in foreign countries as it is in America.

Tim Pfieffer, a specialist in the field of alcohol abuse and illicit drugs, was quick to correct our assumptions. Underage German’s go about obtaining alcohol and consuming alcohol in a very similar manner to underage Americans. A lot of the kids here in Munich can be found late at night in the Englisher park, along the Ezar River, and in homes. Pfieffer went on to explain how kids go about buying and drinking alcohol.

But first, a little cultural background… In Germany, 16 year olds are legally able to purchase beer and wine, and at 18 kids may legally purchase what the Germans call “hot stuff” or hard liquor.

Now that the alcohol is supplied, most kids go “warm up” (or “pre-game” to Americans) at friend’s homes. After their warm-up they head off to “disco techs,” parks, and Flat rate parties. Flat rate parties are gatherings where kids go to a home or private place and pay a cheap entry fee to drink previously supplied alcohol.

IFT supplied us with two surveys. One sample from seven states in Germany, and a population sample of 8,000 from all over Germany on alcohol consumption among ages 16-64. The results showed that since 1995 to 2008, more people have abstained from drinking, but there is a significant increase in binge drinking among adolescents.

Perhaps having a lower drinking age doesn’t ease the temptation after all.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

And the survey says...

In an informal survey, we asked college students in America about drinking. Not surprising, the results revealed that 97 percent consumed alcohol before the legal drinking age. On a more serious note, the survey asked whether they had ever driven a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. For this 69.7 percent said that they had driven a vehicle after consuming alcohol. Just as many of us do, 97 percent surveyed reported that they go out drinking with a group. When asked where they learned about drinking responsibly, the majority said they learned from parents or family, with friends being a close second.

A topic that had been in the news lately is the drinking age in the United States. South Carolina Rep. Fletcher Smith (D-Greenville) has recently proposed a bill that will lower the drinking age for enlisted men and women. Smith says, “It doesn't make any sense to prohibit a young soldier, Marine, airman, or sailor from having a drink ... They've proven they're adults ... They have the maturity that the average 18-year-old wouldn't have.” Do you agree or disagree? Read more on this issue at Charleston City Paper:

From those surveyed, many feel that the drinking age in the US is too high. More than half felt the age was too high but that the drinking laws were appropriate. And when asked if they thought people in Germany had a drinking problem almost 94 percent said no. This is a little surprising since Germany is known for its beer gardens and festivals, like Oktoberfest.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Differences in Age

Germany is known for its beer. Unlike US citizens, Germans can drink beer at 16 or before that if they are accompanied by a parent. So it made us wonder, do kids in Germany consume alcohol before the legal drinking age as much as Americans do? What problems do the German’s face in regards to alcohol consumption?
One problem that does not seem so prevalent is drinking and driving. With many modes of public transportation and fewer cars, this would seem like less of a problem. Also, the driving age in Germany is 18, not like in the US where teens get their permits at 15. Could learning the influence of alcohol before being able to drive help with accidents? And where do Germans first learn about drinking responsibly? Another interesting part of Germany’s laws is that spirits are legal once a person turns 18.
In addition, it is very likely that you will find beer to be cheaper than water in Germany. In many parts of Europe, water is more costly because clean drinking water is hard to come by. Most Germans drink beer with all their meals and, therefore, it is perfectly legal to drink on the job (or during a lunch break). What is interesting is that laws seem to be much stricter pertaining to public drunkenness in Germany.