Which countries have the worst drinking cultures?

4 months, 16 days ago

From savouring flavors in France to binge drinking in Australia readers talk about the alcohol culture where they live

How much alcohol is safe to drink? It is a question scientists have been trying to get to the bottom of for centuries, and now a survey exploring drinking advice around the world has found that the answer varies significantly depending on where you live.

In the US, for example, three or four drinkings a day( 42 g for women and 56 g for men) is thought to be safe, but in Sweden that is well over the amount health authorities recommend: 10 g for women and 20 g for men. Whats more, a standard drink in Iceland and the UK is 8g of alcohol, compared to 20 g in Austria.

Government standard drink definition in grams with readers quotes about the countrys drinking culture
Government standard drink definition in grams

Can these fluctuations be attributed to the fact that each place has its unique drinking culture? We asked readers to summarise their countrys stance towards alcohol and the unscientific, we should stress outcomes seem to suggest we might all be tip-off the scale when it is necessary to consuming a safe amount.

South Africa

It is differed, but most people drink socially , not generally to excess, but responsible drinking( not drinking and driving for example) is rare. We should have tighter drinking and driving statutes. Dickon, 40

Spain

In the Spanish equivalent of a greasy spoon, workers stop for brunch with a beer followed by a big brandy then get into their autoes and go back to work. Its the drink-driving that I dont like. Anonymous, 45

Australia

Binge drinking is glorified in Australia, and the focus is not on drinking in moderation or for enjoyment. We should be encouraging alcohol-free days. I am likely not a true representative of the Australian drinking population as I am a very light drinker I drink maybe once a month. Anonymous, 44

New Zealand

There is a big binge-drinking culture among the youth in the country and a huge part of the health budget and policing budget is spent on dealing with drink-driving, collision and emergency services, and other long-term harmful effects of alcohol. We have a robust liquor industry that lobbies the government ferociously to prevent regulation of alcohol marketings. Advertising here has been grudgingly curtailed. Anonymous, 50

Japan

People often go to Izakayas[ Japanese-style pub] after work on Fridays or special occasions with their colleagues. However, alcohol is nearly always drunk here alongside snacks or food, entailing very few people get incredibly drunk. There are some cases of people with alcohol-related problems in this country, but people dont drink alcohol in order to get drunk, but rather to relax.

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A bar in Tokyo. Photo: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Japans alcohol safety guidelines seem approximately around the same as my home country[ the UK ]. However, you need to be 20 years old to buy alcohol in Japan, although unless you seem underage they wont ask you for ID, especially if you seem non-Japanese. Anonymous, 23

Belgium

Beer sold in every frituur[ chip store ], open bottles of wine to help yourself to in supermarkets but drunkenness is socially unacceptable. The guidelines seem fair enough, especially having at least two non-drinking days a week. Elspeth Morlin, 46

France

In France people drink extensively and steadily, but in small divisions. Even though I have find a couple of people drunk, I have never seen any aggressivenes. At a dinner party you are able to ordinarily have an apritif, three glasses of various types of wines and a digestif but all in small quantities. There will also be water on the table. The guidelines in France are sensible, although here there is a tradition of ignoring regulations and laws anyway. The French drink to savour the flavors and to enhance their food. Peter, 62

Italy

In Italy, consuming alcohol revolves around food. So you are either drinking to accompany your snack( wine will always be on the table at an Italian meal ), or you are please give free snacks to soak up your drink when at a bar. So the idea is that you order a drinking at a standardised cost and you are given crisp or other bite-sized food. Or you can help yourself from a generous buffet.

The whole point of aperitivo is that you have it before dinner and drinking on an empty belly generally leads to unpleasant situations( especially as typical aperitivo beverages are of the likes of the murderer negroni ). Hence the free food. This has led to the creation of a sub-culture: the one of apericena[ a hybrid of aperitivo and cena: dinner ]. So people, instead of going for a drinking and then on to dinner, go to the bar with the best buffet, order a drink( commonly 8-10) and then simply reached the buffet and stuff their faces, scoring a very cheap dinner. Benedetta, 31

Philippines

Once a bottle is opened it must be finished; its never shut while still full. I guess 14 g a day for women seems reasonable, but 28 g a day for a human seems a little high. However, I have never seen these guidelines published or “was talkin about a” anywhere in this country. Richard Hartland, 39

UK

In the UK the notion of enjoying yourself in the evening without alcohol is so unusual it can lead to you being called a freak( or at least miserable and antisocial) whereas drinking yourself insensible is not just acceptable, it is admired. Unfortunately( and I am a drinker) all advice dedicated seems to be decided upon somewhat arbitrarily and although most doctors agree alcohol is bad for you, restriction seem to be plucked out of the air with no real evidential statistics.

While most would agree that binge drinking in the UK is deplorable and turns our towns and cities into ugly and threatening places at night, I find the nanny country reaction of teaches us that any amount of drinking can give us cancer or liver failure somewhat unhelpful. In Europe people seem to drink as part of a food experience and it is an accompaniment , not an end in itself. We have much to learn but our history suggests an entrenched route of relating to alcohol. Fergus, 68

US

We would have a lot less underage drinking problems if we lowered the drinking age to 18. Young adults are getting targeted at parties and social events at universities where police know there will be alcohol and the people who are there and under 21 get underage drinking charges( and people over 21 get charged with the supply of alcohol to minor ). I am not even a huge drinker, just seems absurd that freshman and sophomores have to be sneaky about it, which leads to more issues. There is also a binge-drinking culture generally in the US Karina, 23

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