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How do the British differ from other countries?

When I go on holiday I must say I am generally most interested in the food they have to offer, I do travel on my taste buds. However it has given me some insight into how different cultures associate with drink.

I’m not in any way qualified to comment on the following cultures, but this just seems to be the case from the outsiders perspective I have from visiting these places on my travels.

China

China for instance doesn’t seem so preoccupied with drinking, the streets seem safe at night, and the idea of falling around drunk in public would just be strange at best. Their relationship with the authorities sees little deviation from the status-quo, but also socially it just wouldn’t be accepted.

What you notice is alcohol is around and available but it is not noticeably abused. There are only really 1 main beer brand that you see, and that’s countrywide (which is huge!): Tsingtao. There are others around, but this is the clear winner by far.

Beer seems to be the staple in alcohol. This I think may be a climate thing -it’s refreshing, I generally don’t drink to get inebriated, I drink to refresh myself. That’s why I love sitting in a sunny beer garden with a semi chilled beer to quench my thirst. China is a warm climate (mostly) and wine is probably the most popular in Europe where the climate is more ambivalent.

From my experience on there,  there was a lot more ‘local’ or home-brews of strong spirits, often with interesting colours and ambiguous safety or strength. I was only tempted into ordering some, when a hostel owner asked us to try as he was having some himself.

Wine is expensive out there and from trying one -I wasn’t that impressed with the quality…. perhaps its a status thing that the upper classes choose?

Morocco

Alcohol is against the country’s religion -Islam- and is treated much like drugs. It can’t be found in public shops or restaurants (for the most part, but we did find an exception: an out of town British pub with pictures of the queen, the beetles and our Union flag) and if you get to know a young local, they’ll take you to the right place -which is secretive- in my experience we were taken to this overpriced restaurant off the beaten track with belly dancers -like a haven for the rich and unscrupulous.It wasn’t my best night in Morocco -we have one overpriced round of drinks, found they guy who’d taken us there was not interested in paying for his share… and it wasn’t really what I had in mind on holiday in an Islamic country…..anyway very much like its an underground activity like drugs.

Well it sort of is a drug isn’t it? Its just we’ve come to accept it as a tolerable one in the UK. If taken appropriately, and for the right reasons.

France and Italy

Lovers and producers of wine. Go to localities, countryside and towns you will find they are very in touch with the product, and its producers. On the whole these countries are much more civilised than the UK when it comes to drinking -they are surrounded by the stuff, families allow their children to have it with them at meal times (watered down) -in France it is an extremely cheap product as they don’t have the huge taxes we have on alcohol. So why not the abuse? Well it’s a lot to do with the culture. They take pride in the quality, they have knowledge of their local vineyards, etc. Its about quality over quantity.

I’d love to say this could be replicated in the UK…..

Britain

I had the pleasure of attending a Hop Festival in Faversham, Kent, last summer. It was the time for harvesting the hops which make the main ingredient of beer.

For those not in the know, the esteemed and oldest brewery in the country, Shepherd Neame, resided in the beautiful country town of Faversham. Shepherd Neame is the brewery responsible for such masterful delights as the Spitfire, Master Brew, Asahi and Bishop’s Finger.

The festival has several stages for the many live acts -of morris dancing, live music and comedy- dotted around the town, and all the local shops put stalls out and there are cute little scouts selling cookies and cake. It is my Heaven. There are a multitude of different ales and ciders to try, and local brewery staff to meet, the pubs all have bands playing and their gardens and bars full of happy drinkers.

And the whole fairytale story is picture perfect with most people opting to have real hops in their hair like drinker’s halos. You couldn’t be more in touch with the source of the product.

I would like to say that for the most part everyone and everything is blissful throughout both days of the weekend, except in the evening. Most of the crowds had left -people went back to their camp-sites, left for dinner, and the teenagers came out. these teenagers were disgustingly drunk -fairly young and were just hanging on the streets littering, kicking rubbish about, puking…… ergh. It was a sad sight. How had the gotten the alcohol? Who had given or sold it to them? where were their parents!? Some of them looked very young. Its sad because it was such a big occasion in the year for this town, and you want some inclusion -but how do you do that with strict laws in place? Instead of enjoying the atmosphere and being part of the fun in the day, they had to resort of other means of drinking, which just ends up completely un-policed seen as its under-cover, and therefore they end result is they are just completely pissed.

I remember when I was younger and under-age, I was allowed to drink with the family -half a glass with a meal, for a barbecue.

When we were about 15 – 16 my small group of friends would look after one of my friend’s younger siblings whilst her parents when out for a Friday night down the pub. They wouldn’t be back late and they knew they could trust us. So they treated us with one bottle of beer each, to share the evening with friends. It was low strength, and it was one bottle. They knew we’d have babysat the girls anyway, with no need of a bribe, but I really felt it was a lovely gesture. It showed they trusted us, and wanted to share in the Friday feeling. I loved those Fridays together. We’d play cards and watched Big Brother (which was big back then -and was great for non-harmful gossiping!)

I wonder what teenagers experiences are nowadays? And whether it’s different from teenagers across the water in France?

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