Can I Get a Beverage? What Drinking Is Like Around the World


Corinna Winkler

Students gather at the EHS Oktober Fest on Sept. 27. The Event is based on the largest beer celebration in the world in Germany.

Maddox Karnes, Arts and Entertainment editor

An 18-year-old can enjoy a glass of wine in Sicily, or perhaps a margarita in Cancún. They can even enjoy an alcoholic beverage here in the United States – they just may also be subject to a misdemeanor.

Drinking is perceived differently all over the planet. In some parts of the world, you only need to be 15 years old to drink, while in others you have to be 25. You can consume alcohol at any age in Greece, and you can’t consume at all in Libya. These varied laws cause very different views on drinking, and Spanish teacher Ana Harris has seen it first hand.

Mrs. Harris was born in Mexico and lived there until she was 25. Having spent over two decades and her young adult life in a place where the legal drinking age is 18, she’s observed what drinking is like in that part of the world.

“In Mexico, and I’m not saying this is right, the prohibition isn’t great,” Mrs. Harris said. “It was very average to sit down and have a glass of wine at the table only being 16, 17 or 18.”

Since moving to the U.S. over 30 years ago, Mrs. Harris has developed a perspective for drinking in America, and she’s noticed differences.

“Many kids here wait till 21 to get completely drunk,” Mrs. Harris said. “That was a huge shocker to me… [In Mexico] it’s not the forbidden fruit that everybody is searching for.”

In terms of exactly how much alcohol is being consumed in the U.S. versus Mexico, it’s a relatively large margin. The U.S. consumes approximately 80% more liters per capita of alcohol than Mexico according to NationMaster.

Mrs. Harris has her theories as to why.

“At 18 they would allow us to go to nightclubs, and at nightclubs we dance,” Mrs. Harris said. “We drank soda, maybe we had one or two drinks, but the focus of going out was to enjoy friend’s company, to be together and if there were drinks or not it didn’t matter.”

On the other side of the world, there lies an entirely different position on drinking. In Italy you must be 18 years old to purchase alcohol; however, anyone can consume it.

Senior Giorgia Panato has lived in Italy her whole life, but she’s been in the U.S., and EHS, since August 2022.

“Most clubs you can enter at 14. [People start drinking] around 15 or 16,” Panato said. “They told me that [in the U.S.] if I wasn’t 21 I couldn’t even enter a club or a bar which is so weird. It’s just not like that in Italy.”

Panato has experienced Italian nightlife as well as legally consumed alcohol in the country. 

“Some clubs ask for my ID, but in other clubs they just don’t care,” Panato said. “In some clubs, there’s nights where all the girls can enter free, and if you’re a girl they don’t check your ID.”

The amount of alcohol consumed in Italy is much closer in relation to America than Mexico is. The U.S. only consumes about 4% more liters per capita of alcohol than Italy does according to NationMaster.

Many are aware that in the U.S. the legal drinking age is 21, but it’s one of few countries with that law. Vinepair reports that approximately 64% of nations in the world have a drinking age of 18. With the drinking age being higher than the average country, one might think that the amount of drinking in the U.S. would be lower – but one would be wrong.

The U.S. is ranked 20th for all nations in terms of alcohol consumed per capita according to NationMaster. It beats out countries like Poland, Sweden and Norway, all of which don’t have a legal age requirement to consume alcohol.

But regardless of where you live and what drinking laws you do, or don’t, follow, Mrs. Harris has some advice for all. 

“Always make good choices,” Mrs. Harris said. “Always, always make good choices.”