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The BBC's Colin Blane in Brussels
"There's not the rapid dash to get the drinks in before closing time"
 real 28k

The BBC's Flora Botsford in Madrid
"You do see bigger gangs of children and teenagers these days"
 real 28k

The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
"Germans tend to drink a lot in the home, or by the pool in the summer"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 13:36 GMT
Alcohol answers from across Europe
Teenagers drinking
Binge drinking is rare in southern European countries
A report published this week on alcohol abuse among young Europeans - which showed among other things that the UK was one of the countries worst affected - has prompted responses to BBC News Online from all across Europe.

Sheila Barter looks at some of the points made and views expressed in your e-mails.

The binge drinking and public drunkness which plagues the UK is virtually unknown in some other parts of Europe.

In particular, Mediterranean countries such as Italy, France & Portugal have far fewer teenagers who get drunk frequently.

The secret, say BBC News Online readers, is a healthier attitude to alcohol from early in childhood - and a less inhibited lifestyle.


I have grown up respecting alcohol because my parents never hid it away as some kind of evil that you can't touch until you're 18

Donaldo Shelliano, son of Italians
"The British are obsessed by alcohol and getting drunk. On the continent we drink to enjoy, while in Britain, they just drink to scramble their brains," Alonzo from Italy writes.

"It will never change and the British will always be the stupid drunken children of Europe, staggering around and causing havoc in the more civilised countries across their beloved Channel."

Frenchman Vincent says he has tried to figure out the "drinking = being social" phenomenon.

Street cafe
Cafe culture, not pub culture, is the norm elsewhere in Europe
His conclusion: "I don't actually think there is any solution, as I do think it's a British-culture thing... sad but true."

The UK's Donaldo Shelliano, born to Italian parents, says the answer is to follow the southern European example, and have wine around the house and tasted from an early age.

"I probably first sipped it - heavily watered down - when I was nine years old. I have grown up respecting alcohol because my parents never hid it away as some kind of evil that you can't touch until you're 18," he writes.


Drinking in general is considered a sit-down activity - in Britain, everyone drinks standing up

Emmanuel Mavropulos, Greece.
The culture of drinking from an earlier age, and as part of a meal, is shared across many Southern European countries.

"Drinking in general is considered a sit-down activity," writes Emmanuel Mavropulos from Greece.

"In Britain, no-one ever seems to eat anything; everyone drinks standing up and seems to compete to see who'll get drunk first.

"Maybe the licensing laws have conditioned the people into drinking like this, but there may be other reasons, such as inhibition and repression."

Europe's young: Drinking (% teenagers drunk 20 times or more)
Denmark 41%
UK 29%
Finland 28%
Ireland 25%
Portugal 4%
France 4%
Italy 2%

Even UK residents agree that different licensing laws and cultures in southern Europe are what makes the difference.

"The British trend towards binge drinking and drug-taking is a reactive response to the taboos placed on drugs by society and the licensing laws which impede relaxed drinking without a time frame," writes L. Foulkes.

"The resulting culture encourages excess in a way not seen in the more mature attitudes of southern Europe."

Even in northern European countries like Belgium, the different licensing laws encourage a more gradual approach to drinking, says the BBC's correspondent there, Colin Blane.

"There is a drinking culture in Belgium, but I don't think it's one which produces quite the same damage as the one we have in Britain.


I don't see people lying down rolling around in the streets on a Friday or Saturday night, which I did used to see in my home city of Glasgow from time to time

BBC's Colin Blane, Brussels
"Bars have tended to be open longer and people tend to drink at a steader rate - there's not the rapid dash that we've had traditionally in Britain to get the drinks in before closing time."

Six per cent of the workforce in Belgium is estimated to have a drink problem, but public drunkenness is rare, and overall levels of consumption are actually falling.

"I don't see people lying down rolling around in the streets on a Friday or Saturday night, which I did used to see in my home city of Glasgow from time to time."

In Germany, overall alcohol consumption levels are similar to those of the UK - but again, in a different way.

"They tend to drink a lot in the home, or by the pool in the summer, but not this feature of binge drinking," says the BBC's correspondent in Berlin, Rob Broomby.


The idea of people going out to drink just to get drunk doesn't really feature here

BBC's Rob Broomby, Berlin
Teenagers are allowed into pubs at 16 to drink beer, although they must wait until the age of 18 to buy spirits.

"There seems to be more of a social attitude - the idea of people going out to drink just to get drunk doesn't really feature here," he says.

In Spain, public drunkenness involving children and teenagers is on the rise despite its southern cultural traditions, says the BBC's Flora Botsford in Madrid.

"You do see bigger gangs of children and teenagers these days hanging out and drinking from bottles," she says.

Projects to distract youngsters into other activities like sport, arts and drama are under way in Spain - and are proving successful but expensive.


'The more drunk you are, the cooler you are' seems to be the motto of today's Polish youth

Agnieszka, Poland
Poland is among the nations to fare particularly badly in the survey - not surprisingly, writes Agnieszka.

"I've always thought that no-one would compete with Polish teenagers when considering heavy drinking," she writes.

"In my country drinking till losing consciousness is nothing extraordinary. On the contrary - it's the reason for being proud.

"'The more drunk you are, the cooler you are' seems to be the motto of today's Polish youth."

In other parts of Eastern Europe, the picture is very different, writes Hungarian-born Eva W.

"I was shocked to see how my English husband's 15-year-old niece got blind drunk at her grandad's 70th birthday party, in front of the entire family.

"My parents never laid a hand on me when I was a child, but if they ever saw me in that state, even at 17 or later, I believe I would have had my first and serious beating."

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See also:

20 Feb 01 | Health
Teenage drink and drugs in Europe
20 Feb 01 | Health
UK children top drugs league
01 Feb 01 | Health
Cannabis 'damages mental health'
14 Aug 00 | Health
Binge drinking 'can damage brain'
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