COPENHAGEN: Wait, I’m 21

In honor of turning 21 and it not really mattering, I’m going to talk about an aspect of Danish alcohol culture that has interested me lately: teenage drinking. The teenage drinking culture here is pretty shocking compared to the States.

First of all, the legal age of consumption is 16, but you have to be 18 to buy alcohol over 16.5%. Many teenagers go out to bars during the week and their parents pick them up! They must not have much work to do because most of my high school experience was spent slaving over homework well into the morning. A few weeks ago my class traveled to Odense, the third largest city in Denmark and the only bar filled with people on a thursday night was a teen bar!

On that note, the age of consent is 15! I have heard parents suggest that if their children are going to be sexually active, they would prefer them to do it within the safety of their own home… Moving on.

The first exposure to teenage drinking culture I had was through a Danish college student I met last semester. She had been out of town chaperoning a high school (gymnasium) school trip and came back with shocking stories.

I had figured she would simply be make sure everyone was accounted for and on their best behavior. It turns out she was a little more than that; she was basically their nurse. Her chaperoning involved looking after teenagers for a week while they drank in another country.

I’m a little unsure of the logistics, but I know that entire classes have been relying on travel agencies to book weeklong drinking trips to Prague over holiday breaks. I’m left wondering if these trips teenage Danes are taking are like those StudentCity trips to Cancun that our parents really don’t want us going on or if there is some sort of affiliation with the school.

Around the same time as the death of the giraffe, Danish teenagers were making headlines as over 6,500 of them wrecked havoc in Prague. There were reports of vandalism of the city and hotels, stabbings, fights etc.

It’s pretty strange to me that parents allow their kids to go to another country to drink pretty recklessly at such a young age. I have always argued that the strict drinking culture in America leads to binge drinking and problems in college. I wonder if this phenomenon amongst Danish teenagers is a result of their first extensive adventures with alcohol that Americans may not experience until college.