22 June 2009

Alcohol and Latitude...

Through extensive travel and a lot of tough field work I have noticed an interesting link between three inter-related phenomena that I would like you to consider. These are
1. Latitude
2. The cost of alcohol
3. Social attitudes to being drunk

At lower latitudes, such as Spain or Italy alcohol is very cheap and lots of people drink but it’s not acceptable to be drunk – very uncool. A bit further north in France for example, the booze is still cheap, but to be a little tipsy is ok, but not encouraged. Into Germany, Holland and Belgium and the booze is getting more expensive and people drink more, not generally to get trashed, but they have their moments, mainly at parties and beer festivals.

Northwards in to the UK and the stuff is starting to get expensive and getting drunk becomes much more acceptable. On any Saturday night the local town centre is a war zone of trashed people, stumbling, vomiting, fighting and trying to get laid. Nobody seems to really care but there is still a bit of shame the next day.

As we move further north into Scandinavia getting trashed moves from something that is accepted to something that is a positive badge of honour. There is no shame to being wasted at pretty much any festive occasion. The booze is also getting pricey and people find creative ways to get trollied. On a Saturday evening the streets are full of smartly dressed young people with carrier bags of clinking bottles heading to a friends apartment for a forspeil (literally foreplay). They will drink a bottle of gin and then head out to town at midnight already totally trashed. The older generation tackle the expensive alcohol problem in a different way. They generally reserve their drinking for sponsored company events when somebody else is paying. Then the go wild and destroy the bar. The obvious disadvantage of this approach being that your boss, or worse your employees get to see you dancing half naked on a table at 2am. This has been tackled by the near total expectance of any drunken behaviour such that nobody is either judgemental or embarrassed.

Meanwhile in the far north, Finland, Russia etc, vodka is on the breakfast menu and the population is in a near permanent state if inebriation.

So the questions are
1. Why does an increase in latitude encourage increased consumption of alcohol?
2. Is the high price up north a failed attempt to stop people drinking more?
3. Does the high price make it more social acceptable to get drunk i.e. if you can afford to be that trashed you must be holding down a good job?

And now just to prove that it must be real science – a graph!

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