In many American TV series and movies you can see people drinking without a break. This can make you wonder: is this normal in the US? Um, yes, I’m afraid drinking is a normal part of life in Northern America. Not very healthy, is it? But what are some reasons people drink in America?
At the end of this article, you can do an online Quiz.
By Jacqueline Schaalje
Some 55% of adults drink alcohol in the US. Lots of them actually believe it is good for them. However, alcohol can harm your liver and cause high blood pressure. Drinking alcohol also piles on the calories, and being overweight can cause its own health problems. Yet the American government sees some good things in alcohol, because it can prevent blood clotting and thereby prevent heart attacks. The dietary guidelines are issued by the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture. Their latest update was published in 2010. They write that one drink per day is okay for women and two for men.
But how much do people really drink?
Many people drink more than one drink when they go out or even when they’re sitting at home watching TV or having friends over. According to statistics from the US government, 1 in 10 deaths are caused by excessive drinking among adults aged 20 to 64.
Men drink more than women, which is the same as in the rest of the world. Alcohol is not for stupid people! The more educated Americans are, the more they drink. Seventy percent of people who’ve gone to college drink regularly, compared to less than 40 percent of people who didn’t finish high school. And it’s the same for social class: when people earn more money, they drink more. Some people think it’s to do with the student years: many young people learn to drink at college parties. However, in recent years there is a decline in drinking. Almost half of students report not drinking alcohol regularly. Ten years ago that would have been unheard of.
So how do North Americans rank compared to other heavy drinking countries?
First of all, despite all the TV series with people drinking, Americans are not the heaviest drinkers in the world. It is now number 22 on the list of countries with the biggest boozers. The list is headed by Luxembourg, by the way, followed by a number of other European countries. In fact, the whole top ten is European, and Americans are drinking less and less. Again, this is new, because America used to be in the top 10 only a few years ago.
What do people in North America drink when they go out?
Beer! Beer is however not the most popular drink among all Americans, including children. Can you guess what it is? Soft drinks, of course. Even if numbers are declining in recent years, the US still is the land of Coca Cola and Pepsi. Bottled water is a second popular drink. And then comes beer. Wine and spirits are much less popular.
What are some occasions when Americans drink?
- When they receive good news
In Northern America they call it social drinking. When people receive good news, they gather in a social setting to get some drink. This form of drinking is not aimed at getting drunk. Occasions when people throw a party is when they graduate from school or college, or when they got a new job or a new house. They could have an office party celebrating someone’s promotion or just because it’s the end of the week. Holidays are a good reason to drink as well. Certain holidays can come with special drinks. For instance, many Canadians and Americans like to drink eggnog around Christmas. This is made with whipped eggs and cream and one of the following spirits: rum, bourbon or brandy. Very tasty and a calorie bomb!
- When they are depressed.
Some people believe that taking alcohol clears their sorrows. They argue that when you are under the influence, you open up to your friends and let out your problems. Sharing a problem is one way of relieving yourself. Your friends will then advise you how you can handle the situation. While this could be true, some other people have argued that alcohol only helps you forget your problems for as long as you’re drunk, because once you are sober you meet your problems again.
- When they are too shy to talk to people.
Shy people can benefit from a drink or two if it makes them able to approach someone they like. Some people are too shy to make friends when they are sober and so they prefer being tipsy. For instance, if you are looking for a love partner then you will need confidence so as to be able to talk. Taking alcoholic beverages enables them to express themselves without fear. Drinking also makes people do the crazy things they wouldn’t do when they are sober. Others argue that they prefer taking alcohol when they go out because the alcohol itself provides the fun.
What time do people in North America go out to drink?
Most people in North America prefer going to drink after a long day of working hours. Fridays and weekends are the days that a larger population visit night clubs, bars and restaurants with the aim to drink, because they don’t need to get up early for work the next day.
Drinking games have gained popularity in North America. They’re mostly played at parties such as birthday parties or graduation ceremonies. Sometimes when it’s raining heavily and you cannot go to a club, you might decide to make your drinking session lively by playing drinking games with friends at home. Drinking games can vary from fast drinking (who can drink the most in the shortest time), beer pong (throwing a ball into one of the opponents’ cups, after which the opponent needs to drink the alcohol in the cup, and a last (very difficult) game is power hour, in which participants need to down a shot of beer for every minute in an hour. If you need to pee before the end of the hour, you must drink one extra beer. If this doesn’t get you pissed, I don’t know what will!
Now test your reading comprehension about drinking in Northern America by doing the Quiz.
Click here to do this quiz online, and check your answers.
1 Is drinking considered normal in the US?
A Of course, drinking is fun and makes you more social.
B All actors on TV and in movies drink, so yes, it’s normal.
C 55% of adults drink, so that is most people.
D Lots of Americans drink too much, believing it’s good for them.
2 Which statement is true?
A Men drink more than women.
B Men drink more than women, but only in Northern America.
C Americans are the heaviest drinkers in the world.
D Most men drink only two drinks a day, and women one.
3 Which benefit do people believe there is to drinking alcohol?
A It’s good for your liver, when drinking in moderation.
B When you drink, you eat less, so that compensates for the excess of calories.
C It can prevent blood clotting, and thereby heart attacks.
D It makes people feel good, which is good for their health.
4 What could be a reason that people from higher social classes drink more?
A They have more money to buy drink.
B They might have learned to drink during their college years.
C They have more reason to party.
D Educated people usually aren’t teetotalers.
5 What’s the most popular alcoholic drink in the US?
B Cocktails made with soda.
6 Which of the following is NOT an example of social drinking?
A Drinking when you’ve received good news, such as a graduation or promotion.
B Drinking on birthdays.
C Binge drinking in a pub or bar.
D Drinking with friends because it’s the end of the week.
7 Why is it not a good idea to drink when you’re depressed?
A You can lose your memory of the events that made you sad.
B Your friends will solve your problems while you are drunk, which is unfair.
C Your problems will come back to disturb you once you’re sober again.
D Drink helps you talk and whine, but you’ll lose all your friends.
8 How can alcohol help shy types?
A Alcohol can make it easier to approach people you like.
B Being drunk is fun, and so there is less reason to do crazy things.
C You’ll get more tipsy once you lose your initial fear.
D Doing crazy things that you normally wouldn’t do can help you find love.
9 What are the most popular times to go out and drink in Northern America?
A At the end of a long working day when they don’t need to get up next morning.
B At the end of a long working day and at the weekend.
C When people don’t need to work the next day.
D On Friday and Saturday nights.
10 What’s the aim of playing drinking games?
A To get drunk.
B To have a good time with friends.
C To have a good time with friends and get roaring drunk.
D To not get too drunk or you might lose your clothes.
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