At a friend’s recent birthday party, I had the pleasure of being told by an intoxicated teenager that young Danes hold the record for drinking to excess in Europe. His face lit up as he bragged that his generation drank even more than the Brits and that this was an achievement to celebrate.
Declining another drink to celebrate this rather depressing fact, I left and took notice as I walked past the hordes of drunken Danes in the street, shouting and screaming, on their obligatory alcohol-fuelled night out.
Initially, my first reaction had been to believe no-one could drink more than the Brits or the Irish, who are both well known for their heavy drinking habits. Though looking around the noisy Copenhagen streets that night, I did start to reconsider. Maybe his statistic was correct after all and a whole generation of young Danes were now drinking to excess.
Drinking is very much a part of any culture, and here in the land of Carlsberg and Tuborg, alcohol has been around for the last 1,000 years. It’s the perfect drug to drop your inhibitions and helps make you an animated soul. So maybe that explains why the Danes love drinking so much – to help them get over their reserved and self-conscious, awkward manner.
You could argue that every young person drinks to excess, then either grows up or becomes an alcoholic. So I am not here to preach about the benefits or dangers of alcohol or to discuss Denmark’s hospital bill for treating its future alcoholics. My issue right now is that the streets of Copenhagen are becoming a more violent and hostile place and in my opinion, alcohol plays a key part in fuelling this aggression.
Back in the UK, heading to any city or town for a night out often turns out to be a hair-raising experience. At some point during the evening, you are normally guaranteed the spectacle of watching an alcohol-induced fight caused by drunken yobs. Brits are proud of the fact that if you haven’t included a doner kebab and beating someone up, then you haven’t had a good night out. What does that say about the Brits? I leave that one for you to answer! Thankfully Copenhagen is nowhere near that sorry state of affairs, though it’s definitely getting a little meaner out on the streets.
The new government could tax alcohol more, but that would go down like a lead balloon with the voters, so it’s often left to the poor police and frontline hospital staff to deal with the problems. Obviously the big breweries also have a responsibility to help educate people about the dangers of excess drinking.
The trouble is, alcohol advertising has become such an integral part of modern Danish life – with brands sponsoring everything from music festivals to fashion shows and football matches – that sometimes it’s hard to separate the two. I still find it incredible, yet ridiculous, that Carlsberg advertise the fact they are part of the football game. Of course they are – they have spent millions and millions for that privilege. So the industy’s advice to be ‘responsible drinkers’ is in my view just empty words.
And what about the parents, how are they dealing with their troublesome teenagers? Are parents now bad role models for their teenagers, or don’t they have the guts to stand up against the drinking culture? Fortunately more and more schools are organising programmes in which parents encourage each other to “say no” to alcohol parties amongst their children. That seems to be having encouraging results, though it does remind me of First Lady Nancy Reagan’s famous response to drug taking in the 1980s: “Just Say No”.
I probably sound like a cranky old scrooge right now, complaining about the youth of today. Get a life, you’re probably thinking. Living in a city means having to put up with a certain amount of drunken and noisy behaviour and that if I have a problem then I should just move to the countryside.
You could also argue that aggression and selfish behaviour is now part of the fabric of many societies and that the influences of greed, war, violent video games and the nightly American ‘blood and splatter’ gun movie on our TV screens is taking its toll and helping to desensitise all of us.
So maybe nothing is new: it’s just me getting older and seeing a more selfish and cruel world out there that through excess alcohol consumption is showing its ugly face.