By Vegard Bergset
American and Norwegian beer culture is very different but still similar. It’s similar in the sense of love for beer but different in almost every other sense. I’m gonna try to give an in-depth look at the two different approaches to drinking and beer culture. Even though my knowledge of American beer and drinking culture is limited because I’ve only been living here since August. That aside, I have gotten some help from my American cousins that also spent a semester studying in Norway. And I’m gonna compare the two different cultures as broadly and in-depth as possible.
First, let’s start with an obvious difference. The legal drinking age in America is 21, Norway, on the other hand, doesn’t have a legal drinking age. In theory, you are allowed to drink alcohol when you’re under the legal buying age, which is 18 for alcohol under 20% and 20, for everything under 60%. For someone not familiar with the Norwegian system, it might seem very weird not to have a legal drinking age, but the government has decided that it is the distributor of alcohol to minors that is the illegal actions. Therefore, even though you get caught drinking when you’re not of legal age to buy, you will in the worst case scenario get a free ride home by the police.
With this in mind, it is not difficult to understand why most Norwegians start drinking and partying in late middle school or early high school. In fact, most of the crazy-partying happens in high school. This might be because of the high school graduation party that lasts for a month straight, day and night. And that parents in Norway know that their kids are going to party and drink alcohol before they turn 18, and would rather see their kids sleeping drunk in their own beds than being too scared to go home and end up sleeping outside. For Americans, however, most people start drinking senior year of high school or freshman year of college. According to my cousin, this might change depending on the area you’re from. He and his friends, for instance, started drinking around the same time as I. But he says that the craziest parties happen in college, rather than high school.
Now, I have experienced both high school parties in Norway, and college parties here in America. And, it is a bit of the same story. It kind of seems like it is the point of getting as “fucked up” as possible without having to go to the hospital or jail. I asked myself what might be the reason for that, and figured, maybe it is because it’s the norm in Norway to move out from your parents right after high school, and not live in a dorm or a frat, but rather sharing an apartment in a city. This might force Norwegians to behave a bit more grown up when they party after high school. Because they know that no “adults” are looking after them if something happens. Also, maybe the reason Americans party the way they do in college might be because it is the first freedom they’ve experienced. Keep in mind, this is just my theory, I’m not sure.
Another interesting difference, is the perspective people have on alcohol. In America, it seems like alcohol, in general, is very stigmatized compared to the likes of other drugs such as weed. For example, alcohol is not really something you talk about with your teachers, if your not 21. During my first semester here, I’ve heard several times that teachers advice against drinking alcohol. In Norway, on the other hand, it is almost the complete opposite. Even before turning 18, it is not looked upon as tabu to talk with your teachers about alcohol. And, I have never heard teachers in Norway advising against drinking alcohol before someone is of legal age. Please, misunderstand me correctly, I’m not saying that teachers in elementary school and middle school are advertising alcohol to their students. In high school, my teachers would say something as simple as “drink responsibly”. Weed, on the other hand, is a completely different story. In Norway, it is looked upon the same level as crack. With other words, it’s highly stigmatized and something you would never discuss with people that are not pro-weed.
Now, over to one of the similarities between Norwegian and American beer culture. Both cultures seem to drink most domestic beer. Also, most men rather than women drink beer. In fact, I don’t know of one drinking culture in the world, where women drink more beer than men. I don’t know why that is, but I think it is an interesting phenomenon. Other than that, both cultures seem to look at European beer as the best in the world. Another similarity is the easily accessible craft beer. And, people that really like craft beer look the same all over the world. It almost seems like they’re part of the same craft beer cult. It is almost always men ranging on a specter from hipster to 40-year-old dad. Joking aside, the same kind of people are both found in Norway and America.
As probably is common knowledge, now with Trump in office, America is a country a lot of people around the world has opinions about, both good and bad. But it’s not only bad opinions about American politics that is a trend, but also opinions about bad beer. I have found some of these opinions about beer to be false during my introduction into American beer culture this past semester. One prejudgement I made, but now have left behind, was that ALL American beer is equivalent to water. Some American beer tastes like water, especially Course Light, but other than that, I was surprised to find easily accessible good beers here.