What are we celebrating?

Photo by Flickr user DeeJayTee23. Click for sourceI’ve just re-read the fantastic Social Issues Research Centre article on social and cultural aspects of drinking and it has an amusing section illustrating the difference between British and French drinking cultures which helps to explain why the British have a reputation for drunkenness when they visit the continent.

The article discusses the link between alcohol and the marking of celebrations in different cultures, noting that in the UK, serving alcohol socially is usually associated with marking the occasion as ‘special’ or ‘different’ in some way whereas in France, booze has a more neutral meaning, so social drink doesn’t so strongly imply something is being celebrated.

The British visit France. Hilarity ensues.

McDonald (1994) provides an amusing illustration of the different perceptions of the drinking/festivity connection in different European cultures, and the misunderstandings that can result:

“Many modern visitors from Britain on a first visit to France have had experience of this for themselves. Drinks may be offered at ten o‚Äôclock in the morning, for example. This is obviously going to be one of those days. What are we celebrating? During the midday meal, wine is served. What fun! What are we celebrating? The bars are open all afternoon, and people seem to be drinking. What a riot! What are we celebrating?

Pastis is served at six o‚Äôclock. Whoopee! These people certainly know how to celebrate. More wine is served with dinner. And so on. Wine has different meanings, different realities, in the two contexts, and a festive and episodic drinking culture meets a daily drinking culture, generating a tendency to celebrate all day. This has often happened to groups of young British tourists, now renowned in France and elsewhere in Europe for their drinking and drunkenness.”

Link to SIRC article ‘Social and Cultural Aspects of Drinking’.

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