The other day it was a nightmare getting from my place to Boyfriend’s. Weighed down with his guitar on my back, as I got to the tram stop in front of the main station, I was saddened to see what seemed like a never ending group of fans of Frankfurt’s football team, Eintracht.
I lived for 3 years in Liverpool and I have, I think, encountered more than my fair share of drunken football fans. And drunken Eintracht fans are so very very annoying. In Germany it’s perfectly fine to drink in public (including on public transport), and so you get very large groups of mainly men shouting, singing, bashing on train/tram windows, shaking the carriages. I would never think that any of these people would hurt me (though a fair few bashed past me while I waited for my tram), the way they present themselves is very intimidating and not very nice at all for a girl walking by herself.
In the UK it’s worse. In the UK, when people get drunk, they seem to just get more aggressive and I don’t know why this is. The only other place I’ve seen street fights in is Seoul, but in the roads outside bars, clubs and pubs in the UK it’s not uncommon to see people physically sorting out their differences. I’ve never seen one here in Frankfurt.
It seems it’s not just me who thinks this. I was at Frankfurt’s wine festival last week and was speaking to one of the wine sellers who happened to be a really nice guy from Leeds who used to be a high flying banker, but quit it all to study wine (how awesome is that?!) We were talking for quite a while and he also said that he noticed a big difference in drinking culture in Britain and in Germany. While my friend said that he thought it was mainly due to pubs and bars in England having to close early, forcing people to buy two drinks at a time, I’m not sure that’s where the problem lies.
In Germany they treat alcohol as just another thing in life. Like in the UK, you can drink from the age of 18 and are able to have a beer with a meal with your parents from 16. I was surprised at how relaxed people are here (in Frankfurt at least) with what seem to be under-age drinkers and smokers. The rules are there but if they are broken then no one really cares, it seems. Perhaps them not treating drinking as a race that starts in their teens makes them a lot more relaxed about things; alcohol is just a normal thing instead of something that needs to be used in excess.
But I wonder if it’s just that the drink less than us. There are certainly people at night who drink way too much (Boyfriend lives next to an Irish pub and we are serenaded by their drunken chorus most nights) but I don’t really see anyone getting violent. I’ve been intimidated many times by groups of drunken guys who look kinda scary, but in my two years I’ve only had problems with two guys; once on the way home from town a drunken man wouldn’t let me past, and once a month or so ago while waiting for a bus on a Sunday morning a drunken Irish guy kept shouting insults at me when I wouldn’t talk with him.
In Japan it’s a completely different story still. Most of the Japanese people I have been drinking with go very very red when they drink. I don’t know what it is but their faces just goes like a tomato as soon as their lips touch alcohol. And no one gets that crazy when they are drunk, either, just cute. The craziest thing I have ever seen from drunken Japanese people (and this will tell you SO much about Japanese culture) is when I was teaching at the JHS, after one of the staff parties one other teacher stumbled down the street, saw a car, gently tried to open the car door and found it to be open. No one was shocked by a parked car not being locked, but the owner happened to be coming back to his car and started shouting at the teacher for being a bad role model. Japanese businessmen seem to like putting their ties around their heads as soon as they start to drink. That’s kinda cute.
One thing about drinking in Japan that is kinda scary is the rate of drink driving over there. While obvious foreigners like myself might find themselves being breathalysed while riding a bike at night, no one seems to mind that it is very very common for people to just drive themselves home after an evening in the bar. I have seen so many people who could barely walk get up and drive themselves home.
This has been a pointless, ramble-y post, but if you have stories of what drunkards are like where you are, I’d love to hear them! Usually these cultural sharing posts turn out to be the most rewarding 😉