Australia and the drinking culture

I lived in Canberra in the 70’s and, while I was a kid and didn’t have any direct involvement in it, there was a strong culture of imbibing. I watched my Dad and guests get pretty hammered at backyard parties, and there was a definite Aussie stereotype of being a hard-drinking nation.

Sometime after I left (1978), this changed, as I understand it. The penalties for “drink driving” (we call it drunk driving) are severe and as I understand it you can be pulled over at any time for no reason and be given a breathyliser test.

So, what happened to change the culture and when did it happen? Is it really that different now or is it just the driving aspect of it that has changed?

As an Aussie uni student I can honestly say that the drinking culture is alive and flourishing, and yet at the same time there are a lot of people who don’t drink, so a non-drinking culture has also flourished.

I would suspect that we are a nation that likes our alcohol, but surely we can’t be too much worse than other countries… after all, we get a lot of exchange students, and the American males typically drink insane amounts.*

Drunk driving penalties haven’t hindered the alcohol culture that much, IMO. There are always ways to get around even when you can barely walk - taxi, public transport, sober friend, courtesy bus, etc.

sigh I need a drink. :wink:

*Though, it is worth pointing out one thing: while here, the American students only have to pass. That is, a mark of 51% is exactly the same value as a mark of 99%. Less incentive to study instead of getting magget…

There’s the novelty factor at play as the legal drinking age is 21 in the US vs 18 in Australia.

What in God’s green fuck? I have never heard of that. That’s incredibly bizarre. Do you know why this is?

I grew up in Melbourne in the 70’s/80’s and yes there was a big change. Not so much in the drinking culture, but in the responsibility for drink driving. It was an engineered change brought about mostly through a huge and groundbreaking advertising campaign in the mid 80’s, I think. These ads in print media and TV were graphic, shocking, bleak and emotional, mainly focused on the immediate repercussions of killing your friends/family etc due to drink driving. In concert with these ads was increased penalties and increased random breath checks and increased public debate.

In my recollection of things the change was dramatic. It went from a mindset that maybe it wasn’t OK for you to drive if you couldn’t see the road (“you’d better have a black coffee before attempting that”), to “no I’m not drinking tonight, I’m driving.”

Thanks for this post - this is what I looking for. Was there an explosion of traffic deaths or was it a general feeling that things had to change that initiated the ads?

The drinking culture which was dominated by drinking in pubs has diminished by a huge amount. But drinking at social gatherings and at night clubs has not been reduced by much.

When I was a youngster the pubs opened at 10:00 am and closed at 10:00 pm every day except Sunday where there were two ‘sessions’ - 11:00 am to 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. At all closing times it was not unusual, in order to complete ‘shouts’, to have five or six full drinks in front of you that you just had to finish before you went home. This was a game, of sorts. The other 'game was to do the ‘big twelve’, drink from opening at 10 am 'til closing at 10 pm.

I’ve noticed an increasing sophistication in drinking as well. Thirty years ago most drinking involved copious consumption of beer (full strength at 5% alcohol by volume). Now many have switched to wines, mixed drinks and ‘alcopops’.

But, yes, the reduction of the legal driving blood alcohol level from .08 to .05 and stricter policing drink driving regulations, including random breath testing has had a serious impact on the culture of drinking in this country. Still, it persists among some subcultures - sports, Diggers, youth and clubs.

I’d say the drinking culture in Australia hasn’t diminished at all. There is a lot less drink-driving going on, but IMO this would be more to do with the massively increased prospects of getting caught as a result of the introduction of random breath-testing, rather than an increased appreciation of the dangers of it. We have “booze buses” here - a police bus parks on the side of the road and the street is cordoned off, then drivers get pulled over and tested as they go through (or quickly collared in side streets as they see the booze bus ahead and try to escape).

As a law student nearly twenty years ago, I remember doing some research into drink-driving and the introduction of random breath-testing. From memory, it came in around 1986 or thereabouts. The first state to try it out was New South Wales. There was a huge outcry from civil liberties groups at the time (naturally enough), but this quickly gave way to acceptance once the stats showed a massive reduction in car accidents/fatalities.

PS As I type this, I am enjoying a frosty Coopers Pale. Mmmm, Coopers…

Because their Australian grades don’t get any translation to US grades other than Pass-fail.

That’s common for exchange students everywhere, as grade systems vary even more wildly than degree names.

I’ve just come back to the UK from an Australian holiday and I was v surprised at the drinking culture I say in Sydney and NSW. Seemed to be responsible and fairly sophisticated - They drink this Schooner measure of ale that is smaller than a pint and I saw next to no one in a state - even on the night of the rugby grand final.

I was spending time with a lot of British friends who have settled there and they confirmed that back home in the UK we have a far bigger problem with binge / irresponsible bevvying. Sydney is a world city, so maybe there will be a difference between how people conduct themselves in a bar there than in pub in an outback mining town.

One thing that really stood out to a British visitor was the failure to separate gambling and drinking. I went to a few hotels (pubs in Oz speak) that where basically bookmakers, big ones at that, with an adjoining pub in the same room. This seems like an extremely volatile mix - a charitable interpretation is that the Aussies are mature enough to handle organised gambling with their boozing, whereas we Brits have yet to graduate to that level. The mixture of gambling and drinking is heavily regulated in the UK. Still, I was drinking in a services club that was full of zombies playing slot machines (‘the pokies’), and there were signs up around the club’s ATM warning against gambling problems.

The Aussies putting the boot into drink driving is impressive (I see the authorities have now moved on to driving whilst tired as their next mission). For all the UK’s problems with alcohol, we have also done likewise. There is an order of magnitude difference between my Dad’s generation drink driving and what goes on now. It’s more impressive for Australia in some ways, as it’s such a big country that driving to the ale-house must be necessary for a lot of people.

My cousin’s water polo team went down under to play in a tournament, and got their asses handed to them a couple of times, due to their lack of in-between game drinking experience. :eek: The Aussie team would invite them to the pub for a beer or ten, then they would play the second game. Well, the Aussies played- several US players nearly drowned… :wink:

I don’t believe the stereotypes are true.

They’re not entirely untrue, either. I grew up as a coming-of-age-in-the-80s working class lad, and I did some crazy stuff, but “crazy” usually involved getting messy and ill, falling into bed at midnight, and waking up vowing to never drink again. And this rarely. Today, nearing 40 years of age, I see 20 year-olds going out to WITH THE INTENTION of getting completely hammered on a Saturday night. Ask the cops. Ask the paramedics what goes on. We used to drink beer and have the natural safety valve of getting sleepy, but these kids drink mixers with caffeine (and party drugs too) and go all night.
Mainstream Australia isn’t the mob of drunks popular culture portrays, but what the kids are doing frightens me. And, by all accounts, it’s worse in the UK.

I also don’t like the government’s response of taxing the fuck out of the stuff, above and beyond what they already are. Kids will get drunk regardless - it needs another methodology, as the current only penalises the poor guy who wants a quiet beer after work but now has to fork out big money for it.
I don’t like the nanny state, but I also don’t like the social problems we have now. Not sure what the answer is.

It was the same when I did my uni year-abroad in Germany… out of 120 credits we got 100 for “living abroad for a year” and 20 credits for writing a 2,500 word essay on a topic of our choice sometime during the year (which a few cases of beer persuaded a german mate to write for me - 90% on that one then!).

Monumental piss-up, basically, funded by the European Union. :slight_smile:

Having said that, I did learn a lot of German - althouth mostly how to slur “yes please, I’d love another beer”.