Drinking in France

Do the French have a drinking age? If not, at what age can a minor get served at a restaurant? Last, can one find wine in a French McD’s (since wine is so common)?

When I was there a few years ago there was no legal drinking age (as in, you could drink at any age, but public drunkenness was an offence). But you couldn’t buy beer until the age of 16, or other alcohol until 18. If you are in a restaurant, I don’t know what the position is about an adult buying wine for a party which includes a minor; I don’t think it would have been a problem.

The law may have changed since, of course.

I very much doubt that you could buy wine in McDonald’s in France, but it wouldn’t amaze me if you could buy beer. But I cannot say from first-hand experience; what would be the point of going to France and then eating in McDonalds?

I think that this is also the situation in the Netherlands, though how strictly it is enforced I am not sure.

(I think that in Belgium, youngsters can purchace and drink beer before the age of 16, and in fact dual beer/soda vending machines are all over in train stations and other public places)

Looking at the menu on their website, it looks like they only have soft drinks.

I have French friends that grew up close to the border, and say that at the age of 14 or so they would bicycle over to Belgium Friday and Saturday nights because they will serve you beer as long as you’re tall enough to see over the bar.

From my experience, an adult in a restaurant ordering wine for a party that includes minors usually has a blind eye turned to it. However, certain situations - creepy dude at a brasserie ordering hard alcohol for himself and a young “friend” - they’ll usually ID the girl and refuse the sale.

As for the wine, I don’t believe it’s true, but I have to walk by a McDo on my way to work, I’ll try to get close enough to see without having to touch any of the sort of people that live in France yet eat at McDonalds.

They don’t serve wine at any McDonalds in Western Europe as far as I know. They do serve beer in some of them including France.

Let’s not make any snap judgements about European culture and fast food either. There are a bunch of McDonalds restaurants in Paris and other famous European cities and they are always busy and it isn’t because of American tourists. If you want to see more McDonalds than you have ever seen in one area at one time, go to Milan, Italy sometime. They are everywhere starting when you get out of the train station and every few blocks in the city itself. I never ate anything in them but they are handy if you need to use the bathroom. You always know there is one nearby no matter where you are there.

I had my first drink ever in France. Wine, with a lot of water (well, some water with a little wine added). It was a very festive occasion, and I was six.

But even in the US, there used to be occasions when underage drinkers could get a small glass of something. When a couple I knew had to get married (they were 17), the whole wedding party, which was small, went to a restaurant and everybody had a glass of champagne. Even the 14-year-old. I guess the parents on both sides figured, hey, they’re getting married. They ought to be able to drink.

I’ll bet, if you were a good customer, this kind of thing could still happen today, if you kept it discreet.

ETA: A few years ago we went to a Seder, hosted by a church (a shul?). At that kind of occasion, in our state, it’s perfectly legal for a minor who’s accompanied by a parent to have a glass with real wine in it.

Officially, there’s no restriction on the consumption of alcohol but it is illegal to sell alcool to a minor (below 18). In practice however, drinks start flowing earlier than that, both at home, in parties and in bars. It’s just not that big a deal to us.

Barmen won’t serve you if you look 12, but they won’t make a fuss or even ask for ID unless they have a specific reason to (like, as has already been said, if an old guy looks like he’s trying to liquor a minor up or something)

Finally, no wine in French Mickey D’s, but there’s price-gouged bad beer. In a can, not on tap.

Yeah legally it’s illegal for a minor (below 18 in our case) to buy alcohol, or for an adult to offer alcohol to a minor in any public space or in pubs or restaurants or such, and the vendor can ask for proof of majority, but it’s more relaxed in fact.


Beer in mcdonalds must be sold with food, not alone, you can’t order beer with a take out order and selling beer is not allowed past 10pm. I have no idea if these are things followed or not.

I saw guys walking around with huge cans of beer in the Banbury train station in England…I don’t know if they were supposed to be doing this or not but nobody seemed to care.

The notion that you can’t display an alcohol container in public, but dressing it up in a paper bag while you drink from it swerving all over the sidewalk makes it fine, is “one of those quaint American notions,” Argent Towers; normal in the US, abnormal in the general scheme of things.

Not completely American. Drinking in public is fine in New Orleans. You do have a good point though. It is like one of those weird religious rules in the U.S. that most people don’t question.

When I lived in Santa Barbara, the student ghetto area beside the university had a no-open-container law. Due to an oversight, this law expired and had to be renewed at the next town council meeting a week later. So for one week all the college students roamed the streets with open beers and got their photos taken with the cops and a big cup of beer. Then it all stopped.

Point? Just quaint American customs, I guess.

It’s hardly a religious rule. There are few signficant religions in the US which ban drinking alcohol - Islam would be one of the few, and nobody can pretend that it is influential in shaping American social customs and laws - and there are none at all which ban drinking in public.

This is social puritanism, nothing more and nothing less.

Indeed. The French have a seemingly insatiable appetite for American demotic culture, and the popularity of McDo’s is an aspect of this.

And nothing wrong with that. My point was simply that it would be bizarre to visit France and then eat at McDonald’s, given that France has a culinary tradition of its own that is well worth engaging with.

I really enjoyed the freedom of being able to walk around with a beer in the French Quarter. Sure Bourbon street tends to be a little obnoxious, but it is not all like that. I do not want to live in the midst of a party and be woken up by loud drunks in the street at night, so I understand the reasoning behind open container laws. There is a time and place it is very nice to have that freedom though.

You cant drink in public in Canada either, and there is pressure to raise the drinking age by certain groups. I think it should be 16 rather than 18; and 21 is just insulting. Maybe if we were not all so uptight about it wouldnt be a problem. I like the gist of the European approach to alcohol.

To the best of my knowledge (having not been in one in 30 years) the only Maccas you can buy alcohol in are in Germany, where a restaurant simply cannot exist unless it serves beer.

But in France (and Italy) my 15yo stepson was offered a wine glass in restaurants and cafes several times. If he said Yes he was given a “splash”, maybe a 5th or a quarter of a glass - which he usually didn’t finish.

I haven’t really left the country in probably over a decade but back when I used to travel around there were two places I’ve been where I was somewhat struck by how common and how popular McDonald’s are.

Firstly, Hong Kong is a major hard on for McDonald’s, I can’t think of any large American city with as many McD’s per capita as Hong Kong (and Hong Kong is larger than any American city.)

Secondly, Paris has a surprising number of McD’s. Nothing like Hong Kong, but if you’ve never been there and you have certain pre-conceptions about the city you’ll be surprised by it.

In both places people I spoke with said McD’s are popular for exactly the same reason they are here: price, convenience, and speed. It’s also a very, very standardized product. Most people in the world do not have refined palates, and if you can eat anything a place like McD’s is a fast solution to a hunger problem.

Something that was particularly mentioned to me in France is that McD’s are nice because they are open later in the day than many restaurants, and it can be a pain if you need to take your lunch at an odd hour (like 3-4pm) because lots of restaurants close at 2pm.


from Wiki:

NYC: 8,391,881
Hong Kong: 7,055,071

That NYC population is only looking at the city, when you add the metro area:

New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA MSA 19,069,796
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA MSA 12,874,797
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI MSA 9,580,567

I think you missed Shagnasty’s “like” - you two seem to be in complete agreement, from where I sit.