Europe's age laws (under 21)

I’m going to be studying abroad next semester over in amsterdam, and while I’m over there I will be turning 21. Now I know that the drinking age over there (among other things) is 18, so will turning 21 not be any big event? Or are there things over in Europe that a 21 year old can do that someone younger can’t?

ps: I also plan to travel to Germany and Spain, if there’s any difference…

Actually I think that you can by beer at 16 in Amsterdam. Spain is 16 also.

There are probably a lot of over-21 clubs to keep the kids out I imagine.

In the British Isles at least, 21 is celebrated as a special birthday, even though it doesn’t bring any particular legal entitlements.

re Germany I cannot think of any significance of age 21 except the following:

German criminal law allows the courts to choose to try someone who is 18 years old but not 21 years old as a juvenile. The conditions for that are: either the defendant is more immature than you’d expect of a 18-year-old, or the offence is one typically commited by juvenile delinquents. (for 14-17 year olds juvenile law always applies; under-14s are not criminally liable)

Otherwise the main age bars are: age of consent 14 years (when the other partner is under 18; 16 years otherwise); beer-drinking age 16; state voting age 16 or 18 depending on state; spirits-drinking age/car driving license age/majority age/federal voting age 18 years; eligible for federal president at 40 years.

Nitpick - there’s some vehicles you can’t get licenced to drive, including HGVs and IIRC coaches. Nor can you stand for parliament (although I think this is in the process of being changed?)

But yeah, 21 isn’t all that big an event, but like any birthday, you can make it a special occassion if you feel you deserve it :wink:

If one was a peer one used to be able to take one’s seat in the House of Lords on one’s twenty-first birthday. One still must be twenty-one to renounce one’s peerage.

Turning 21 in Europe is quite anti-climactic. That’s what happened to me. I was on a train from Wolverhampton, England, final destination, Isola, Slovenia, on my 21st birthday, away from all my friends and pretty much everybody that I knew. Yet it was somehow perfect because it wasn’t the typical turn-21-and-puke-yer-guts-out birthday. Oh, and I also won the jackpot (150 or 200 quid) on the slot machine on the ferry from Dover to Calais.

But, no, I don’t remember any particular significance to turing 21.

That’s very much the problem. We do that too, in equally-reckless fashion, just at a different age.

One curious fact that I happened on when researching Baltic ferry connections: on Silja line ferries, the age limits for certain connections and days sometimes are as high as 23 years for people not accompanied by an adult.

Now why would that be… :smiley:

If you go to Norway you can celebrate being able to get drivers licences for heavy motorcycles and busses.

The age limit for beverages containing more than 22% alcohol by volume, is 20.

I turned 21 in St. Petersburg, and it was kind of a teachable moment for the Russians, explaining the significance of a 21st birthday in the U.S. (I think the legal drinking age may have even been 21 in Russia at the time, and it was in the middle of Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign, so booze in any serious quantity was relatively hard to come by unless you had black market connections - which practically everyone did - or hard currency.)

I’m not much of a drinker anyway, but someone bought me a bottle of coffee liqueur from the hard currency store, and I had fun walking around the dorm pouring shots for the other students and getting birthday congratulations. Even if 21 isn’t normally a big deal where you are, to the OP - my hunch is you won’t have a problem finding people to celebrate with you. :slight_smile: