Northern countries and alcohol

Countries of Northern Europe have quite a reputation for drinking. A saying about Scandinavians goes that to them, drinking alcohol without getting drunk is a waste of perfectly good alcohol.

British has a pub and binge drinking culture. The most Northern part of the UK, Scotland, is also known as the heaviest drinking one.

The Irish and the Russians also have quite a reputation for drinking.
Is it unjustified stereotypes that all happen to apply to Northern countries?

If not, what are the reasons? Does it all come down to “There’s not much else to do when the weather’s shitty”?

Do very Southern countries in the Southern hemisphere have the same phenomenon?

New Zealand - check
Australia - check

Antarctica - not so much :wink:


What, drinking? South Africa overall has not the same reputation, I think (but we’re not as Southern as the Northern European countries are Northern, IYKWIM.) But Coloureds do have a rep as drunkards. (although that’s more along the lines of Native Americans and Australian Aborigines, not nationwide)

For reference: List of Countries by Alcohol Consumption

From Alessan’s link (for those who don’t want to click) it looks like you’ve basically got all of the former Soviet block, then South Korea, then all the rest of Europe with Scandinavian countries mixed in with all the rest.

But my knee-jerk answer was going to be, MichaelEMouse, have you ever lived in an extreme northern/southern latitude where it was dark for most of the day all winter? If so, I don’t think you’d be asking this question. Seasonal Affective Disorder is very real.

My personal theory is that the wider variation in daylight hours plays a role. I visited Denamrk in midsummer, and it seemed like everyone was out at restaurants and clubs until quite late every night, albeit in daylight. I asked a Danish friend about it, and she said that when there’s so much sun, people are so happily lively that they stay up until all hours drinking. I then asked her what happens in winter, and she said that when it’s dark all day long, people get so depressed that they stay up late drinking.

I’ve never been clear on whether or not that was meant to be Scandinavian humor.

I’d like to see this data represented on a map somehow. (I supposed we could correct for primarily Muslim countries, too.) The idea, I guess, is that the closer you are to the equator, the less alcohol consumption.

I lived close to equator for a couple of years (in Colombia)–still go there a lot–and I can say that while alcohol is popular, people don’t drink as much in quantity as in the States. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone there binge drink, or falling-flat drunk, either.

There’s not really much of a comparable sample. There just isn’t as much inhabited land at high southern latitudes as there is at high northern latitudes. Hobart, Tasmania, is one of the more southerly cities in Australia, and it’s only at 42 South. Christchurch, New Zealand, is at 43 South. Girona, Spain, Crescent City, California, and Erie, Pennsylvania, are at comparable northern latitudes. Those aren’t places most people in the northern hemisphere would think of as particularly northerly. Cape Town, South Africa, is at about 34 South, comparable to the latitude of Los Angeles or Columbia, South Carolina in the north. The largest cities in Argentina tend to be at latitudes in the 30-40 South range, as do the large cities in Chile

Largely a myth, according to the Dictionary of Misinformation, the heaviest drinkers are the Mediterranean countries like Italy. I actually read this yesterday. :smiley:

South Korea? Why? I didn’t expect that.

Check out the stats posted before. Italians drink a lot of wine, not so much heavy liquors, so it’s a lot in terms of “liters of alcoholic drinks”; not so much in terms of “liters of alcohol”.

Well, if you just escaped from North Korea, what would *you *want to do all day long?

How are we measuring this? Is it by liters of alcohol consumed, frequency of drinking alcoholic beverages, frequency of getting drunk, percentage of the population that drinks alcohol, number of arrests or car accidents where alcohol is involved, or what? You could argue for any of the above, and you’re probably going to get different results based on what metric you use.

Gee, why would places with short growing seasons end up with a culture where fermented plant products are a normative part of the diet? And then habit-forming products end up forming habits, at that? Really?

Fact is, there’s drinking all over the world. Some of the Muslim nations (not all; Uigurs drink a lot, if Danimal is to be believed) are throwing off the curve.

It was; it implies that a Dane would need a *reason *to stay up late drinking.

Eat & shop.

There’s an additional wrinkle here, in that latitude does not entirely define climate, or even whether we think of a country as “northern”. Venice, Italy, is at a higher northern latitude than Minneapolis, Minnesota. Really. Google it. It’s close, but Venice is farther north. But most of us would think of Minneapolis as northern and don’t tend to think of Venice that way.

The climates in Minneapolis and Venice are, of course, quite different, despite being at similar latitudes. One factor is that being near large bodies of water, such as the Mediterranean, tends to moderate climate. Most of the inhabited land in the far south of the southern hemisphere is near water, so it’s likely to have a more moderate climate than land at an equivalent latitude in the northern hemisphere that is in the middle of a continent. There aren’t any large inhabited continental land masses at high southern latitudes. You just aren’t going to get Moscow-style or Minneapolis-style weather in inhabited parts of the southern hemisphere.

In addition to coming up with a definition of “drinking a lot” that works across different cultures, we have to come up with a definition for “very northern countries” and “very southern countries”, ideally one that takes climate, not just latitude, into account.


I’m from Canada.


You’re right about climate and latitude.

How about Chile and Argentina, is there a lot of drunkenness there? It’s possible to drink a high amout of alcohol thorughtout the year yet seldom be drunk. The person who drinks a glass of wine at lunch and dinner every day and the person who has 14 shots of tequila might drink the same amount of alcohol weekly but the effects aren’t the same.

Going through the book again, the rate is in per capita consumption of absolute alcohol and France is number one with Italy right behind. Of course its from the Sixties and didn’t include Iron Curtain countries so its outdated now.

So you just waltzed in to brush off current WHO data as a “myth” based on a book that’s half a century old and incomplete?