I’m used to striding confidently into a bar, walking tall, and scanning the room to spot the friends I’m meeting. Walk in like you own the place. Be confident. Look cool. So cool that a guy calls after you as soon as you walk through the door. Yeah, I’m hot stuff.
“Ma’am? Ma’am! Can I see your ID please?” Oh, right. My identification. To prove that I am of legal drinking age. That being the ripe old age of… 21.
Now this has taken some getting used to. I am most definitely not in the habit of having to prove my age in order to drink alcoholic substances. I have no recollection of ever being “carded” in any of the countries where I lived in Europe; it is just not done. First of all, the drinking age is 18 (not 21). Second of all, nobody cares.
In fact, it’s even legal for a 16 year old to drink beer, wine, and cider in public places in the UK, provided they are (a) accompanied by an adult who buys them the alcohol, and (b) drink the alcohol as an accompaniment to a meal. (And even when these conditions aren’t met, in practice 15 and 16 year old Brits are often served alcohol at pubs). If you’re a parent and you want to start your child drinking even younger, good news: it’s legal for a child as young as 5 to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises in the UK.
In the US, meanwhile, I find myself still being carded at the mature age of 32. (I mean, I’d be flattered if they thought I might be younger than 21, but I know they routinely card everyone.) The vast majority of countries in the world, especially the more developed ones, have a legal drinking age of 18. I wonder if the handful of other countries that have a legal drinking age of 21 – Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Micronesia, and Oman for example – are as thorough about checking IDs…