Abroad Angle: Becoming accustomed to out of country alcohol policies

At my first American party, I was amazed that alcohol seemed to be a tempting forbidden fruit among American adolescents. Is it illegal for Americans under 21 years old to drink any kind of alcohol? All my friends simultaneously nodded their heads.
Naturally, Americans are curious to know the drinking age in China — my motherland. My answer: There is no drinking age. There is no law prohibiting adolescents from drinking alcohol.
The only related law is the Law on Protection of Minors, prohibiting anyone from selling alcohol to people under the age of 18. As long as people do not drive after drinking, they will not be punished for drinking alcohol, no matter how old they are. In my eyes, wine and beer in China are nothing but normal kinds of drinks on the menu, just like tea and juice.
Hearing this, some of my friends replied jokingly, “Perhaps we should go to China.” Others were a little worried about the social safety of China, asking, “What if people get drunk and fight in the street?” Of course, the police do arrest people for endangering the public; however, you rarely see anybody in drunken brawls in the street.
Other than the law, Chinese people are usually restricted by moral code or social customs. It is a virtue for young people to be obedient to their elders. They are told that alcohol is bad for their health, especially when they are under the age of 18. Few people want to irritate their parents, and they know that it is improper to ask for alcohol while underage. Even if they are old enough, they do not want to get reprimanded for returning home drunk. That is probably the main factor as to why I don’t see anyone drunk in public.
I notice that Rider carries out a new alcohol policy including: parental notification, a fine, alcohol education, community restitution and dismissal as punishments. Obviously parents from both countries watch their children to try to provide them with a healthy adolescence. The difference is, America puts alcohol policies into law and administers strict restrictions to prevent young people from taking a sip of alcohol.
It is interesting that I have never seen or heard of any youth or adult who is an alcoholic in my neighborhoods. People in China pay a lot of attention to their reputations. Being able to appreciate good wine is nice, but being addicted to alcohol becomes an issue and can result in losing friends, your job and other things.
Another reason is consideration about one’s health. The people who drink the most in China are the businessmen. It is a Chinese custom to drink large amounts of liquor and beer when negotiating business transactions at the dinner table. Alcohol can easily pull two strangers together. It’s a way for businessmen to maintain long-term relationships with their clients. Though it is a custom, businessmen still complain about the health problems brought about by excessive drinking. Most of them already have trouble with hepatic diseases. I wish there were other methods of showing friendliness that could take place instead of drinking alcohol. I wish there was some way to change this convention, but I know it is a huge part of our culture and it cannot be easily changed.
Luckily, America does not have this kind of business custom, but the cultural difference may somewhat influence the business between the two countries. Americans and Chinese people still have a lot more to learn about each other when it comes to cultures and customs.
-Li Yiyun

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