Saturday, April 10, 2010

Teenagers growing up in Europe... what's next for them?

On St. Patty's Day, my friends and I went to the local Irish pub for Irish dancing and green beer.  It seems that we were not the only ones with this idea. Many of the the teenagers from the US base also went to the Irish pub. This is legal as the drinking age in German is 14.

Seeing the teenagers on St. Patty's day made me wonder what life is like for them growing up in Germany.  I was even more curious after I ran into one group of students near the toilet - this group was wearing green Guiness hats, making an especially loud scene (a difficult feat in an already loud Irish pub on St. Patty's day), acting like the rulers of the bar, and already drunk from drinking lots of green beer.  They were all 15-16 years old.  This is common behaviour amongst the US base teenagers.  In a small town* like Heidelberg, it is quite frequent to see teenagers who you know drinking in restaurants, bars , etc. on any given night.  A friend of mine who works with the high schoolers mentioned that she's overheard many of the students discuss how often they drink (frequently) and the best places to sleep when they're drunk and can't go home (to avoid being caught drunk by their parents).  These teenagers are living in an almost surreal world of their making where the options are limitless. 

Typically this type is seen at the beginning of the 1st year college.  Then it tapers off.  If these teenagers are drinking heavily at 15 yrs old, what is next for them?  Do they drink less as they grow older or do they try to top this? What happens to them when they return to the US or when they start college? 

*From the US perspective, Heidelberg is a village.  Locals prefer to call it a city.  Small town is a good compromise.  It's qute frequent to see people you know, or people with whom you work, while out in town.

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