New Zealand has a problem with drinking. Namely 'binge drinking'. We seem to love getting full on trashed. A few quiet ones is not enough for most of us. Nope we aim to 'drink' as in the true sense of the verb. We use the term 'drinking' as an activity. "What are you up to tonight, Jenny?" "Oh I'm going drinking with Steph and Barb". Not, "Oh I'm going out for dinner with my friends," or I'm going to play Pictionary at a mates house. No, 'drinking' is what we do. According to Ministry of Health survey findings for 2011/12, 80% of adults had consumed alcohol in the past 12 months. Of those, one in five of them had hazardous drinking patterns. That's 19% or 532,000 people. But why? Why do we need to get blotto?
Is it stress? Well it shouldn't be should it? I have met so many ex-pat Americans who moved to good old Aotearoa because they were after a change of pace or a more relaxed lifestyle. Why then do we seem to need to medicate ourself with booze? In America, people are far more stressed than us. In the land where everything matters people rarely drink like us kiwis. They have a few and then stop and have dinner and go home. I'm sure there are a few who over do it at times but it is not a given for an evening. Nor is it as socially accepted. A friend of mine who moved to the US at 16 was incredibly put out. For back then it was just a normal Friday night for us to drink an entire 40 ounce of vodka and see what happened. When she got to the States not only was it impossible to get her hands on any booze, but it was just 'not done'. God no. I mean what if you got caught? There goes college! Instead people get together to study. Yep. Those Americans are a different breed to us. They work harder, but don't necessarily play harder. Interesting.
When I was in Europe some years ago, I discovered how different the drinking cultures of other countries were. Even out at night in Amsterdam people weren't as boozed as I see them on Courtenay Place on an evening. No they were at restaurants, eating and drinking but not knocking 'em back to get the balls to chat up some chick. I asked a German boy why they didn't drink like crazy in Berlin. He said pubs weren't just for drinking in. They were family places. They were light and warm and the whole family went to the pub to socialise. He was never raised as thinking drinking was bad. It was always around but something you do when you eat. And something you do when you eat with your family. Whilst at Octoberfest in Munich I noticed the beer-wenches were serving some odd kind of thinly peeled vegetable. I asked an older man what it was. "Radish," he said. " For when you have too much beer and get a bit rowdy. It calms you down". What a good idea! I was so surprised though. People actually admitting that some can get a little over-excited on the booze, but that they actively do something to chill themselves out. Never in New Zealand I thought. Well, maybe if they were trying to drive home. Which is a whole other issue!
One interesting thing that I learnt about our drinking culture was in France. I met a girl from Marseilles. She was telling me about a kiwi friend of hers who she had invited around to dinner. When she turned up she had brought a bottle of wine. For kiwis that is nothing. It is just being polite. But for the French it is not normal. "It was weird," she said. "People just don't bring wine for dinner. It just isn't done. We'd offer wine with dinner - most French people drink wine- but it isn't something you would take with you." I found this so interesting.
I remembered a time after I got back from Europe with my partner. I had just started working at a real job to pay off some of the debt travelling creates. My team leader announced that we were all going our for a team lunch. At the cafe/bar I ordered a meal and a glass of white wine. I got very odd looks from everyone at the table and my team leader looked a bit taken a back. After lunch he called me to his cubicle and told me it was inappropriate to 'drink' during work hours. There goes that verb again. After being in Europe where most have a glass of wine with lunch it was odd to think of this as drinking, but clearly to my team leader alcohol had its place and that seemed to mean that it should be consumed heavily at night, not casually with a meal. Is this mentality part of our problem? Are we all or nothing? Does making it 'bad' make us do it badly?
From this ............................................To this, in two bottles of wine.
Same goes in Europe. Family time. Kids drink weak wine. No taboos. Young and old. Together.
You know who we could blame? The English! Those dirty boozers! This is not New Zealand's culture! No no! It is an inherited culture. If only we had been colonised by the French. Wouldn't that be awesome. We could wake up and say "Bonjour" and eat Pain au Chocolat for breakfast! Or even the Dutch! I'm down with that, I am Dutch. I could get used to saying "Lekker" instead of yum when I eat appelflappen. Oh if only!
So anyway getting back to the experiment. It was a bad idea. Terrible. It started good. We had a few, got a bit silly then sat on the couch to watch 'The Voice'. I had a hankering for a cuppa tea. "No!" Mariana shouted. We are getting old! We are slowing down. We are meant to get drunk to show how bad it is! I think we need to go out! Seeing as me and Mariana never really go out when we are at her place, I was keen (probably had something to do with the two bottles of wine we had consumed too)
Off we went to a nearby cafe/bar. It was dead. Oh no, not quite. Some of Mariana's friends were there so we sat down with them. Mariana ordered us Moscow Mules and told the bar boy to "Keep 'em coming". Thats where things get blurry...
Oh to be like Kate Middleton. Kate Middleton is the epitome of grace. She is poise. She is purity. She is what to strive for. Kate Middleton does not scab cigarettes off young men when she is drunk. Kate Middleton does not ask men to kiss her when she is drunk. She doesn't ask boys their Star Sign then smile knowingly and slur "Oh, yeah, I know you." Kate Middleton would never mix white wine and red wine, she would never mix wine and spirits. Kate Middleton would never ever think it wise to educate young men on how to be good in bed. Nor would she ever, ever think it wise to talk about anal sex. Nope. Kate would just smile. Smile and exude extreme regality and grace. Somehow me and Mariana channelled Courtney Love instead. From now on we strive to be Kate Middleton. This is what Mariana and I decided whilst we were in bed next to each other. Both in trouble with our husbands. Both so disgustingly hung over we couldn't move. Smelly, filthy and ashamed of ourselves. Rocked with the hurtling feeling of our bad behaviour. Yep, from now on we're Kate Fucking Middleton.