Petra and I have had the opportunity to guest-teach English in the local High School here in Orahovica this fall. One of the topics we used to get students talking was "culture shock". What does it mean? We followed that conversation with an activity where the students had to come up with 3 things Americans would be shocked at here in Croatia.
Just about every class brought up alchohol. Some mentioned that Americans would be blown away by the strength of Croatian "rakija". Others noted how many people drink in Croatia. One person mentioned the legal drinking age (18) which is not strictly enforced.
And that's true. If I know where I could find underage drinkers on any given Saturday night, I'm sure the police do too.
But it got me thinking about the "legal age" a person has to be in order to do something.
For example, in Iowa, a 15 year old can get their permit to drive. Here you have to be at least 18 and pay an arm and a leg for that privelege.
In America you can't legally drink until you're 21. And you know what? That's not necessarily a bad thing. But think of all the things you can do (legally) at 18.
One friend in Croatia thought it seemed strange that an American 18 year old is allowed to join the military, kill someone in another country and come back to a celebration. But they're not allowed to have a drink. They may have a point.
On the other side of the ocean, Croatian law inforcement could easily lower the underage drinking rate. But what brings in the most money here? Bars, cafes and discos. Why stop now?
What dictates the legal age in a given country? Values? Money? Tradition?