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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Drinking Around the World

Every culture, every country has its own particularities and traditions around alcohol.  Most of us associate France with wine, the UK with ale, Japan with sake and the US with....

Well, I wasn't sure about the last but I found an excellent World Health Organization report here that had the answer.

  • According to this report American drinkers prefer beer (53%) over wine (16%) and spirits (31%). 
  • The French, true to the stereotype, largely prefer wine (62%) over beer (17%) and spirits (20%).  
  • The UK is somewhere in between with beer leading (43%) but wine quite close behind (30%).  
  • In Japan spirits lead the pack (42%) with beer a distant second (22%).   

In all four countries the WHO predicts that consumption will remain stable over the next five years.

There is also some very interesting information (by country) about consumptions patterns, official alcohol policy and health consequences.

Concerning France, I have often had the impression over the last twenty years that consumption patterns have changed in important ways.  I still remember extended family lunches and dinners where wine was always served and everyone drank moderately but continuously.  When I first started working here back in 1990 there were a lot more "pots" (after work cocktails) and a lot of 2-hour lunches.  Today (at least in my circle of friends, colleagues and family)  people drink much less at lunch, the after-work cocktails are much less common and many of my younger staff prefer a Coke to a Kir.   The WHO data seems to support that - check out the drop in consumption that starts in the 1960's and steadily decreases until it stabilizes around the mid-1990's.

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