It is hard for Americans to understand how a kid-oriented fast food chain like McDonald’s could possibly sell alcohol without troubles. However, one main reason why McDonald’s can successfully incorporate beer into its menu is because the German mentality toward alcohol is very different than that of Americans.
In Germany, and all over Europe, it is socially acceptable to appear with alcohol in public. Minors view alcohol as something common and do not usually drink just to fit in with the “cool” crowd.
The restricted access to alcohol in the U.S. was meant to prevent minors from drinking until they reach a more responsible age. However, it had an opposite effect, and minors find alternative ways to get to alcohol. The risk of getting caught doesn’t intimidate teens much. Even though the alcohol-related laws were meant to restrict consumption, it seems like they backfired, encouraging binge drinking and an increased peer pressure to drink just to be more popular. Check out these three links for examples of this:
The following video is a common reaction of Americans at a German McDonald’s.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the difference in perspectives is the substantial difference in the drinking age of the two countries. When Americans find out for the first time what Germany’s drinking age is, the reaction is mostly shock or disbelief. In Germany, 14-year-old minors are allowed to consume and possess alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine in the presence of their parents. At age 16, German minors are allowed to drink beer and wine without parents having to be there. Once they reach 18 and become adults, they are allowed to drink any sort of alcohol such as hard liquor and are not restricted to just beer and wine.
While Americans are shocked with the little restrictions on alcohol consumption in Germany, Germans are shocked that people in the States have to wait 21 years to enjoy their first legal alcoholic beverage of choice. Beer is a major part of German culture and – Germany has about 1,300 breweries, which is more than any other country other than the U.S., which has 1,500.
Alcohol consumption by German adolescents is traditional and generally accepted. This is how McDonald’s can easily sell beer in a kid-oriented setting. If a 14-year old chooses to do so and has the approval of his/her parents, he or she can order a cold beer right along with a Happy Meal. While it might seem like a strange combination, the kid will not be thrown in jail and charged outrageous fines for their alcohol consumption.