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McDonald’s serves beer!

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Click on picture to see different McDonald's Menu items around the world

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:

Bonging in front of a college lecture

Small get together

Taking shots

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.

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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.

Inside the Hofbräuhaus in Munich

Inside the Hofbräuhaus in Munich

The tradition of beer consumption in Germany has been going on for hundreds of years. One of the best known breweries is the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. It was first established in 1589 by Duke Wilhelm V. This was his attempt to satisfy his “‘thirsty and demanding household”. They were dissatisfied with the brews produced in Munich, so they established their own brewery. It was an instant hit and the demand was so high they had to expand their business. The beer hall continued its successful operations throughout the early decades of the 20th century, until it was destroyed during a bombing in 1944. The brewery was rebuilt in its original style and reopened in 1958.

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.

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Click here to see what a McDonald's Menu looks like in Germany

5 Comments on “McDonald’s serves beer!

  1. Jamie Brady
    December 16, 2009

    Drinking underage has been a continuous problem for the United States. It is completely true when saying that teens feel totally comfortable drinking when they are not 21. The risks that kids are willing to take are starting to become ridiculous. The level of curiosity is too much for a lot of kids to handle which is why they turn to excessive drinking and partying. If we were allowed to drink at an earlier age, most kids would not be so crazy over alcohol.

  2. Adrian Santana
    December 2, 2009

    Klara, I couldn’t agree with you more. I personally find that binge drinking is so strong here in the US because beer is so heavily restricted. Maybe it should not be as low as in Germany considering the driving age here is lower than in Germany (getting a license in germany is also a lot more difficult and expensive), but I don’t believe the legal drinking age should be 21.

  3. Adrian Santana
    December 1, 2009

    Thank you for your comment. I am actually a little relieved that they don’t serve beer in connection with the happy meal, so thank you for clarifying that. I never really tried getting a happy meal with a beer instead of soda. But I figured if you are old enough you could get beer by itself and then buy a happy meal seperately. Being able to get your beer as a side of the happy meal might have been a little controversial.

  4. Klara Mijatovic
    December 1, 2009

    I don’t find it shocking that McDonald’s is serving beer at their German chain restaurants. Actually it’s kind of something you would expect and I’m surprised they haven’t done this earlier. I think it’s great that they don’t prohibit teens from drinking because teens tend to want things more if they are not allowed to do them. That is why kids in America are having a hard time with controlling their binge drinking and behaviors that are involved in such activities. Were they less restricted to beer and wine, they wouldn’t have to hide from their parents, go to parties and I believe that it might even reduce the number of teenagers who drink and drive.

  5. Paul Bolfing
    December 1, 2009

    I have had personal experience with the shocking fact that one can by beer at McDonald’s in Germany. While initially shocking, I believe that once one sees how beer and alcohol in general are viewed in Germany and Europe, it becomes understandable why it can be sold at McDonald’s. In addition to the fact that one can consume beer at a far earlier age in Germany than the U.S., I believe that the treatment of beer and alcohol as something not negative has a profound impact on the culture of alcohol in Germany in comparison to the U.S. (On a side note though, when I was in Germany and tried to order a beer with my Happy Meal, I was told that you cannot.)

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This entry was posted on October 28, 2009 by in Culture, German and tagged , , , , , , , .