Being the holiday season, the never-ending problem of drinking in England becomes even more apparent than it does the rest of the year. The last two to three weeks in December, most people in this country are either drunk or in the process of nursing hang-overs. Its got to the point that James and I won't even go out on New Years because there's just too many drunk people around who are annoying and cause trouble.
Binge drinking is officially a problem in England. Many government initiatives have been started, with little positive results to squash and regulate this. I'm not surprised though because pub life is a huge part of the culture. When you think of pub's you think of seedy little bars with flashing neon lights, the smell of smoke and weird creepy men eyeing you up. Well, its not like that (for the most part) here. Pub's are a place you take the family for Sunday lunches out and is where friends and work colleagues meet. The government banned smoking inside pubs and most are old Victorian style, with beautiful interiors. The entire social networking is centered around visits to pubs and even if you don't drink alcohol, you still go to the pub and have a huge choice of alternate beverages open to you. In a way, pubs are very similar to cafe's, but a lot more 'homey'. So, based on all of this you can see why its so incredibly difficult to not grace through the doors of a pub in this country. If you don't you can pretty much kiss any chance of friends goodbye.
Being fond of 'the drink', the English have learned the art of making alcohol. Besides tea (that's a completely different subject) the amount of beer that this little island makes is astonishing. Alcohol in Europe has more alcohol content than the U.S. and your lucky to find anything for beer below 5%. (Beer in America is around 1 1/2-2%) and wine is ludicrous at 12.5%. The term 'alco-pops' is a big thing as well. There's a huge choice of sugar-laden alcohol related drinks that you literally cannot tell they are alcoholic as they taste of soda-pop. Its unfortunately become a problem for young teens obtaining these 'alco-pops' before the legal age requirement of being 18 years old. Its very common seeing teens standing around drinking because they have little else to do with their time.
The country caters to this 'abuse' and then is surprised when they have more problems with anti-social behaviors and other problems. Too many use alcohol as a coping mechanism, which only covers the real source of the problem in my opinion. I don't think a downright ban is necessary but more education should exist about the effects as well as alternate coping skills in dealing with stress. Alcohol should be approached with a very very mature attitude or completely avoided if not possible to drink in moderation. This has been my approach to it since I've lived here and James tries to do the same. On a positive note though, a lot of people it seems are starting to become more health conscious and binge drinking is getting better. I don't think that this problem will ever go away entirely but I think that there is hope for the future.