One custom I wish the U.S. would adopt from Spain is its relationship with alcohol. The most surprising thing about traveling to one of the party capitals of the world was being taught how to drink responsibly. In Madrid, I have been introduced to a drinking culture in which young adults view alcohol in an entirely different manner than back at home.
My first drink in this city was only hours after I touched down in Spain, and here’s the real kicker: it was with my program director and advisors. Our first dinner as a group included a couple glasses of red wine, or “vino tinto” as they call it here. I guess because I’m not yet 21, the idea of having a drink with my superiors was a bit odd. But then, I realized that even back in D.C., having a drink with your professors at 21 would be considered slightly inappropriate, all due to the dark cloud surrounding young adults and drinking in the United States.
Back home, young adults aren’t trusted with alcohol. They are viewed as binge-drinkers and partygoers who just can’t handle their liquor. At the age of 18, they are trusted to go to war for their country, but not to enjoy a glass of beer. I find this completely ridiculous. I honestly believe that the negative stigma surrounding alcohol in the U.S. is exactly what pressures most kids to indulge in it as much as they can, whenever they can. In Spain, as I have quickly learned, things are completely different.
Since Spanish nightlife lasts well into the morning (it’s not rare to stay out until the metro reopens at 6am), people in Spain don’t feel the need to rush and “get drunk.” Clubs and bars don’t go into full swing until after 1am, anyway. What’s even more important is that alcohol is almost always accompanied with food. Drinks and tapas are a staple for a night out in Madrid (and probably why more people are able to handle their liquor). Long story short: In Madrid, drinking is just an excuse to spend time with your friends and family, and enjoy good food and music. It’s a social and casual event, not some marathon or competition. I think that young adults in the U.S. would be wise to take a hint from this Spanish way of life.