I have many takeaways from my recent trip to Norway. One of them is a renewed understanding of a much-enjoyed pastime, social drinking. I realize having a glass of wine or beer with your meal is part of western European culture, and it is completely normal and acceptable. I think this is a very pleasant experience. However, this practice in Europe is often done at home or while strolling the city streets. I'm beginning to wonder if our affinity towards social drinking has become a bit too mainstream? Let me elaborate on my thoughts.
Here in the United States the wine, craft beer, liquor, and hard cider has become a booming industry. It has allowed for new commerce, reuse of farmland, and has even revitalized cities and towns. Many of these locations have fallen into the long-forgotten past. For many locales, the formation of new watering holes has become a perfect place to gather from small towns to urban centers. There’s little doubt this trend has improved areas that were past their prime.
Back to Norway. I had the opportunity to visit my relative's homes in the afternoon and the early evening. However, no alcohol was served unless we were in for the night. I believe the reasoning is twofold: it's not part of their ingrained culture like other European countries, and no one drinks and drives! Both these reasons have a long-standing history with me and I'll give some examples from my past.
I grew up going to Norway. My experiences started as a young child of two and continued through all the various stages of my life. I can remember as a young adult having to drive someone's car home from a neighboring town because they had a beer or two. This was thirty years ago. The laws were very strict back then and remain so today. What was the reasoning? I suppose they didn't want to lose their license and go to jail. Of course, there were other reasons too, like getting into an accident or injuring someone. However, many think they are perfectly capable of driving after one, two or even more drinks. My perspective has changed. Fast forward to 2019 and a recent conversation I had with some of my Norwegian family.
Two conversations stuck in my head. The first was from my cousin. He recanted a story that occurred while in Florida. A man he knew had a few beers and remembered he had to go pick up his child from school. My cousin reminded the man of his recent consumption. The man replied he was perfectly fine to drive. This would rarely happen in Norway. You would never have a few beers in the afternoon, then get in a car and pick up your child, no less at school. This is an inappropriate scenario, right? Maybe he was perfectly within the legal drinking limit for driving, but is that really the point? The second conversation impacted me even more. It was from the same cousin's daughter.
She stated the reason why people don't drink and drive is if you are driving and an accident occurs, you are in essence free. If you're screened for alcohol and there is no alcohol in your body, then alcohol is not to blame. Let's say you were in an accident, and you were below the legal limit of alcohol. If you injured or heaven forbid killed someone, don't you think you would always wonder if the alcohol in your system had an effect on the accident? If that was the case, are you ever free?
This has had a profound impact on how I look at social drinking. I think we need to reestablish not what is acceptable, or within the law, but what is right. If you're driving, you just don't drink alcohol. I think we need to be more conscious, and deliberate in our decisions about alcohol. This way I or we are beyond reproach and no one can ever say, well maybe it was that last drink.
Like most of you, I enjoy experiencing new establishments in my ever-changing community. Please join me in taking a stand against drinking and driving. It isn't worth the potential risk. We have options. We can designate a driver, call a taxi, Uber or Lyft. Or there’s always the option to just stay home. But whatever you do, don't take the chance. Your life and the life of others is much more valuable than enjoying a cocktail.
The legal alcohol limit in Norway is 0.02 and in most of the United States, it is 0.08.