Unlike in the USA, It’s Legal To Consume Alcohol in Public in Switzerland
I’m doing a toast to Switzerland.
Holding my arm high in the air, cold beer in hand, and giving the country a big Proscht!
Kissing her on the cheek – three times, of course – and walking hand in hand with her along the Limmat River to the lake in Zurich. Down the cafe-lined Steinvorstadt street in the early evening in Basel, through Winterthur’s Old Town, in the Flon area of Lausanne. Or, really, anywhere she wants to take me.
My celebratory mood comes from the fact that I am able to do something in Switzerland that I can’t do in most places in the States: Drink a beer in public. So on a trip to Switzerland, I went, beer in hand, for a walk down Lake Zurich on a nice summer evening without worrying about concealing it from the authorities.
Had I passed a cop, he or she would have done nothing, because he or she couldn’t have done anything. That’s because it’s legal to drink alcohol in the streets in Switzerland! You can go into a bar and get a drink and walk out with it. Buy a beer or wine from a street vendor. The only restriction – and this is a good one – it that has to be in a plastic cup or can. No glass (bars have plastic to-go cups).
Were I to try that in the States, I would be warned and forced to pour out the offending beverage at best, and fined (upwards of $100 USD) and arrested at worst.
If I am correct, there are only three cities in all of the USA where people can drink in the streets. One is Las Vegas, another is New Orleans and the third is Savannah, Ga. You can add to this any college campus on fall Saturdays; while not technically legal, it’s impossible to enforce the law with 75,000+ tailgaters, several of whom are rich alumni of the university, so the authorities give the people a party pass for the day.
America has the whole world whipped when it comes to college tailgate parties and games, by the way. Check this out from the University of Tennessee. Score one for Uncle Sam!
There are block parties in America, as well. But those often require a special permit from the city, and those permits can cost a few hundred to several thousands of dollars.
In Switzerland – and many other countries in Europe, as well – they bother themselves not with such petty laws. In America, we seemed to be obsessed with such things. Do you know the legal drinking age in Switzerland is 16? That’s for beer and wine; hard alcohol is 18.
In America, we can’t even get an adult driver’s license at 16. The drinking age is 21. Twenty-one!? That’s crazy. (More on that in a future post.) Why are we so forward in so many ways, yet so backward in others?
As I write this, sunset is approaching my beautiful residence of Manhattan Beach, CA, but if I were to take a beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail off the deck and onto the street in front of the house, I could be ticketed for drinking in public. While this is unlikely to happen, if one of the money-hungry members of the MBPD suddenly appears, it’s a distinct possibility.
This cops are especially on alert here for such reckless activity on big events such as the Fourth of July when tens of thousands of people appear on the beach sidewalk known as the Strand.
Us Americans, of course, are clever creatures and we manage to sidestep these regulations, anyway. Able to quickly adjust to nearly any situation, we are masters of cocktail concealment, and it a truly American trait.
But we need not worries about such precautions in countries like Switzerland.