Culture

French kids drink wine: myth or reality?

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Do French kids drink wine??? France, wine and children: is the incredible cliché true?

Did you know that not so long ago, French kids drink wine at the school canteen! There is this cliché of the French kids drinking wine. But are French kids still really drinking wine? 

The approach to alcohol is definitely cultural. It was surprising for me to discover it in Anglo-Saxon countries. I found some similarities in Ireland, Canada or the UK where there is such a big ban around alcohol! But also huge tentatives to go around it!

So, let’s see where the French cliché comes from!

A bit of drinking history

Until 1956, children were allowed to drink wine at lunch. It was mainly wine cut with water, but still! Today, it seems quite shocking, even for a French!

But apparently, at the time, what shocked the parents the most was the decision of the Ministry of Health to ban wine in schools. In the 1950s, many parents still believed that wine was good for children’s development, that it made them stronger

So, some parents decided to put up a fight. They gave their children a bottle of wine to take to school with them!

Anyway, in 1956, alcoholic beverages were officially banned from canteens in France, but only for those under 14! Teenagers over 14 years old were still allowed to drink. And it was only in 1981 that alcohol was completely banned in French schools. 

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But these laws are only about drinking alcohol at school! There is no specific law forbidding minors, under the age of 18 to drink alcohol in France!

Well, you should know that minors are not allowed to buy alcohol.

The French kids’ wine drinking education

Until the age of 18, children are under the legal authority of their parents. And the parents have every right to let them drink alcohol. But if the parents make their child drunk, they risk losing their child’s custody.

Watch out, I’m not saying that French children drink wine every day with their parents. I’m saying that alcohol drinking is part of education in French families.

During family meals, it is not rare to initiate the young kids to drink wine and associate it with food.

I remember the first time I tried wine I was 7, and my dad put a few drops of red wine in my glass of water. I didn’t really like the taste, but I was so proud to discover it! I thought that I’d certainly like it more when I’d be an adult. Which came out true. So this means that for me (and many French kids), alcohol was never the forbidden beverage I wanted to get.

My culture shock experience around alcohol

I remember when I spent 3 months in Ontario Canada at the age of 15, it was not rare to see teenagers looking for ways to get alcohol. I remember once a friend offering a soda but the can was half full of spirit! I had no idea! I let you imagine my reaction when I drank it!

French kids drink wine: A national health issue

But, we should also know that in France, 60 to 70% of 11-year-olds in France have already tasted alcohol and that 5 to 8% are regular consumers. Doctors have been warning about the danger of initiating alcohol drinking as it can increase the risk of becoming an alcoholic later on. 

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Despite all the doctors’ warnings, wine has a very important part in French culture but also in the French economy. The wine lobbies are very powerful and also provide over half a million jobs in France.

The problem is France is one of the countries where people drink the most alcohol. It is still ranked in the top 15 in the world. And when you know that alcohol kills more than 40,000 people in France every year, and that wine accounts for 58% of our alcohol consumption. It is clear that this is a real problem for society and not just a question of education.

Wrap up

Yes, French kids are still initiated to wine and alcohol drinking in the family eviremenent. There is no real control which in some cases can lead to excess. This is one of the reason why French doctors sound the alarm.

There you go, now you know a bit more about the complicated relationship that the French have with wine.

Do you find French culture around wince and alcohol surprising? What do you like or dislike about it?

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