When to Wine: Drinking in a New Country

Anna Depoian Accademia Italiana Florence, Italy


October 24, 2021

I want to talk about the topic many people gloss over when studying abroad in a new country: drinking. It is the elephant in the room, yet many avoid engaging in honest conversations about it.

In Italy, the drinking age is 18. This means that the majority of students studying abroad can legally drink. We go from a place where drinking is taboo until we are 21 to a culture where drinking is a part of everyday life. We are supposed to be respectful models of our country, yet we are hardly advised on how to act when a new cultural experience is put in front of us. 

Is it rude to say no to alcohol here? How much am I supposed to have? Do I drink at every meal or only for certain occasions?

During my time here, I have received the Italy education on all things drinking. The reality is that you’ll see people enjoying a glass of wine with dinner. Italians over the age of 30 typically are the ones having wine with their meals. You likely will not see drunk Italians or drunk Europeans. This is because drinking is a part of their culture, and drinking is incorporated into their lives far earlier than ours.  

Wine and alcohol are a privilege here, and we should follow the actions of those around us and not over indulge. But with all that said, students our age do drink. They stay out late in the Piazze, holding their own bottles of wine. Not everyone is prim and proper, drinking one glass with a plate of food. Sometimes, they drink to excess and act like the foolish teens we see on TV. 

From the realities to the hidden truths, I’ve learned how to operate in a place where drinking is now legal and a cultural norm. Have wine when it’s offered to you. Don’t have more than a glass with dinner because drinks can add up quickly. Drink when you’re out with students or friends if you want to. No one can make you. Remember that the European students have been drinking a lot longer than you, and most can handle alcohol better. Do not try to keep up. 

As a whole, alcohol should be respected, appreciated, tried, but not overused. I think we should educate ourselves better before we come to a country where alcohol is a cultural practice so we can be excellent representatives of our country and Arcadia. 

Trying new things is part of the experience, so I hope this was helpful and realistic. Know when to wine when going abroad!