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Drinking Age

New York
Level Contributor
145 posts
2 reviews
Drinking Age

I'm hoping someone Danish can explain the thinking behind the laws about the legal age to drink. We will be visiting with our 16 year old, so I got curious.

As I understand it, at 16 a person can buy beer or wine, but nothing harder, in a store and take it to drink, say, at home or in the park with friends, but can't buy anything harder, anything with a higher alcohol content.

But a 16 year old cannot be served a glass of wine in a restaurant or bar.

The prohibition on hard liquor sounds to me like a concern about kids getting too drunk too quickly, trying to keep their alcohol consumption safe and reasonable.

But allowing them to buy bottles in a store sounds like a quick route to getting very drunk, very easily. Drinking in a bar or restaurant would seem to lend itself more to moderation, both because that is generally more expensive per drink than buying a bottle (at least here in the US) and a waiter or a bartender can cut someone off if necessary.

If my 16 year old is going to drink legally, I'd rather have him have a beer at dinner with his parents in a restaurant than sit in a park with friends with a 6 pack. I want him to learn to drink socially, moderately and responsibly.

I'm not criticizing Danish law, I'm trying to understand. To sum up, why the prohibition on hard liquor and the prohibition on drinking in restaurants and bars? That seems contradictory to me.

4 replies to this topic
Copenhagen Region...
Level Contributor
340 posts
3 reviews
1. Re: Drinking Age

It's true. You have to be 16 to buy alcohol under and up to 16.5% volume, and 18 to buy alcohol with more than 16.5% alcohol volume. A restaurant, bar, etc. you have to be 18 to get served alcohol with a volume of 2.8% or more (if I remember correctly).

For the record, there's no legal drinking age in Denmark. It's discouraged for children under the age of 16 to drink, but it's not a law, and it's definitely not uncommon for children younger than 16 to drink alcohol. As a parent, you can choose to buy alcohol to drink with your child no matter the age of the child.

So when you go to a restaurant in Denmark, you can ask for a light beer for your 16-year-old. If you want to have something stronger, you (or your 16-year-old) can buy it and drink it in your hotel room, a park, public bench, etc.

Why is it like that? Since there's no legal drinking age, parents can start offering their kids a drink at dinner before they turn 16, so they aren't totally new to it when they can buy it themselves.

I believe you there are special rules for closed, private events. At my secondary school, alcohol was also sold to people under the age of 16 at school parties, but it's the teachers who sold it, so there would always be a responsible adult present to say stop if/when someone got too drunk.

That being said, Danish Youths have several times gotten the title as the ones who were drinking the most, when compared to the youths in the rest of Europe. And a title like that is probably not something to be proud of.

Edited: 12 June 2018, 07:05
Copenhagen, Denmark
Level Contributor
1,609 posts
2. Re: Drinking Age

It's true that waiters can't serve alcohol to people under 18. However if they are having a glass of wine in company with their parents I would be very surprised to see this enforced. It would be seen by most as intruding on the parenting of that particular family.

However, if underaged children go to bars/restaurants alone it might very well be enforced. Especially in bars.

Level Contributor
12 posts
1 review
3. Re: Drinking Age

I see your point with drinking in a restaurant with your parents.

This law is, like many danish laws, created on custom and not 100 % logic. What I mean is, that a lot of danish laws build on what danes already do and not always on what is most logical. It sounds like an odd way of making laws, but it actually works, because hard logic is not always a good way to make laws. For an example if laws were only based on hard logic, cigarettes would be illegal, and a lot of people would be criminals.

This is my thoughts as a dane:

Going out and drinking out would quickly evolve to a situation, where very young people would be in bars. I don't think that the law is made to target parents drinking with 16-year olds at restaurants, but to avoid having young people drink by them selves at restaurants and bars, where people will be out all night amongst drunk grown-ups. In a situation like that a young 16-year old would loose control amongst drunk grown-ups loosing control. Bars and clubs in Denmark are generally very safe, but still a place for drunk people, who is not always having their smartest moments while drunk. A drunk 16-year old in a situation like that would not necessarely be able to make the best decisions either. Music and dancing in bars and clubs contribute to a sensation of invicibility, that people already get from being drunk. Invicibility does not help you make the best decisions. Add to that drugs being taken i places like that, even though drug consumption in Denmark is low.

Hanging out at parks in Denmark during the evenings and drinking at home parties are maybe a safer alternative. Parks are very safe in Denmark, as there is almost no crime in general. Drinking i parks also creates a natural time to go home. When it gets dark, it's time to go.

House parties, on the other hand, are in a home environment, and therefore in a safer environment. You can go to sleep if you had too much, you don't have to go outside to call your parents and so on.

The danish law on under age purchase of alcohol has actually been tightened quite a bit. When I was 13 the purchasing age was 15 for all types of alcohol in shops. When I turned 15 the age was changed to 16 for all types and now there is a distinction between alcohol volume.

New York
Level Contributor
145 posts
2 reviews
4. Re: Drinking Age

rejsemai, thanks. That makes a lot of sense.

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