Never a beer drinker, the past couple years in Europe have changed that somewhat. From the day I entered high school until the day I graduated from college, I had never finished a bottle of beer. I couldn’t stand the flavor and never understood how people enjoyed the taste. It just wasn’t for me. Friends joked that I wasn’t a ‘true Canadian,’ because I hadn’t grown up savoring Molson Canadian, Kokanee or Labatt Blue.
However, as I’ve matured into a young adult, I’ve finally learned how to enjoy and appreciate the taste of beer. I don’t drink a lot, but when I do it’s usually in a group setting. I’m a social drinker who enjoys sharing a pitcher with friends, nursing a pint or two when out on the town or cracking one open after a long day or exhausting game...
Though Europe and North America share similarities, it’s their differences I’m always intrigued by. During my first season abroad, I couldn’t believe how accessible and free flowing alcohol was. Rarely will you find an enforced drinking age in European countries and if you do, it’s still likely to be ignored. Here, kids grow up in an environment where alcohol is a part of their surroundings. Sometimes I convince myself this could be a reason why you don’t hear about an excess of teenage alcohol related issues in Europe.
After 3 seasons abroad, I’ve finally taken note that the majority of the gyms I practice and play in all include a bar. The bar is open when the gym is open and if you feel like enjoying a drink, or two, or three - all the power to you. It’s commonplace and is a part of the everyday norm. No one is being judged and for the most part everyone is behaving in an acceptable manner. Business is especially booming before basketball (handball, volleyball, etc) games, where you’ll see groups of people enjoying drinks, only to come out again at half time for another and mingling over a few more when the match is over. Weekdays or weeknights - it’s a way of life. And at 2 Euros a beer, you're not breaking the bank. There is nothing wrong with this tradition, but it’s interesting seeing and experiencing something so different than what I’m used to.
Back in Canada and the US you’d be hard pressed to find parents sitting in a bar enjoying a drink, while they wait for their kid to finish karate practice in the gym down the hall. Even finding a bar connected to a sports facility would be close to impossible - unless of course you're at a professional arena like GM Place for a Canucks game or BC Place when the Lions are in town. Amateur sports? Never.
I’m no beer connoisseur, but since being in Luxembourg I’ve found that German/Lux/Belgian beers live up to the hype. They’re good. They have distinct tastes and it’s possible to enjoy a beer purely for the sake of enjoying a beer. After games I’ll find myself sitting at a table with friends, only to have the bartender come over and put down two cold ones right in front of me. Always confused, I try to explain I didn’t order anything. He always smiles and say “they did” pointing to a fan, friend or acquaintance somewhere in the room. It’s part of the lifestyle here and I'm living it, plus it seems silly to waste a perfectly good beer...
Basketball Update: Sunday we cruised to a victory over the team sitting in last place. However, these last couple of weeks have been very frustrating - as we don’t seem to be improving or working on our weaknesses. We still make the same mistakes and are giving up WAY too many points. We can score, but at some point you’ve got to make stops. Big game Saturday against one of the league leaders. It would be great to get a win.
Sidenote: Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends! I'm thankful for all of you!