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Europe meets D.C.: Drinking and American sports

Friday - 10/5/2012, 3:40pm  ET

Christine Amdam, of Norway, and Alina Braun, of Germany, are WTOP interns experiencing American culture for the first time. (WTOP/Melvin Chase)
Editors Note: They traveled 1,230 miles to come to Washington, D.C. -- Christine Amdam flew all the way from Norway and Alina Braun from Germany. This fall, they are studying journalism at American University and working as interns for WTOP. They quickly discovered that Washington and the American culture are very different from their hometowns Oslo and Mannheim and decided to document their experiences. Check each weekend to read about Christine and Alina's "culture clashes."

Drinking age: 18 v. 21

Alina Braun,

Many students I go to American University with are not 21 yet. Based on United States law, they should never have had a taste of alcohol in their lives. Obviously, this is not the case.

They drink secretly, letting someone else buy the alcohol for them or using fake IDs. The police regularly crash dorm parties to catch people drinking underage, but that doesn't really change the situation. To me, it seems as if drinking under 21 in the United States is a normal thing, as if everyone does it, even if they're not supposed to.

In Germany, we are allowed to drink beer and wine at age 16. At age 18 we can drink all kinds of liquors.

Of course, Germans get drunk, too. Of course, some binge drink (a term that does not exist in German) and of course, there are some teens under 18 who drink liquor. I mean, just visit Oktoberfest — the real Oktoberfest in Munich.

Still, alcohol is looked upon differently in Germany. American teenagers who drink try to keep it a secret. As it is often with things that are forbidden, I have the feeling that alcohol is desired more by young Americans. Therefore, it likely leads to more extreme binge drinking.

A waitress carries beer mugs in the Hofbraeuhaus tent after the opening of the famous Bavarian "Oktoberfest" beer festival in Munich, southern Germany, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012. The world's largest beer festival, to be held from Sept. 22 to Oct. 7, 2012, will see some million visitors. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

I think that young Germans learn how to appreciate alcohol and learn how to deal with alcohol responsibly at a younger age. They can have a glass of wine to enjoy the taste and not simply want to feel the effects.

Therefore, lowering the United States drinking age back to 18, as it has been suggested several times, would be a good idea, in my opinion. The drinking age was raised to 21 in the mid-1980s to reduce highway fatalities, according to CBS. This goal was not accomplished. The number of fatalities did not significantly decrease and people between 18 and 21 still drink — just secretly. Thus, I don't see the sense in keeping the drinking age at 21. What are the advantages?

Alina Braun is an intern at WTOP this fall. She is studying journalism and foreign policy at American University for two semesters. In Germany, she is obtaining her master's degree and studying , in which she is majoring in linguistics and minoring in psychology. She works as a freelance journalist for the German public radio station SWR.

What is all the fuss about American sports?

Christine Amdam,

I have always been interested in sports. I play handball, the only sport we Norwegians actually can be proud of the results. (The women's team won the Olympics in London this summer.)

In handball, you throw the ball and you are not allowed to kick it. You also run a lot. There are seven players on each team and the game goes pretty quick.

I also play soccer and have been an active athlete, but when I came to Washington, D.C., I felt that I had no idea about what sports are about. I understood quickly that if I wanted to be part of a regular conversation, I had to learn some important things.

For example, the Washington Nationals, or the Nats, are the local baseball team. I found all the fans wear T-shirts, caps and sweaters with the W.' It is crazy how much money is invested in this sport. I have always felt it is unfair that European soccer players earn as much money as they do. The only thing they do is get out of bed, kick after a ball, maybe run a bit and then they can do whatever they want the rest of the day. But if you put some extra zeros on their salary, you might get what an American baseball player earns. And what do they do?

The season is really short and most of the baseball players are not what I consider athletes. They just throw a ball! The locker rooms look like fancy suites, and the players lay on boats on the French Riviera when they are not in season. And the games are actually boring to watch. The audience is more into their beers than following the game. The games last forever, too. How the players can make so much money is still a mystery to me.

The other teams I have heard a lot about since I came here are of course the Washington Redskins, Wizards, Caps and DC United. But soccer is not popular at all. There is just not enough money in it. At this point of the year, it's all about baseball, and I must not forget about American football.


"Defense, defense!" An editor at WTOP was standing up and screaming through the newsroom. I thought for a second that she was going to climb up on the table. A lot of the reporters were also enthusiastically following a Redskins game one Sunday night on TVs in the newsroom.

"Interception!" That is also a word I heard again and again during the game. I felt like the game was on forever. The clock stops all the time and I really don't understand the rules. For me, it is a sport for angry men with a little too much testosterone that they need to get out. But I heard that you need to be a little brainy to play the sport. And these guys are well trained, that is for sure. Robert Griffin III is the new young player this season and I can tell the fans like him a lot.

If the Redskins are playing, you will see a lot of fans in town. They are wearing their Redskins shirts and the sports bars are full. People are yelling at the big screens while watching the game. The question is not if you are going to watch the game, but where. I feel like you are not an American unless you have stood in a bar, screaming "defense!" with your big football shirt on.

Christine Amdam is a WTOP fall intern. She is studying journalism at Oslo University College in Norway. Christine is studying at the American University Washington Semester Program in D.C. for one semester.

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