China, on drinking alcohol…

Whatever your religious faith, views differ on drinking alcoholic beverages.  Even among my Christian friends we draw the line in different places when it comes to the topic of drinking.

In my personal experience in China, things are different.  There is no minimum drinking age, and what Americans would consider “under age” kids routinely drink large quantities of alcohol.

We have been doing Midterms this week and one of my groups presented a 15 minute lesson for the class on “How to Be a Bartender”.  I let the students pick a topic of their choice and didn’t really think anything more about it.  In the teaching profession (especially here) you live and learn, and I certainly got a wake up call this week.

Not only did the girls show a powerpoint on how to make Bloody Mary’s and Mint Juleps, they also brought in a couple of flavored sodas as a visual aide.  As part of their presentation they served up the strawberry, orange, and lime soda into small cups and handed it out to my 8:00AM class.

I turned to the two boys beside me and asked what the drink was.

“It’s just something you drink with dinner,” my eighteen year old student replied.

“Bob,”  I said “This doesn’t have alcohol in it, does it.”

“No, of course not.” he replied.

Then I got my cup and tried the pineapple soda, and folks it was alcoholic.

The thing about the story is that it genuinely does not even register in their minds as being alcoholic.  The girls are relatively good students and to my knowledge were not trying to cause a disruption in class, so I am not going to dock their grade for it, but a beverage that is 5% alcohol would be enough to be expelled from a western classroom.

Instead of punishing the girls, I think this will be a teachable moment for my students.  We will have a heartfelt conversation in class next week and get them to really think about their culture and beliefs and decide for themselves what lines they want to draw in their own life.  For myself, I have made the personal decision not to drink any alcohol, and I want my kids to know that.  I also want them to explore the idea of having a minimum drinking age in China and hear their thoughts and perspectives on the matter.DSCN1146


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