As an immigrant one of the first things is the notion of different drinking age laws in the Americas and germany.
The laws between the states in the US are variable yet it expresses a disagreement on a contentious topic. The question arises whether it is positive or negative for young people, being regarded as a legal adult at age 18, eligible to vote, who can enter the military service or take out loans, or become married ( heiraten) even at younger age with parental consent, drive a car, work full time, receive capital punishment, but is not allowed (erlaubt) to purchase alcoholic beverages.
Most cities have laws (Gesetze) prohibiting open bottles of alcohol and the only place to openly drink is likely your own home or yard.
In some states of the US, the legal drinking age can be as high as 25 years of age and identification cards (Identitäts Karte) must be presented when buying alcohol in stores (Läden).
Though often enough, alcohol is sold to underage people, who bypass laws with fake IDs. Obviously, drunk driving is a big issue and is unacceptable, but it is questionable if the drinking age law is a means to address the problem. Likewise, preventing binge drinking (Trinken) at universities and colleges by invoking drinking age laws probably will not work and may even encourage it.
In Germany the laws (Gesetze) are quite different as compared to the drinking age laws in the US; youngsters at age 15 or older when accompanied by an adult guardian are legally allowed to drink fermented alcoholic beverages to a certain extend. The possession or consumption of alcohol by minors is not outlawed. However, consumption is not tolerated in public, nor is it acceptable to sell any alcohol to minors. Once at age 16 or 18 you are legally allowed to consume distilled beverages, while it is accepted (legal) that children as young as 14 can drink together with their parents.
Coming from a German culture, I grew up by tasting my father’s wine (Wein) or beer when I was a kid. When reaching adulthood there was no desire to get drunk, probably because I was already accustomed to drink alcoholic beverages. I wonder why it is that in German universities we may not experience (erleben) binge drinking at such a large scale?
As a child, knowing already what it tastes like, what it feels like and what the effects are, it may have given the insight for the consequences it might give. Furthermore, children are less inclined to drink secretly in the back yard because drinking alcohol is not a violation. When it comes to drunk driving we have to understand one thing. Young people in Germany do not drive a vehicle at the age of 17, not even with an instructor.
Exchange students between the Americas and Europe, for example, have conflicting scenarios. The US student is surprised by the loose rules governing equal treatment between young and old, while the foreigner student in the US is suddenly confronted ( Konfrontiert) with rules that does not make much sense. The question comes to mind, should the driving age be changed to German standards? Should there be more public transportation so that young people “can” drink, or should young people have to wait until they are 21 years old in order to legally drink a glass of wine?