Denmark

Danes are rightly famous for their good looks, but unlike most other places, their lucky draw at the gene pool hasn't translated into the self assertion and confidence you normally see. And the Danes have become infamous for being closed and tight lipped, bordering the outright rude. So while it is by no means impossible, you will still be hard pressed to find a Dane readily engaging in casual conversations with strangers. That is, until you hit the country's bars and nightclubs.

As any foreigner who has spend time observing the Danes will tell you, alcohol is the fabric that holds Danish society together. And when they are off their face in the dead of night, they suddenly let their guard down, loosen up, and while a bit pitiful, they somehow transmorph into one of the most likable bunch of people on Earth. Rather than the violence associated with binge drinking elsewhere, because it seems to serve a very important social purpose, the natives get very open, friendly and loving instead. It takes some time getting used to, but if you want to form bonds with the Danes, this is how you do it - God help you if you are abstinent. This also means Danes have a very high tolerance for drunk behavior, provided it takes place in the weekends. Drink a glass or two of wine for dinner during the week is normal, as well as 20 pints on a Saturday night, and puke all over the place.

There is no legal drinking age in Denmark, although a legal purchase age of 16 is in effect in shops and supermarkets, and 18 in bars, discos and restaurants. The enforcement of this limitation is somewhat lax in shops and supermarkets, but quite strict in bars and discos, as fines of up to DKK 10,000 and annulment of the license can incur on the vendor. The purchaser is never punished, although some discos enforce a voluntary zero-tolerance policy on underage drinking, where you can get kicked out if caught with no ID and an alcoholic beverage in your hand. Some would claim that the famous Danish tolerance towards underage drinking is waning in light of recent health campaigns targeting the consumption of alcoholic beverages amongst Danes. As adult Danes do not approve of the government interfering with their own drinking habits, the blame is shifted towards adolescents instead, and proposals of increasing the legal purchase age to 18 overall have been drafted, but have yet to pass Parliament, neither is it likely too in the foreseeable future.

Drinking alcoholic beverages in public is considered socially acceptable in Denmark, and having a beer out in a public square is a common warm weather activity there, though local by-laws are increasingly curbing this liberty, as loitering alcoholics are regarded as bad for business. Drinking bans are usually signposted, but not universally obeyed and enforced. In any case, be sure to moderate your public drinking, especially during the daytime. Extreme loudness may in the worst case land you a few hours in jail for public rowdiness no record will be kept, though. Most police officers will instead ask you to leave and go home, though.

Danish beer is a treat for a beer enthusiast. The largest brewery, Carlsberg which also owns the Tuborg brand, offers a few choices, as well as a delicious "Christmas beer" in the 6 weeks leading up to the holidays. Other tasty beverages include the Aquavit Snaps and Gløgg - a hot wine drink popular in December. Danish beer is mostly limited to lager beer pilsner, which are good, but not very diverse. However in the last few years Danes have become interested in a wider range of beers, and Danish microbreweries' excellent products are increasingly available. The Danish Beer Enthusiasts (http://www.ale.dk/) maintain a list of bars and restaurants with a good selection of beers as well as a list of stores with a good selection.