French Drinking Culture

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Even though I grew up in France, the drinking culture never cease to amaze me. Okay, maybe “amaze” is the wrong word: it actually scares me more than anything. “La modération” is a foreign word here, in Brittany.

French drink a lot but they don’t realize it. Their excuse? “C’est culturel“, “it is our culture”. It is true to a certain extent. France does produce good wine and a lot of people truly enjoy it, but I am really not sure nursing a can of beer while grocery shopping should be considered “normal” or “part of the culture”. There is no legal drinking age—technically there is but I have never seen it being enforced, and teens can easily buy alcohol at the supermarket or in bars. Binge drinking is popular among students and even seemingly “responsible” people tend to drink too much at dinnertime.

I am not a teetotaler but I find it strange and slightly annoying to see people drunk in public during the day… And it gets worse at night, especially in the downtown core, where people party until sunrise and occasionally fight, get sick or express their drunkenness loudly in the street.

In Nantes, the area between Commerce and Bouffay is a long succession of pubs, kebab restaurants, cafés and wine bars. Terraces encroach on the sidewalk and French enjoy their favourite activities: drinking, eating, chatting and smoking.

You can see the complete set of pictures of France here.

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Art in Bouffay

Art in Bouffay

Art in Bouffay

Art in Bouffay

Sky in a Small Alley

Sky in a Small Alley

Street Light in a Small Alley

Street Light in a Small Alley

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Bouffay

Cours des 50 Otages

Cours des 50 Otages

Commerce

Commerce

Place Royale

Place Royale

Commerce

Commerce

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

20 Comments

  1. Stunning photos again. England is terrible for this too and I feel exactly the same way about it – somewhat ashamed too. I hate any talk of the English yobbery and try to distance myself from it!

      • I visited Brittany a few years ago and I swore I would never live there because it reminded me too much of Britain’s drinking culture, which really scared me sometimes. The Brits have got one thing right, though, and that’s the line of taxis that is always waiting outside the bars. For most Brits a night out = a ride back in a taxi.

  2. I would certainly say that many of the Bretons I know could rival the Scots for their drinking capacities (Understanding Frenchman is an exception!). I would say that, among our generation at least, there is still less drinking just to get drunk, and there’s definitely less vomiting here in Paris on a Saturday night than there would be in Edinburgh, but on the other hand, it horrifies me the way drink driving is still so acceptable here. Every country has its vices, I guess. But I did read recently that for the first time, teenagers in the UK are drinking less than they used to, so maybe times are changing … Slowly!

      • I agree with what Candolia said about our generation drinking less to get drunk. Or maybe I am getting old? Or maybe it’s because our generation is settling down and having children? Regardless, I feel that more and more young French people are binge drinking. It is definitely true that wine consumption is on the decline in France and beer consumption and consumption of hard alcohol is on the rise. I also agree that there are more problems with drinking in the UK than in France, but that there are some quite serious problems in France with drink driving.

        To be honest, I’d rather live with the UK’s binge drinking problems than France’s drink driving.

        • Don’t even get me started on French and “la prévention routière”…! France has one of the most expensive licensing system I know, one of the toughest too, and people are shitty drivers.

  3. Wow, it’s like that in Nantes?!

    I had the inverse culture shock when I arrived in Ottawa. I come from Paris, so I was not exactly used to seeing people sat at their doorstep with bottles of beers, like in Ottawa. The fact that you can only buy alcohol in registered shops (= LCBO for Ontario) made also a difference : I see people going out of this shop with a cart filled (I mean filled to the top) with packs of beers. The St Patrick day feels also a bit too much: I didn’t know and we were there once, and all downtown was drunk.
    On the other hand, I appreciate that most family event (like Canada Day) is alcohol free. Though I notice that they tend to sell more and more alcohol inside the event area, like during the Music festivals. It’s also true that the age is better checked… so much that I was ID checked myself for a can of crawnberry beer. Not bad for someone who just turned 30 😀

    • I also occasionally get IDed in Canada and it makes my day 🙂

      Yes, Nantes has a strong drinking culture, like most of Brittany I think. Rennes is even worse… I was shocked when I went there a few years ago, people were drinking beer at breakfast!

  4. Moi à chaque fois que je dis que je ne bois pas de vin, on me regarde croche! 😀 Ou bien quand on est invité quelque part et que je demande qqch sans alcool, parfois les gens n’ont pas! Ou genre juste de l’eau ou des sirops…

    Mais c’est vrai qu’ici c’est spécial avec l’alcool. Je ne dis pas que les gens sont toujours bourrés, mais même aux enfants on trouve ça normal de les habituer dès tout petit au champagne, au vin etc. (même si c’est juste tremper les lèvres)

    • Je vois complètement ce que tu décris! Je trouve ça choquand, en y repensant, et je suis heureuse que mes parents ne nous ai pas habitués à l’alcool.

  5. There’s the fact that the French is one of the unhappiest nation on earth.

    There’s the saying that alcohol drowns your sorrows.

    I guess it makes sense that it’s part of the culture 😉

  6. Hem… Each time I go to Brittany, I’m chocked to see that many people drinking in the street, in the middle of the day. I wouldn’t say it’s a french thing, as I’ve never seen it elsewhere! 🙂

    Though, when I was a kid, I liked tasting wine and cider. I don’t find it shocking, I was only allowed a very very tiny sip!

  7. Salut Zhu,
    Great candid shots( as usual). You are really good with street photography!
    I understand like we say here 20/20.
    I have seen it many many a time, even in the Metro. I partake a little but have had to learn to express a friendly when I have reached my limit.
    Have fun & be well!

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