Am I old enough to drink in Germany?

By Brian Lemay 38 comments

In the headlines this week: thanks to
the heatwave we’re experiencing at the moment, Germany is running out of beer bottles. So let me begin this video with a general plea to
all Germans and all visitors to Germany: When you’ve drunk your beer,
please remember to return the empty bottles and get your deposit back. Thank you. The stereotypical German loves beer of course, and German wines and spirits are legendary. But particularly for Americans, and especially
for you young’uns out there, this raises the question: what are the laws and rules
surrounding alcohol in Germany? A lot of young Americans ask about this, and are particularly looking forward to finally
being able to drink alcohol legally. So yes, it’s true:
you really don’t have to wait until you’re 21. There are two types of alcoholic drink: those produced by fermentation —
so that’s beer and wine — and those produced by distillation —
which is pretty much everything else. There are slightly different laws
for the different types; and the logic here is that it’s very difficult
to give yourself a fatal dose of alcohol if you drink beer or wine: you’re very likely to pass out or throw up
before you can poison yourself. You can legally buy beer and wine
at the age of 16, and everything else becomes legal
at the age of 18. And be prepared to show some form
of official ID with your birthdate on it. If you are 14 or 15,
you can legally drink beer or wine if you are accompanied by your parent or guardian or by an adult with your parent’s
or guardian’s permission. In addition to all that, you cannot be
legally sold or given alcohol if you are already obviously drunk. One of the things that surprises some Americans is seeing Germans openly drink alcohol in public. There’s no hiding of bottles in paper bags, no attempt to disguise the fact
that you are drinking alcohol. That said, some cities may have local ordinances banning the consumption of alcohol out of doors in certain places at certain times,
usually at night. This isn’t because there’s
anything wrong with alcohol as such, but more likely because there were complaints
about antisocial behaviour or broken glass. So, those are the laws. What about the unwritten rules
of social behaviour? Obviously, these are more vague, and the exact rules are going to vary
depending on the exact context. But the general rule is this: drinking is perfectly normal; being excessively drunk is frowned upon. There has been some concern
over the last ten years or so about the apparent rise in the incidence
of binge-drinking among the young, and it’s not as if no Germans ever get drunk. But even so, on an average Friday night
in an average German city, you’re likely to find far fewer loud drunks than you would in, for example, a British city. Usually, you drink to relax and enjoy yourself, not as a race to see how much alcohol
you can ingest in the space of an hour. If you reach the point where
you’re waking up residents with your singing or picking fights with strangers, you’ve gone too far
and most Germans will not be impressed. On the other hand, if you prefer not to drink
alcohol or you feel you’ve already had enough, than that’s fine; order a non-alcoholic drink — only an idiot will think less of you for that. If you do arrive here hoping for your first
taste of alcohol, take it easy. Remember that you are in a foreign country, and you don’t want to wake up
in a drunk tank or a hospital bed. That’s bad enough in your own country. In a foreign country it’s many times worse. And if you do end up in a drunk tank,
you will be billed for it. I read one article that calculated that if you were so drunk that it took
four officers to bring you in, you could end up owing them €272. And I realize that I am beginning
to sound like your dad, so let’s just wrap this video up now. So: at 16 you can buy beer and wine,
at 18 you can buy anything, have a good time but drink responsibly, and that’s pretty much all you need to know. Thanks for watching. If you’d like to
send me a postcard, here’s the address. And don’t forget to visit my website
and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Also, if you’d like access
to special bonus content and help with the costs of running this channel, please consider making a small
monthly donation on Patreon.



Aug 8, 2018, 7:17 pm Reply

First like and first comment.


Aug 8, 2018, 7:20 pm Reply

Die Altersgrenzen entstammen dem Jugendschutzgesetz. Dieses findet jedoch nur Anwendung in der Öffentlichkeit. Sprich: auch ein Dreizehnjähriger darf in der Wohnung Alkohol trinken.

Ragna Eyjadóttir

Aug 8, 2018, 7:27 pm Reply

Yes, holding a bottle of beer on a hot summer day is perfectly normal in Germany from what i know. It is not even very much status bound. I have seen lower social class people as well as higher social class people. I have never seen anyone running around with liquor though .. so i guess high alcohol content drinks are not OK.

And except for some exceptions .. i really have almost never seen seriously drunk people in the city (and that is Hamburg .. if any city should have drunk people it is a seaport city) – when it comes to "loud behaviour" though .. well, there is a lot.

The Dr. Terminator Show

Aug 8, 2018, 7:37 pm Reply

I think your videos are great and can tell us all about Deutschland (Germany) without it being boring.


Aug 8, 2018, 7:44 pm Reply

Didn't you cover this topic already?

Brave Neue Welt

Aug 8, 2018, 7:53 pm Reply

Dont worry that you could Remind me of my Dead. His hair is already Grey.

Pop Rey

Aug 8, 2018, 8:23 pm Reply

I’ve got 20 Kölsch bottles and 20 Dortmund Union bottles in my cellar in the UK. Do I need to post them back to Germany? ?

unci narynin

Aug 8, 2018, 8:34 pm Reply

Most important rule: Know your limits. (And know in advance whether you'll be driving in traffic later on that day.)


Aug 8, 2018, 8:47 pm Reply

I really, really hate the alcohol culture in Germany, tbh. We just had Altstadtfest not too long ago, which sucks when you live right on the street where it happens. So many alcoholic half-corpses already lying around in the mid afternoon, all while kids watch it and of course, get a swig of alcohol here and there, as well. And I'm not talking about teenagers, but 10 year olds. Totally normal, eh?


Aug 8, 2018, 9:14 pm Reply

Für die überwiegende Mehrheit der Deutschen sind immer noch Leute mit der Bierflasche in der Öffentlichkeit asoziale Alkoholiker – was sie ja auch sind.


Aug 8, 2018, 9:27 pm Reply

thanks dad

Felix W.

Aug 8, 2018, 10:38 pm Reply

Cider is also legal at age 16

Gerd Papenburg

Aug 8, 2018, 10:44 pm Reply

Shortage of bottles only exist in breweries which use special flip-top bottles for their beers. There is no shortage of standard beer bottles.

Christoph Päper

Aug 8, 2018, 12:10 am Reply

“Kein Bier vor Vier”: unless an alcoholic, Germans generally donʼt drink alcoholic beverages before late afternoon, except

1. sparkling wine at receptions (which may include your coworkerʼs birthday _at work_) and posh brunchs
2. beer (and possibly Korn) at a Frühschoppen (North) or Weißwurstfrühstück (South), traditionally after Sunday mass
3. after a written exam
4. at a stag/hen party or a weekend trip (by train or bus) with your Verein
5. beer after playing an early match in an amateur league
6. at a festival of any kind (musical, folklore, Karneval, Schützenfest …), also includes watching a football match or some other sports
7. Alster / Radler when itʼs hot outside or youʼve worked out
8. for a lot of ad-hoc excuses

“Kein Bier nach Vier”: at four in the morning after a night out, you should be either asleep or drunk enough already.


Aug 8, 2018, 12:46 am Reply

Very good comment!

HappyBeezerStudios – by Lord_Mogul

Aug 8, 2018, 1:56 am Reply

One and a half year since the last one:
Still great to keep the topic active.

Robert Jarman

Aug 8, 2018, 2:31 am Reply

Two years ago I was in Belgium, and incidentally, the laws for alcohol there are largely what Germany has. I was 16 and it was close to my dad's birthday, and so what is the most exotic thing I could get him that I could not back home because there you have to be 18? A bottle of wine of course. It shocked me once when the alcohol was sold in a typical grocery store, and again when I was about to get my identification card from my pocket, explaining to the clerk in French and Dutch as best I could that I was fishing it out when she said in English that she believes me on my age.

Randy Kirk

Aug 8, 2018, 5:05 am Reply

00:30 "young'uns". I love this word, so glad to hear it used.


Aug 8, 2018, 10:09 am Reply

A hospital in Hamburg has a room, tiled all over, even the bunk is, which has a writing at the ceiling: "You are alive and you are in hospital" in case someone wakes up in a puddle of puke the next morning and does not know where he or she is. Fact is that in most towns "helpless" people are taken to the intensive care units of a nearby hospital for fear they might suffocate on their own vomit. Policestations are cronically undermanned and cannot cope with people that must be looked after permanentely.


Aug 8, 2018, 10:36 am Reply

Children start drinking till they are unconscious with the age of 13 today 🙁

Mat S

Aug 8, 2018, 1:43 pm Reply

there is no country on earth where you have to be 21 to drink, apart from the US

Eisi Kater

Aug 8, 2018, 2:52 pm Reply

Andrew, shame on me! I got 85 empty beer bottles in my house, that's 4 1/2 crates, I really didn't know that there's a bottle shortage in Germany, I will return them as soon as it starts to rain.

Mo Makes Art

Aug 8, 2018, 3:57 pm Reply

alcohol should be banned 😛

pomfret and pommes frites

Aug 8, 2018, 4:19 pm Reply

"Young Americans look forward to being able to drink legally". Because that age 21 rule didn't stop them from drinking illegally lol. For the same reason they come to Canada but our age limit is 19 years old


Aug 8, 2018, 4:37 pm Reply

DO NOT drink wine directly from the bottle! (-> thumbnail)


Aug 8, 2018, 10:52 pm Reply

It's weird, that you are allowed to buy a gun in the age of 18 and alcohol in the age of 21 in some states.


Aug 8, 2018, 1:20 pm Reply

Ha, yes alcohol out in the open is quite normal. The bigger the city, the more you will see it.
I, for one, go to work around 7:30. Since I live in a big city, I walk by the heroin junkies first, sitting next to the train station, peacefully nodding off their high with a half-burning cigarette in their hand. Then I walk through the train station, past the school kid who's rolling a breakfast blunt for his girlfriend.
I then take the underground (where alcoholic consumption is forbidden in my city), and then wait for the bus next to the guys who are coming home from the night shift. They're drinking beer out in the open before 8 am, but, as you can imagine, this doesn't faze me that much, concidering what I have already seen on that day.

Michael Kreißig

Aug 8, 2018, 4:42 pm Reply

Concerning drinking alcohol in the public, you definitely should go again to Würzburg. (last video was great btw.) On the Alte Mainbrücke you can get the so-called "Brückenschoppen". It's great on a mild summer evening. A great place of social encounter with locals and foreigners. Maybe you might make a video about that.


Aug 8, 2018, 9:32 am Reply

I prefer beer in cans in any size, so no big trouble for me 😉

Alexander Goeres

Aug 8, 2018, 11:46 pm Reply

you shouldn't drink red wine directly out of's forbidden. and if you are caught doing it you get sentenced to 10 years in the salt mines. just use wine glasses like everybody else …

menkulinan aldebaran

Aug 8, 2018, 10:21 am Reply

Like your dry humor


Aug 8, 2018, 12:30 pm Reply

Nice vid, Rewboss. 🙂 One addition: A friendly request 🙂 to all young people who are old enough to legally drink (and buy!) alcohol:

Don't assume your age to be obvious to the cashier. And even if a cashier assumes by just looking at you that you are above the required age, (s)he may still want to see your ID. It's to be sure. 1. If you are not old enough (and it gets noticed by people in charge), 1. the cassier will get punished according to law and 2. the store may lose its licence to sell alcohol, tobacco etc. what likely leads to an enormous loss of customers in case of cioscs, gas stations etc., leading to their financial ruin. So don't assume the cashier wants to harass 25 years old guys like you for fun. Be polite.

I once worked as a cashier and can confirm that a significant amount of people don't get this when they are asked to show their ID.

One real example:
Customer: puts cigarettes on desk
Me: "Hi. May I see your ID?"
Customer: looks offended, blushes "What? Do you even know how old I am?"
Me: also blushes "Well, no. And that's the exact point of it."

Just don't let these conservations happen, putting everyone in a bad mood. Let's be polite to each other.



Sep 9, 2018, 3:38 pm Reply

You may add that the laws of your own country still kinda apply, meaning that some countries may prosecute you when you disobey their law – even if you are in a foreign country. For example sex with minors are illegal, in some few countries it might be legal, even have a thriving prostitution industry and therefore be total fine getting such service, but if it comes out in your home country you might be in trouble. The same with alcohol for some countries, especially deep conservative muslim countries.

max rhum

Dec 12, 2018, 11:38 pm Reply

We drink beer as early as 12 as long no smoking… At home only. Even coconut wine…. Thats philippines. Why? At home only, bcoz old one thinks we drink it anyway we cn so they prefer it at home rather far away from be


Jan 1, 2019, 10:54 pm Reply

Most important rule:
ist der ruf erst ruiniert lebt es sich ganz ungeniert
If the reputation is ruined first, it lives quite unabashedly

Kirt Kirt

Jan 1, 2019, 6:30 pm Reply

i used to often drink in public, such as having a beer while i walked home, even though it's technically illegal in Australia, but i've stopped doing that now because i now live very close to a police station ?

Xaver Lustig

Mar 3, 2019, 2:47 am Reply

I wonder how old the rules against selling alcohol to minors are. When I was a child back in the last millennium, I would go shopping for my parents, and the shopping list would sometimes include alcohol such as digestive bitters or a bottle of schnaps. The cashiers didn't even blink. This must have changed at some points, because nowadays it would be unacceptable to sell liquors to children. Did the law change at some point, or just social attitudes? I could imagine that the law was the same then, but it wasn't usually respected, because everyone knew that children would often be sent to buy alcoholic beverages for their parents?


Sep 9, 2019, 6:17 am Reply


Leave a Reply