Thursday, June 10, 2010


When I was a toddler, my parents were hanging out at a neighbor's house. I don't know if it would technically qualify as a party, it was really a gathering of friends. At this gathering, beer was plentiful.

Somehow, during the course of the afternoon, I earned myself a job. When someone finished their beer, I would toddle the empty bottle out to the trash can, then toddle my way back in.

Now, at this gathering, which I remember, folks weren't getting drunk. They were drinking and socializing and having fun. It remains my earliest memory of the fun that can be had in community.

I cannot truthfully say that no one was getting drunk. I was. Unbeknownst to my parents (or anyone else), when I was toddling those near-empty bottles out to the trash, I was also finishing them. I remember the beginning of the afternoon, but I have no clue about the end. I found out from my parents years later about how sick I was (and about how bad they felt).

I've been reading an outstanding book called The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille (yeah, he's French). In it, he describes how our culture imprints us with certain ideas or codes that determine how we look at specific things in life. Through a process of working with groups of people, he has determined what a number of these codes are for Americans and for folks from other cultures. These codes play a part in how we act, what we value and how we spend our money. It is really interesting stuff.

He also discusses the idea that a strong stand-out event (particularly from childhood) can lead someone's code in that area to diverge from that of their culture.

In America, people's first exposure to alcohol usually has a few things in common. It is before they are of legal age; it is rebellious and dangerous; it is to get drunk. Afterward, people see alcohol as a tool to get drunk and to rebel against the establishment. In the US, most people drink to get drunk and to thumb their nose at the world.

My first major exposure to alcohol was much different. Alcohol was about community. It brought people together. Drunkenness was a consequence of going too far, not the end goal. I've never had a drink to get drunk, that's not the way I relate to alcohol. This is why the French have their kids dip cookies in champagne; they are trying to imprint them to relate alcohol to food and taste.

This doesn't mean that one view of alcohol is right or wrong, just that it means different things to different people - with good reason. Sometimes we think about our view of the world and struggle to understand how others could see things differently. If your culture code is different than mine, how could I expect you to look at things the same way?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

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