In Sweden, there is no tolerance for drinking and driving. One drink and you are over the limit if caught operating a vehicle. Sweden, especially its capital Stockholm, has the infrastructure to support this: metro including busses, trams, and trains operating all hours to all locations. I'm immediately struck by the contrast with a city in the US, the capital of Texas: Austin. I lived here for five years and thrived. Since I left in 2007, Austin has strained under big growth opportunities secondary to music, tech, and education. Two annual festivals bring pulsating traffic to Austin: South by Southwest and Austin City Limits. Austin does not have the 24 hour metro infrastructure set up to navigate late night crowds and tragedy occurred at the last South by Southwest festival due to drinking and driving. Again, this is in stark contrast to the baltic countries I visited the past two weeks including Sweden, Finland, and Estonia.
What is not different is the media emphasis on thinness and beauty for women. In the United States, there is an unrealistic thin ideal pushed that is found to increase body dissatisfaction in women. Girls grow up seeing their bodies as objects: how am I perceived? whereas boys grow up seeing their bodies as tools: what can I achieve. In a recent Atlantic article on confidence differences between women and men, the former internalize failure whereas the latter externalize failure. These mind sets create a vulnerability in women, placing an over-emphasis on looks and decreasing the likelihood of action until perfection is achieved. In Estonia, a billboard especially stood out of a near-naked too-thin very-young model. She was not covered by clothes; rather she was covered by two short statements: WOW and OMG. In media, men are shown as full body or faces and women are literally displayed as body parts, piece meal, active objectification.
I also want to comment as to food. One key difference between the United States and the Baltic countries (similar to other European countries) is the breakfast. The breakfast is rich with rye bread, meats, cheeses, eggs, yogurts, maesli, and porridge. The empty caloric breakfasts common in the US aren't immediately visible. Still, rather than encouragement of the whole fruit that is fibrous, dense, and more sating, juices and sweetened versions are encouraged.
In sum, possibly due to internet, possibly due to export of American business such as media and McDonalds, there is an amalgamation. Many aspects of drinking, body image, and food culture are the same across the Baltics and the United States: a new hybrid. Some cultural approaches are different such as zero tolerance to any drinking and driving. On a side note, a blurb in the Atlantic on the new dry bar in England shows that there may be a new culture developing around non-alcoholic drinking scenes. I was reminded of a rich muddled strawberry with lime juice 'cocktail' I enjoyed in San Diego. The tagline to one of the first dry bars is, "Because 'sobriety is the new 'shit-faced.'"