For generations, US youths who enjoy drinking have tried to circumvent the strict protection of minors. In the 21st century, modern technology helps them: even the strictest bouncer is virtually powerless against fake IDs. However, these young people do not feel criminally involved.

The high heels are rattling. It’s Saturday night and 19-year-old Olivia McMiller roams the party district of the US capital Washington with her two friends. In front of every bar, every restaurant is a bouncer. “There’s live jazz over there, what do you say if we take a look?” shouts the student. She quickly pulls on her cherry-red lipstick and heads for the bar with her friends. The bouncer looks at them first, then at their IDs. And the prospective lawyer McMiller is in the bar – illegally.

Many U.S. teenagers aren’t squeamish about their drinking methods

At 19, Olivia is a minor under US law. Although she may drive a car in some US states at the age of 15 and join the military at 18, Olivia is not legally allowed to drink alcohol in the USA until she is 21.

“Fake IDs are a social duty, at least when you go to college,” says the brunette student from the Rocky Mountain state of Wyoming. Hardly any of her fellow students abide by the alcohol law. Olivia has a rather flexible legal understanding regarding the protection of minors. “A fake ID possession is not really considered as a criminal act by my circle of friends. Otherwise it is not possible to go to bars or restaurants in the evening.”

50 to 200 dollars is the price of the ticket to the US party world. Olivia ordered her fake ID card online – like so many other students. “And two weeks later, a parcel came from China,” says the young woman.

“Here I feel like a child”

In the “Madams Organ” dance bar in the trendy Adams Morgan district, bouncer Daniel Karth has already seen pretty much everything the forgers from the Far East can do. Only once every two weeks Karth rejects a partygoer. If there are protests, he also calls the police once in a while. “But that’s usually not necessary. “The cheaters are so meek when I catch them.”

Olivia’s peer Katharina Grandl doesn’t want to take any risks. Before the exchange student from Germany is caught, she prefers not to go dancing in the clubs of the US capital. “But it’s already a challenge for me. In Germany I have been able to go to almost every club for years,” says Grandl,” but here I feel like a child.

Grandl also enjoys one or two drinks in the USA. “The older boys buy the booze and we just chill,” reports the Augsburg native. “For me the college parties were like a culture shock at the beginning, now I just think it’s funny,” she says. Vodka flows in streams every evening in her dormitory.

“Booze is part of college culture”

American teenagers drink as regularly as German teenagers, but more excessively: 28.2 percent of 10- to 20-year-old Americans reported drinking alcohol at least once a week in 2011, according to a report by the US health authority. In Germany, 27 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds, as stated in the Federal Government’s drug and addiction report in 2011.

For Olivia, these figures have nothing to do with the strict protection of minors or the “charm of the forbidden”.

“Drinking is just part of college culture,” says the law student. In their view, looser laws are useless. “They would only support binge drinking.”