• Sweden's news in English
 

Swedes and wine - an awkward romance

The Local · 3 Sep 2008, 10:27

Published: 03 Sep 2008 10:27 GMT+02:00

Do you drink wine? This summer I have been asking this innocuous question to many people I have never met before. Except for the elderly gentleman who answered yes, two bottles per day, most people interpreted the question as though I had asked "do you take drugs".

Swedes have a strange relationship with alcohol and despite the fast growing interest in food and wine, there is still a reluctance to openly admit that they embrace this healthy Mediterranean cultural trait.

Do you appreciate wine? A rephrasing of the first question provoked a very different response and the vast majority of people happily responded yes. So wine is to be appreciated, not drunk? The difference in the way these two questions are perceived goes to the heart of Swedes’ conflicting relationship with alcohol.

Another example is the "plastic bag of shame" that almost every Swede carries home clinking on a Thursday or Friday afternoon with their alcohol purchases from the local monopoly store. Drinking alcohol is something to be ashamed of.

Armed with chilled bottles of crisp Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc and robust Aussie Shiraz I used the round of summer parties we had been invited to to better understand the Swedish relationship with alcohol.

Alcohol played a large role in all the parties we attended, as it does in most countries, particularly in my birth country Australia. At the beginning of each party the differences between Aussie and Swedish parties were great.

At Australian parties the men gather around the BBQ and beer keg talking about cricket while the women prepare the salads and keep an eye on the raucous kids in the swimming pool. In Sweden the well-behaved guests talk quietly about their DIY summerhouse improvement plans and sip cold beers or glasses of wine from the well stocked bar.

It is only when the Norrlands Guld (a popular beer) slogan takes effect – "If you want to be yourself for a while" – that the differences between Australian and Swedish parties narrows.

Everyone comes to the Swedish summer party wearing a mask of Scandinavian self-control and reservedness. One can not admit to drinking but knows that the secret to discovering your true self and have a great time at the party requires the mask of reservation to come off –and thank Bacchus for the alcohol!

With the masks removed people can start acting more like laid-back Australians and we had some fantastic parties that showed the best of Swedish hospitality, warmth and friendship.

To understand the peculiar nature of Swedes’ relationship with alcohol is a difficult task that requires a knowledge of Swedish social history going back several hundred years. However, for over 50 years, the government monopoly on the sale of alcohol has been the main weapon to mitigate the prevalence and effects of alcoholism.

The monopoly stores have the dual responsibility of selling, and at the same time discouraging the consumption of their products. One tool used is to make the shopping experience as difficult as possible. Although there should never be any tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol, there is a similar intolerance of alcohol itself in politics and public health policy that tries to portray anything to do with alcohol as shameful and irresponsible.

Perhaps what is needed is an introduction of the Swedish concept "lagom" (just right) to the area of alcohol consumption. In Australia in the 1980s the government ran a highly successful public health campaign called "Life – be in it", encouraging Aussies to turn off the TV, get off the sofa and get out and swim, jog, throw a ball or go for a walk. The Swedish government should promote a responsible drinking campaign taking advantage of the increased interest in cooking, food and quality wine ("Wine – draw the line"?).

It is in society’s best interests to move to a Mediterranean wine and food culture and away from the drinking-to-get-drunk culture. Recognition and encouragement of this in public health policy would be a step in the right direction.

Mark Majzner is an Australian and the founder of Antipodes Premium Wines, a partner of The Local, which operates wine clubs including Australian Wine Club and Fine Wine Society.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
Tax changes could cut costs for Swedish firms
Sweden is home to many of the world's successful startups, such as Spotify. Photo: Lars Pehrson/TT

Tax changes could cut costs for Swedish firms

7 hours ago

UPDATED: Swedish Enterprise and Innovation Minister Mikael Damberg has told The Local about his action plan to turn Stockholm into the top startup city in the world. But critics of his proposals say they are too vague.

Euro 2016
‘I get a kick out of doing things that hurt you’
Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the press conference on Wednesday. Photo: Pontus Lindahl/TT

‘I get a kick out of doing things that hurt you’

2 hours ago

Sweden's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has caused a stir after mouthing off in a press conference when a Swedish journalist asked about his business interests, ahead of his national side's Euro 2016 qualifier with Russia.

Hairy Swedish panties sew up artist's reputation
The hairy knickers. Photo: Private

Hairy Swedish panties sew up artist's reputation

3 hours ago

A pair of knickers made from thousands of strands of human hair has knitted overnight success for its maker. Swedish craftswoman Nina Sparr tells The Local that her efforts mirror a traditional craft that has been popular in her family for centuries.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

4 hours ago

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Secret anti-immigration blogger's name exposed
A file image of a Swede using the internet. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Secret anti-immigration blogger's name exposed

8 hours ago

UPDATED: 'Julia Caesar', an anonymous right-wing blogger who has blasted Swedish journalists for writing an "epoch of lies" about the benefits of immigration, is herself a former reporter for Sweden's biggest broadsheet, Dagens Nyheter, according to a Swedish tabloid.

Plea for help in hunt for Swedish woman's killer
Ida Johansson, who was found dead on a running track in Upplands Väsby. Photo: Polisen

Plea for help in hunt for Swedish woman's killer

12 hours ago

Swedish police have released a picture of the 21-year-old jogger murdered on a running track almost a month ago as her mother prepares to make a television appeal.

Swedish museum makes way for iconic train
The iconic Swiss locomotive. Photo: SBB

Swedish museum makes way for iconic train

11 hours ago

Railway buffs in Sweden are on track for a treat as a rare Swiss locomotive is set to roll into a Swedish transport museum in the coming days to celebrate a century of electric trains in the Nordic country.

The Local List
Seven bizarre Swedish academic traditions
Student life in Lund, southern Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson/SCANPIX

Seven bizarre Swedish academic traditions

12 hours ago

As thousands of students flock to Sweden's university towns for the start of the semester, The Local guides you through the top academic traditions you need to know about.

Swede wakes up with Justin Bieber on buttock
The Swede says he can't remember how he ended up with Bieber's name on his backside. Photo: stamminen/Instagram

Swede wakes up with Justin Bieber on buttock

1 day ago

A man in central Sweden has more reason than most to regret a drunken night out - after waking up with Justin Bieber's name on his backside.

Video
Video of Swedish longboarder goes viral
Ishtar Tussilago taking a tight corner in the Norwegian mountains. Photo: Screengrab

Video of Swedish longboarder goes viral

1 day ago

Stunning footage of Swedish longboarder Ishtar Bäcklund and fellow riders skating down the Norwegian mountains has gone viral, pulling in over 190,000 views on Vimeo.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
VIDEO: Swedish longboarder builds dreams with viral film
National
Swedish billionaire blasted for 'lonely' Twitter rant
Gallery
Property of the week: Stuverum, Västervik
National
Swedish ship rescues 5,295 refugees
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Blog updates

28 August

Editor’s blog, August 28th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, It was all glitz and glamour in Sweden this week as Stockholm Fashion Week got..." READ »

 

18 August

Preteritum eller presens perfekt? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hello everyone, It’s grammar time ! I got an interesting question about the past tense vs present..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: August 28th-30th
National
'Sweden Democrats will run the country'
National
Swedish bin men hailed as heroes after rescuing doomed kitten
National
This Swedish teen was told she was 'too big' to be a model
Sponsored Article
'It gives you the guts to believe in yourself'
Gallery
People-watching: August 26th
Sponsored Article
Nine places where Stockholm needs more English
National
Rescued baby lemur gets new Stockholm home
National
Stockholm Fashion Week turns island into Mars
Gallery
Property of the week: Stora Essingen, Stockholm
National
Swedish crayfish thieves caught red handed by officers
National
Veil soon to be lifted on new Millennium sequel novel
Gallery
People-watching: August 21st - 22nd
Cecilia Larsson Lantz/imagebank.sweden.se
Presented by Stockholm Academic Forum
International students welcomed to Stockholm
National
The Bridge: What does the third season have in store?
National
Lucky escape for Swedes after 'dead' bear launches attack
National
Syrian asylum seeker comic: 'We don't prefer Sweden any more'
Lifestyle
Baby joy for Swedish crime queen and her wrestler boyfriend
National
Soldier accused of faking first Isis attack in Sweden
National
Fire alert as Sweden sizzles in summer heatwave
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th
National
Meet the Swede who is crazy for Norway’s mass killer
National
Swede's review of night in drunk tank goes viral
National
VIDEO: Swedish teen melts hearts with this incredible Idol audition
Society
What's a Swedish crayfish party?
National
UN: Sweden can't be left to shoulder migrant crisis alone
Gallery
Property of the week: Skogås, Huddinge
National
Men outstrip women for first time
Society
IN PICTURES: Wooden town resembles 'war zone' after huge fire
Gallery
People-watching: August 14th-16th
Sport
Swedish referee shuts viral Facebook page explaining his decisions
Business & Money
A studio in Stockholm or a castle in the countryside?
National
How did twelve skeletons end up beneath a Swedish castle?
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th
National
Millennium sequel author labelled 'grave robber'
National
Two metre long python stops traffic in Malmö
National
IN PICTURES: Shoppers pay tribute to Ikea stabbing victims
Technology
Danish 'monster' pulled out of Swedish waters
National
Bizarre baby baptism for hockey fan
Gallery
Property of the week: Löderup, Ystad
Sponsored Article
Getting pregnant the Swedish way
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,171
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se