• Sweden's news in English
 
almadalen_header

Swedes and wine - an awkward romance

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
New Slovakia law may limit Swedish gun use
A selection of handguns unconnected to the article. Photo: Joshuashearn via Wikimedia Commons

New Slovakia law may limit Swedish gun use

Hundreds of so-called plugged guns are bought legally abroad and smuggled from Slovakia to Sweden, where they are used by criminals. But new law the eastern European nation may close this deadly loophole. READ  

Arrest warrants issued for Arlöv murder
A police sign near the crime scene. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Arrest warrants issued for Arlöv murder

According to police, arrest warrants have been issued for two people, suspected of the murder of a man in his 20s, who last night was shot to death on Lundavägen in Arlöv just north of Malmö. READ  

LIVE: Sweden's political power forum - Day Eight
Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

LIVE: Sweden's political power forum - Day Eight

The Swedish Liberal Party will be hoping to score some new support after a year of plummeting in the polls when its leader Jan Björklund takes centre stage on the final day of Almedalen Week. READ  

Swedes on cusp of snail control breakthrough
Snails are enjoying a bumper year at Swedish gardeners' expense. Photo: By macrophile on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

Swedes on cusp of snail control breakthrough

Since the spring, frequent rain has ensured prime conditions for one of the gardener’s biggest enemies - the snail. Swedish scientists, however, may have found the ultimate deterrent. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven
Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt speaking at Almedalen 2015 on Saturday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven

It's the seventh day of Almedalen, the most important week in Swedish politics, and the Left Party is running the show. The Local is live blogging the key moments. READ  

Russian bombers seen off Swedish coast
A Russian Tu-22M3 Tu-bomber. Photo: Pavel Golovkin

Russian bombers seen off Swedish coast

Swedish fighter jets were sent on Saturday morning to monitor the activity of two Russian bombers to the east of Gotland. READ  

Almedalen 2015 with the EU Commission in Sweden
'Today's refugees could be tomorrow's Zlatan'
Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

'Today's refugees could be tomorrow's Zlatan'

Sweden is grappling with how to handle a large influx of asylum seekers while some other EU nations brush off responsibility – but it's important to focus on the benefits of immigration as well, high-profile panelists agreed at an Almedalen event. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Opposition head pledges lower taxes on first jobs
Sweden's Moderate party leader Anna Kinberg Batra at Almedalen. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Opposition head pledges lower taxes on first jobs

Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra spoke about jobs in her first speech at Almedalen since becoming head of Sweden's biggest opposition party. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six
New Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra speaking at Almedalen. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six

Anna Kinberg Batra - the new leader of Sweden's biggest opposition party, the Moderates - focused on job creation in her first speech at Almedalen, Sweden's huge week-long politics forum. READ  

Jump in solo children seeking Swedish asylum
A playground at Märsta immigration centre in Sweden. Maja Suslin/TT

Jump in solo children seeking Swedish asylum

A record 1447 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Sweden last month, figures from the Swedish Migration Board have revealed. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Learning Swedish: different rules for expats and refugees?
Sport
IN PICTURES: Thousands welcome home Sweden’s heroes
Politics
Almedalen: The Local's guide to Sweden's power players week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Swedes soak up sun on hottest day of year
Sport
Sweden celebrates greatest sporting victory in decades
Blog updates

2 July

Som eller att (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! It happens quite often, that my students are confused over when to use “som” and when..." READ »

 

26 June

Editor’s blog, June 26th (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Stockholm, We’re about to transport our newsroom to the idyllic Swedish island of Gotland for..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: July 1st
Sponsored Article
VIP Mingle at Almedalen's hottest event
National
Swede battles slug invasion
Sponsored Article
What can we learn from Swedish women's sex habits?
National
VIDEO: Is this herring tasting clip an 'insult to Sweden'?
Gallery
Property of the week: Visby, Gotland
National
Sweden set for sunniest week of year
Gallery
People-watching: June 26th-28th
Features
The Local's essential guide to who's who in Swedish politics
National
More Swedish military exercises as Russia aggression fears grow
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Travel
Why Swedish camp sites are set for a bumper summer
National
Swedish summer's really on its way (at least according to forecasters)
Gallery
People-watching: June 24th
National
Why are southern Swedes angry about becoming 'Danish' again?
Society
Lifestyle: When to catch your favourite features on The Local
National
Is Sweden one of the world's most peaceful nations?
Sponsored Article
Harstena: Travelling to Sweden's secret islands
National
One in ten Swedish cats homeless
Sponsored Article
'I constantly evolve my Swedishness'
Gallery
Property of the week: Värmdö, Stockholm
Society
Would you eat this Swedish pizza?
National
Swedish royals' dream honeymoon
National
Swedish hospital opens first centre for male rape victims
Gallery
People-watching: June 20th-21st
Photo: TT
Lifestyle
Midsummer: The Local's guide to Sweden's craziest festival
Sponsored Article
Murder, myth and magic: Travelling to the birthplace of Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th
Sponsored Article
Gallery: Life in Sweden's secret archipelago
Society
Seven alternative names for Sweden's Prince Nicolas Paul Gustaf
National
FBI returns stolen Swedish books
National
Want to smell like Zlatan?
National
Royal joy over birth of new prince
Gallery
Property of the week: Brantevik, Simrishamn
National
How racy graffiti inspired a teacher's high school sex class
Gallery
People-watching: June 12th-14th
National
As it happened: Prince Carl Philip marries Sofia Hellqvist
Technology
Is Stockholm the world's creative capital?
National
Timeline: Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
KTH President: ‘Sweden’s success is because of its size’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: New royal couple Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Features
Ten Swedish festivals to discover
Features
Ten reasons Stockholm is definitely way cooler than Copenhagen
National
VIDEO: Watch Swedish man rescue baby elk from cold creek
National
VIDEO: Have you seen this jet ski blunder at a Malmö hotel opening?
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Sponsored Article
The millionaire teacher who leads by tough love
Sponsored Article
How to change the world: Malmö to Mogadishu
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

3,222
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