• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

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.

Story continues below…

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
Russian 'terror suspect' held at Swedish airport walks free
File photo of Arlanda Airport. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

UPDATED: A 35-year-old man has been released from police custody after being arrested at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm on Friday morning.

Northern Dispatches
'Moving to northern Sweden was the best thing we've done'
Photo: FB

In his farewell column, The Local’s northern Sweden correspondent, Paul Connolly, looks back at his first four years in Sweden.

Bear family just hanging out on Swedish golf course
Not the bear cub in question. But isn't he cute? Photo: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

A bear family has been roaming a Swedish golf course, and the best thing of all is that no one cares.

The Local investigates
What do we actually know about the violence in Malmö?
Police investigating an explosion in Malmö on Thursday. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

International media have presented a "distorted" view of a spate of Malmö shootings and an explosion, a senior police boss has told The Local.

The Local List
Reasons why Stockholm Pride is simply awesome
Photo: Annika af Klercker/TT.

Stockholm's Pride festival culminates on Saturday with a parade – and more than a few parties. Here's why we think it's pretty amazing.

Cashless Swedes sitting on old bills worth billions

Old Swedish bank notes worth 1.4 billion kronor are still circulating, according to the country’s central bank, despite them having been declared invalid a month ago.

Homes
In pictures: Why is Nordic design so hot right now?
Scandinavian design. Photo: House of Beatniks

Design agency Studio Esinam investigates together with Houzz.se why the world is falling in love with Nordic style.

Stockholm one of world's best places to live: magazine
Living the dream. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Stockholm is the tenth best city in the world to live in, reckons this British magazine.

The Local Recipes
How to make Swedish 'Dream' cookies for fika
Now not only in your dreams. Photo: Jurek Holzer/SvD/SCANPIX

Want to fika but think cinnamon buns are too complicated? Try this recipe for a simple but yummy Swedish cookie.

Fears new funding rules could hobble Swedish startups
Elin Olsson funded the development of her innovative smoke detector through crowdfunding. Photo: Anders Andersson/TT

Crowdfunding is a risky business, but could Swedish plans to regulate it make it too hard for small companies to get investment?

Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Swedish cop makes arrest of the year
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Anyone for a bite of 340-year-old shipwrecked stinky cheese?
Gallery
People-watching: July 27th
Blog updates

26 July

A summer of change; a summer of beauty (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"You would have had to try hard to miss the political upheavals in the UK after…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Why you need a EuroBonus American Express Card
Politics
Why Sweden's high taxes are not as high as you think
Sponsored Article
What can newcomers learn about Sweden at Almedalen?
National
What's haggis in a condom doing on Swedish children's TV?
National
Meet the northern Swede who is the world's best mosquito killer
National
Sweden's Hollywood star Alicia Vikander puts her pen in the bottle
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: Where Swedes go to work (and play)
Gallery
People-watching: July 22nd-24th
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
The Local Voices
The Jewish Syrian who dreams of rebuilding his country
National
Watch this Swedish weather host leave his fly open... on live TV
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
The Local Voices
'I fled war in Syria. I never expected to be beaten in Sweden'
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
National
WATCH: Asylum seeker brutally beaten by Swedish bus driver
Technology
Why everyone is talking about Sweden's GTA pride parade
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
EU hits truck cartel with record price fixing fine
Sponsored Article
Local guide: the best of Berlin
Society
OPINION: Why Sweden is the most extreme country in the world
The Local Voices
'There is equality in accommodation in Sweden: Everyone is suffering'
Gallery
Property of the week: Gräsö, Östhammar
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th-17th
National
How to make sure you're not caught out by Sweden's old bank notes
Business & Money
Why Sweden has been named the most innovative country in Europe
National
Terror attack: what should you do?
National
French expat on the moment he was assaulted by a Stockholm bouncer
Technology
Gunman? Nah, smartphone Swede
The Local Voices
'If the war in Syria ended today, would you go back?'
The Local Voices
‘I feel like I’m living in a grave!’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Princess Victoria celebrates 39th birthday
Gallery
People-watching: July 13th
National
Swedes discover surprise mountain
The Local Voices
'Even xenophobic Swedes can be polite’
The Local Voices
'The best time to be smuggled to Europe is August 20th, 2015'
The Local Voices
Swedes: Stop obsessing over your material life and start talking to strangers
3,390
jobs available