Friday, 4 June 2010
Why do Swedes drink so much?
'Why do Swedes drink so much?' was a question I recently received in an informal survey on Facebook.
And it's a revealing question. A common stereotype that other nationalities have of Swedes is that they get rip-roaring drunk - frequently. And it's easy to understand why this stereotype exists.
Anyone who's been involved in a Swedish celebration of any kind has experienced the close presence of alcohol. At Midsummer, people get drunk. At crayfish parties, people get slaughtered. At Christmas, the snaps comes out and people end up hammered. In seaside destinations abroad, it's not uncommon when you see a gang of drunken youngsters that they are Swedish. The beer you buy in pubs might be expensive but it is so strong it'll make you cross-eyed after three glasses. So it's easy to form the impression that Swedes are hardened drinkers.
In today's newspaper, the results of a recent study were published. Swedish consumption of wine has increased 60% in the last ten years. This is easy to measure since all wine is purchased in Sweden through one company - the state-owned monopoly Systembolaget.
In the newspaper article, Swedish citizens were asked why they thought this increase has happened. In other words, why do Swedes drink so much?
Citizen 1: 'Because we have adapted a more cosmopolitan drinking style. It is no longer shameful to have a glass of wine on a Tuesday after work.'
Citizen 2: 'Because we are doing so well in Sweden. Everybody is better off so we can treat ourselves a little more.'
Citizen 3: 'Because of the introduction of the 'Bag in Box' wine. It's so easy to drink a lot without knowing how much you are drinking. It's easier to tap a glass of wine than to open another bottle'
I'm sure it is to do with all of these things. Interestingly, I think we are witnessing a cultural rebellion. Society is shifting from the collective to the individual. The old days when the government controlled alcohol consumption for the sake of public health is disappearing. It is being replaced by individual responsibility and individual choice. And the initial reaction is overconsumption.
So, there are lots of reasons why Swedes drink so much.
Now my question is, why do the Brits drink even more?