Erasmus · Features · Stockholm · studenty_cork

Sweden vs Ireland…alcohol and the craic

The Irish drinking culture has been given a bad rap recently in Europe. Sher remember those comments by Clive Tyldesley recently? Okay maybe they aren’t ‘bad’ comments but they certainly don’t help the image of the Irish…

As previously reported Irish students drink less frequently (but consume more units) than their European counterparts and this seems to have followed them to middle age. Images of rosy cheeked, red haired leprechauns propping up the bar have been replaced with naked drunken men running onto sports fields. (Yes, this has happened…*shudder*)

Irish people are known for having the craic and most of these antics are alcohol fueled. While living in Stockholm I was not surprised to be greeted by the party stereotype and trust me I did my best to live up to it.

However, I was surprised to find that I was in a country that loved to party but in a very controlled way. From the way that the alcohol is controlled through pricing, and the way a night out is conducted, there are many differences that not only highlighted the Irish stereotype-but also reinforced it.

Here in the great Emerald Isle it is easy to buy all sorts of alcohol in off licences and supermarkets countrywide. This is not so in Sweden, it is impossible to buy anything with more than 3.5% alcohol in a supermarket.

Alcohol is bought in stores called Systembolaget, it is basically an off license that is run by the government. It exists for one reason and one reason only, “to minimise alcohol related problems by selling alcohol in a reasonable way, without profit motive”.

However, alcohol is heavily taxed in Sweden, causing it to be more expensive than here in Ireland. Also bad news for students, there is no such things as special offers-EVER!

Systembolaget closes at 3pm on Saturdays and does not open at all on a Sunday so if alcohol is going to be consumed it must be planned well in advance. This is something the very organised Swedes thrive on but it takes a bit of getting used to for us Irish.

A Swedish tradition when it comes to alcohol is the booze cruise. It is cheaper and extremely fun to book a cruise to Estonia, Finland or Russia for a weekend and stock up on alcohol. This is something that Irish people do not have to worry about but is a way of life in Sweden.

As for the nightlife, you may think it is the same everywhere but this is only partly true. In Sweden entrance fees range from €10 to €20 depending on the time you enter and the cheapest drink starts at €7. To enter for free you need to be signed up on the guestlist and be in the club before the assigned time which is often ridiculously early when the club does not close until 5am.

It is no wonder that the Swedes tend to party at the weekend and work hard during the week in comparison to the Irish who are no strangers to a mid-week pint.

We could learn a lot from the Swedish drinking culture but would this eliminate the craic?

(Text originally published in Studenty_cork on 20 June 2012


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