Here’s their site in case what I say next is unbelievable : http://www.systembolaget.se/Applikationer/Knappar/InEnglish/
So what is this “System Bolaget”? Well to put it simply, is Sweden’s answer to pissing on someone’s parade! No really.
I totally understand where they are coming from, and after visiting Helsinki earlier this month, I now realise why! (but i’ll mention that later on). Anyway, System Bolaget is a state owed organisation (or company) who has the monopole on alcoholic beverage sales in Sweden. It only sells alcoholic drinks over 3,5 % degrees (so basically everything if you’d want to get slightly tipsy on). You see, you wouldn’t be that annoyed about that if it was only that… except that it isn’t! System Bolaget also has an annoying rule that only over twenty year olds can buy alcohol, so woo hoo for me, wah wah for anyone under that age (and on an Erasmus!). It also however has an slightly albeit understandable time table too. Weekdays (apart from Friday) most stores are open from 9 to 18 ou even (if you know where to go!) 9 to 19! Wow! And on weekends, if I am right I believe they close between three and five in the afternoon!
So if you go on their site, they will give you a lot of info telling you what an amazing system it is and whatever. Now I don’t really care about that, I mean I can really understand where they are coming from but it does also stop average people coming home from work and wanting to have a glass of wine with their meal to do so. But, after a short visit to Helsinki I do realise why it can be a good idea too.
In Helsinki, I was very shocked at the amount of drunk people outside, and I don’t mean a bit tipsy but really really drunk. Not just young people but a host of middle ages business men, young and not young me and women too. Some of these people were so drunk they could barely walk, and one girl looking like she was dead on the floor! Now don’t get me wrong, I have lived in London for a long time and I can assure you that we Brits sure know how to drink (among other things) but never have I seen with my bare eyes people that drunk and in that quantity. I am not passing judgement on the Finnish, I can remember about two times where I have been ridiculously drunk and I honestly regret that. We all learn from our mistakes.
So, I don’t know how wide spread this is in Scandinavia but if it was very common then I am not surprised that since the nineteenth century has there been the System Bolaget. What people fail to realise is that since Sweden joined the European Union, state decisions (like this alcoholic beverage monopoly) have to be vetted and agreed upon by the Swedish people themselves via referendum… and they do want to keep this organisation! So maybe we other Europeans have something to ask ourselves about. Is this the way to go or not?
If we look at Holland where Cannabis (in certain quantities) is legal, have they become a country of lazy cannabis smoking weirdos? No. They have taken the stance on legality concerning strong substances and it is thus up to the person to decide whether of not he wishes to take them. This is utter freedom. Sweden’s response to alcoholism in another stance on the situation, not banning but total control. Both of them seem to work, so maybe… and this is strange to say, but maybe regarding these issues, being moderate doesn’t work? Or is it all a matter of culture?