The Norwegian drinking culture
Wednesday, January 27, 2010 8:43:47 PM
Those of you who have talked to me in Oslo, most likely will have heard this before. But I thought it was about time to get some of this on my blog once again. After all, after a year and a half in Norway, I've experienced, observed and reflected quite a bit, I believe. Of course, given my logical nature, I want to understand everything around me, not only acknowledge that they are different from home, but figure out the background, why (in my mind) things are different.
I hope my Norwegian friends
As you could see from the title, I'm starting with the Norwegian drinking culture, as it is one of the first things you are warned about when you come to Norway:
Make sure you buy your quota of alcohol at the Duty Free, because it's very expensive!!!
I mentioned this in a post I wrote together with Hugo, remember?
How expensive? Very expensive!
Quick story... When I was coming to Norway I had this AIESEC preparation pack which had some info. And there it said that a pint of beer at the bar cost US$10. I remember laughing and not believing that could be true... But it is.
And hard to get
There are very strict rules about buying alcohol.
- The drinking age for beer and wine is 18 and 20 for spirits (over 22,5%)
- Drinks under 4,75% can be bought in supermarkets, however the sale stops at 8PM every weekday, and at 6PM every day before holidays (including Sundays).
- Drinks over 4,75% (anything harder than regular beer and "Smirnoff Ice") can only be bought at Vinmonopolet, which is the state owned chain of "liqueur stores". They open until 5PM Monday to Wednesday, 6PM Thursday and Friday, and 3PM (15.00) on Saturday.
Then what happens?
You know the habit that people have in countries like France, Italy, Spain and others of having some wine with a regular meal, almost daily? Does not exist.
What happens is that a lot of people (I won't even use most, not to be to harsh) end up saving up on the alcohol expenses until the weekend comes (Thursday already counts for most students). And that's when they'll drink. Unfortunately, quite often, having getting drunk almost as the goal, not a possible consequence.
Why does that happen?
The way I see it - as so many things in life - with all these restriction, alcohol is put on a pedestal. Similar to what happens with kids, just before they can drink. It's something that creates a fascination, because if it so restricted but still allowed, "it must be something so great that has to be very controlled and can't be prohibited". And because of prices, it all goes at once, on the weekend.
Could this change?
That is a very important question... Could it? I don't know. Some people tend to say that it's a common factor in such cold countries (similar situation in the other Nordic countries), but I'm not sure... I tend to believe that this could change.
How could this change?
Another interesting point. How? I'm not going to simplify things here saying that it's very easy. However, I tend to think that the main logic to change this is to take "drinking" away from the "pedestal". In other words, it shouldn't be so complicated to buy alcohol. So then people could get used to drinking as a (not always necessary) part of the experience, but not the whole experience in itself.
Problems with that
Remember that I compared the "pedestal" story with teenagers just under the drinking limit? Cutting down the restrictions would, quite likely have the same consequence as the teenagers when they get the age barrier removed (by fake IDs or by actually waiting). They tend to over do it, until it's old news... And what would happen in the meantime??? Honestly, dunno...
So these were a few of my thoughts on that matter. For me, it's not a massive issue, after all, I don't even drink that much. But I do tend to miss just chilling at a bar, having some beers with friends, talking about everything, and knowing that will still be a cheap evening.
And to finish, let me make it clear again... It's not something that this behaviour is not necessarily a rule in Norway, but my impression is that it tends to happen too often.