An obvious difference between Sweden and many other western countries is the manner of which alcohol is sold and consumed. Which obviously must have an impact on the people and the culture.
For one, in Sweden, alcohol is sold only in government controlled monopoly stores, which means that there is no other reason to go to these stores, and that the people who go in do it for one reason only. This implies that alcohol can really never be an impulse purchase. It can’t be an inspired purchase either for that matter, there is no advertisement or information allowed in for example food stores about which fantastic wine is recommended to accompany the steak you are buying, nor can the vendor at the exclusive chocolateria in the fancy shopping center sell any taste enhancing liqueuers to enhance your chocolate experience. Alcohol and everything else is legally separated.
Secondly, the business hours of the alcohol selling stores are both reduced and set in stone. This means that a lot of purchases happen on your lunch break or that you have to leave work specifically on time or earlier to make it before they close. When the possibility of being open on Saturdays arose, it started out as a test, in specific areas only. It was a big deal. Both for the consumers and the sellers. All in all the consequence is that you have to plan your alcohol purchases. Which means that you have to plan your food consumption as well, at least if you prefer the two to match. And remember, you are not the only one who wants to buy, so plan for queues, and for big holidays coming up, plan for what you are going to buy weeks in advance.
As for the actual consumption part, the expression ‘binge drinking’ serves surprisingly well and is not only applied but also liked. A lot and quick is good. And all night long. Driving when going out is not applicable, sure the alcohol in combination with driving limit is on the low side in Sweden from a regulatory point of view, but still, you already know your consumption is gonna be long past that stage anyway, so it’s not even a thought.
In Portugal, alcohol is nicely piled up in your morning to night open stores where you buy the rest of your groceries as we’ll as your kids toys and clothes. Sure there is an age limit but the point is that the alcohol is neither hidden nor neglected. It is readily available for you to buy and enjoy. At your own convenience. It is even often on discount.
And people do drink that near every day glass that is talked about as common for the Mediterranean countries. It is even served as part of the lunch offer in the typical hard workers restaurants.
And people stay out all night and they dance and they laugh and they have fun. And unlike the propaganda Swedes are fed with, the youth here in Portugal doesn’t seem to be on the verge of disaster, drinking and raging in back alleys, neither does it in any other alcohol induced way seem to be heading towards a low life future. Truth be told, when the bars and the night clubs close in the early morning hours, they are actually still standing up and seem to be enjoying conscious discussions.
Kind of makes you wonder…