Monday, April 7, 2008

Alcohol and Finns

If I didn’t write about Finnish culture of boozing, I would let a lot of people down. We are well-known of our drinking habits. Reputation goes ahead of us, not always correctly, but that’s only my humble opinion. We drink approximately 10 liters (2.5 US-gallons, 2.2 UK-gallons) pure alcohol per year. That includes infants as well. But it’s not about amount. Finland consumpts less alcohol than for example France yearly. It’s about the habit of drinking.
The trend of amount of consumption is rising. We have been taught that drinking must be social and civilized. We have heard that there is some slightly milder drinks as well, like wine, for example. I think the reason for that may be the fact that we are learning to drink alcoholic drinks more socially. The only tiny problem is, that we haven’t drop the old way, serious boozing. So, the result of alcohol education is that we drink beer and wine on weekdays nice and easy, and on weekends we take ourselves out by drinking two bottles of wodka.

The retailsales of alcohol is delimited to government only. Prohibition in Finland ended 1932 and after that the government have been trying to reduce drinking by extremely aggressive pricing policy. But the Finns found a great way for that; moonshine. Nowadays moonshine is replaced by imported alcohol due to change of regulations after joining EU. The alcohol retailers used to be a little bit scary places, where the clerk was a powerful person. If you couldn’t please him or her, there was a possibility, that this weekend became dry for you. Back in the 70’s and early 80’s the clerk stood behind the counter and customers had to ask for the product they wanted. I have heard some stories about very nervous people practising the pronunciation of foreign product outside the outlet. Today service has changed radically and outlets have very professional advisers and wine specialists.

One of the very Finnish things in drinking is to drink a lot of alcohol before getting in the restaurant. That is because of the very high price of alcohol in restaurants. The idea is get oneselves so drunk already at home, that it becomes unnecessary to drink so much in the bar. Sometimes one happens to drink so much, that the bouncer won’t let him in or the waiter won’t serve anymore. That’s a pity, but you can always go back home to drink more, until you pass out. Now that I write this down, this sounds really stupid.

So, I have now exaggerated our drinking habits and compounded our reputation as non-social idiots. What did you expect?
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