To outsiders, Swedes’ drinking habits can seem curious. In a sense, there is a laxer attitude compared with that of the States; 18-year-olds are allowed into bars here. Scenes of mayhem are also common at popular nightlife spots in cities like Stockholm, where otherwise introverted Swedes tend to turn loud and chatty after a few drinks.
While Swedes seem to have few inhibitions when it comes to drunken behavior, regular alcohol consumption is relatively uncommon. European habits of drinking a glass of wine at dinner on a weekday or enjoying a beer with your lunch are generally frowned upon here. Swedes like to save it for the weekend and go all out.
There are restrictive alcohol laws in Sweden. You can’t order alcoholic beverages before 11 a.m., so forget Champagne breakfasts. Establishments that want to serve alcohol must also offer food. A restaurant or bar where guests spontaneously decide to dance may end up losing its alcohol license unless it also has a so-called dance permit.
To buy alcohol for personal consumption, you need to go to a state-run chain of stores called Systembolaget, which has a strict monopoly on liquor sales in Sweden. The stores have no late-night opening hours and are shut on Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and public holidays. You have to plan your drink shopping carefully: no spontaneous beer runs, no picking up an extra bottle of wine if your dinner party suddenly runs out.
Getting wasted “just feels un-modern.”
Andersson has his own theory about Swedes’ paradoxical relation to alcohol. “Most tourists who come to Sweden describe it as really stiff,” he says. “They say we Swedes don’t talk to strangers, that we’re reserved. Instead of really doing the work required to change that, we drink ourselves to that state where we dare to break out of our comfort zones. But that’s cheating because when the high fades out, we’re back to scratch again.
“If Swedes would start doing things sober that they usually do under the influence of alcohol, I think we could change the way we drink in this country. I truly do,” says Andersson, adding that getting wasted “just feels un-modern.”
Could Sober be the next Scandinavian export? Andersson says it’s too early to tell, but he’d love to prove Cicero wrong: “It would be amazing to become the Ikea of clubs and spread around the world.”