Ever been in a situation where you’re the only representative of your country, possibly among people who have never before met anyone from there? Well that happens to me a lot. Most often than not, this situation ends up with a drink in my hand and somebody saying: “Come on Mia, represent Finland!”
But how does one represent the Finnish drinking culture?
The drinking culture in Finland is a bizarre one. Mainly because we would not want to associate the world culture with it. It’s not a civilized thing.
Firstly, you need to be aware of three things:
1. It gets really cold and dark in Finland during winters. It can cause depression. Even if it’s not clinically diagnosed, most people simply aren’t as happy during winter as they are during summer.
2. Alcohol is really rather expensive in Finland. A can of beer is likely to be something along the lines of 2e in the shops and a pint will be closer to 5e in bars. Not any specialty beer, just the regular kind.
3. Only beers and ciders are sold in the shops. For anything above 4.7% you need to go to Alko, the Finnish government-owned and supervised shops with limited opening times. Also to buy anything above 20% you need to be over 20, for the rest the age limit is 18.
So when Finns drink, we tend to drink a lot. It is, in a way, a binge-drinking culture but unlike in the UK where this then means that people go out to the streets and clubs. In Finland this happens mainly in the confines of the house – most likely because of points 1 and 2.
We even have a word for drinking by yourself at your house in your underwear with no intention of going out: kalsarikännit.
It also takes a lot of effort to get drunk in Finland – meaning you need to go to Alko and pay a lot of money for it – so people tend to want to make the most of it.
And no self-respecting Finn would go to a club without first drinking at home. There’s always a pre-party to maximise the alcohol intake in order to lessen the impact on your wallet.
Would you call that a drinking culture?
Stay tuned for part two where I explain what we actually drink.