OK. Since I have probably already alienated 80% of my readers with my personal sob story, I am now out to alienate the rest by going after that strange phenomenon known as Systembolaget. When people talk and complain about Sweden and socialism and all of its horrors, the only thing that comes to my mind is Systembolaget. Systembolaget is the government controlled liquor store and also the only place you can buy alcohol in Sweden. It is godawful. It should be scrapped. It should be long gone. But for some reason Swedes seem to LOVE it. Here is my rebuttal of all of the common arguments as to why Systembolaget is AWESOME. Because it isn’t. Hate me if you must.
1) Systembolaget has the best assortment of alcohol EVER – If you ever start dissing on Systembolaget, you will hear this one. Systembolaget has every kind of alcohol imaginable. The rest of Europe is totally jealous of all the kinds of things you can buy at Systembolaget because they cannot buy these things in their countries.
Obviously, you don’t buy a lot of beer. Systembolaget carries every single kind of Swedish beer ever made, but only like 8 different international beers of any given kind. It is miserable. Yes, you can order it. But who orders a few beers a week in advance, just to enjoy? My local New Jersey grocery store has a more international assortment of beer than my local Systemet. And how does the rest of the world survive? In the places I lived there were all kinds of specialty stores – the high end wine store, the cheapy 40 malt liquor shop, the beer hobbyist. And you know what? If what I wanted wasn’t there? I could order it there, too. Imagine that! As for most of the people who argue that Systembolaget has the best assortment ever, dig a little deeper. I have found most of these people still import their own wine and beer from other countries and avoid Systemet whenever possible. WHY?????
2) Systembolaget keeps alcoholism to a minimum – Sweden has a long tradition of alcoholism and Systembolaget keeps those numbers down.
This give you a sense that Systembolaget keeps track of the alcohol you consume or limits it in any way. It doesn’t. The only thing they can do is not sell you stuff when you are very drunk. One of the symptoms of alcoholism is ‘you constantly think about alcohol, where you can get it, and how you can get it.’ Since moving to Sweden, I can tell you I think a lot more about alcohol, because I can’t just run down to the corner store and pick up a six pack when I need one. I need to think about when I can get it and how I am going to get there. I overbuy for parties, keep some in storage, because I find going to Systembolaget to be a real pain. Also, I am one of those people that believes alcoholism is a disease, you can’t stop people who want to drink. They will find a way.
3) Systembolaget makes drinking safer – Because they are the sole provider of alcohol and they are very strict about checking drinking age, systembolaget makes drinking safer.
Yeah right. When was the last time you saw adults sitting around drinking moonshine in the US? I have never seen it. And in my eyes, moonshine is pretty dangerous stuff. Done wrong it can lead to blindness and disease. But in Sweden, I have seen everyone from teenagers to 60 year old men drink this stuff. Why? Because a bottle of vodka will set you back 30 dollars for a cheap bottle. To me, this is dangerous and stupid.