Systembolaget On Saturday

If I was back in Sydney, it would have been easy. In Surry Hills, I’m surrounded by bottle shops which are open every day (except Good Friday and Christmas Day) and which trade right up until midnight. If I was home and going to a dinner party, I would have simply picked up a bottle of something on the way there. But in Sweden, you don’t have that option.

In Sweden, there’s a government-owned monopoly bottle shop chain called Systembolaget, which operates with restricted hours. On weekdays, it’s normal trading hours; shorter hours on Saturday; and they’re closed Sunday. At night, bars also have limited trading hours with many closing at one, others at three.

And as much as I like to think of myself as a bit of a libertarian, I’m beginning to conclude these restrictions might actually be a good thing. By putting a limit on the hours in which you can purchase and consume alcohol, I think there’s more of a chance that people will go home to bed, as opposed to the all-night temptation offered in Sydney.

Although Systembolaget now operates like a supermarket chain, it wasn’t so long ago that you had to go in, make an order for what you wanted, and then wait for someone to bring your order out to you. There’s a few of these older style shops still around, apparently.

As it’s been explained to me, Swedes like a drink as much as Australians do (maybe moreso), and this is how they’ve reacted to their problem with alcohol.

Still it was a little unexpected for me to walk into Systembolaget in the hour before it was due to close (ahead of being closed all day Sunday) and see the lengthy queues. “Is this the Swedish version of the six o’clock swill?”, I thought to myself.

All of that said, I still like the way it operates in Sydney, being able to pick up a bottle of wine on my way to the dinner party, and not having to think about it.

Saturday night in Medborgarplatsen

Saturday night in Medborgarplatsen

Dinner was with Sandra and Robert, and their friends Roger and Nikki. Roger has commented on my blog on a number of occasions, and so it was really lovely to meet him in real life. They’re a really lovely couple, and although I knew they were both passionate about music (based on comments Roger had made), that passion really became evident over dinner.

Both Sandra and I made the comment later in the evening that it’s beginning to feel like I “live” here. Although I’ve done a lot of touristy things on this trip, my time in Stockholm hasn’t been focussed so much on trips, museums, and the like. I’ve been leading a fairly “normal” kind of life, getting up, reading the paper, going out for coffee and so on. Funny, I should be feeling this way with just a few days left.

As I made my way home to where I’m staying in Medborgarplatsen, there were more queues. This time, it was people lining up for a bit of late night sustenance.

  1. Maybe you just need to plan in advance. It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted a bottle of wine in Perth you could only get one from a pub. That has changed. :)

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    1. I thought the limited hours for the Sunday sessions in Perth wasn’t so bad. By closing at 10.00pm, it made sure I got to work on Monday at least.
      But yeah, you’re right about planning, and that’s why I think it’s not such a bad idea. If you’re forced to plan your alcohol purchases a little more, it possibly makes you think more about what you’re consuming, and in particular, how much you’re consuming.

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  2. James, It’s been such a pleasure to have you here. Where will I get all my schlager info now? You will be missed! Kram…

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    1. I will miss you both also.

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  3. The thing I like about Systembolaget is the selection, the good quality wines offered also as bag in box and the fact that you can get your favourite wine pretty much anywhere. Sounds like you’ve been having a great time over there :)

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