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Sweden: Systembolaget

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Systembolaget > Sweden > Europe

[Visited: December 2001]

Sweden is a country with a high level of development, and also a high level of organisation. The state tries to influence people's behaviour and decisions in many ways, and one clear example is the way in which it seeks to control alcohol consumption. In Sweden, you will look in vain for wine or beer in a supermarket, because these products can only be bought in outlets of Systembolaget, a state-run monopoly of alcohol retailers.

Picture of Systembolaget (Sweden): Systembolaget

The assumption is that less alcohol consumption will lead to less alcohol-related problems, and that price is an important factor in buying alcohol. Systembolagets operate almost like a pharmacy where you don't need a recipe (but you must be over 20): you take a number, order your desired alcoholic drinks at the counter, and an employee will take the items out of stock - upon which you pay the (high) price.

Picture of Systembolaget (Sweden): Counter at Systembolaget

The problem is, that especially for foreigners, the Swedes don't seem to be in control of their alcohol consumption at all. Statistics might say that alcohol consumption is lowest in Sweden for all EU countries, but practice is that Swedes tend to consume their alcohol in short periods of time, resulting in drunkness which oftentimes is very visible on the streets - mostly in the weekends.

Picture of Systembolaget (Sweden): Waiting for their turn at Systembolaget
Picture of Systembolaget (Sweden): Systembolaget from outside

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