Don’t forget your bolaget bag

When walking around the city on a Friday or Saturday night, I noticed everyone has a little purple or blue bag. It is almost fashionable to have one of those small bags filled with hidden liquor. At the same time, it’s entertaining. In a country where beer can run you $100 in one night at a bar, people are very protective of their alcohol. And there’s some etiquette involved.

If you are invited to a party at someone’s house, you are expected to bring your own beer. (I’ve learned this the hard way) This isn’t the BYOB days at college house parties where the hosts were too poor to afford kegs for hundreds of people. These are nice birthday parties, house parties or even a poker night. Hosts expect you to BYOB, and literally it means beer or wine or cidre. No real liquor please. You could but then you would be seen as a true alcoholic who has money to spend. [reflecting that a 700ml bottle of Absolut costs $44]

So you get invited to a Swedish house party. Plan on bringing enough beer to last two or three hours. After that, the group will head out to a bar. You want to be buzzed enough before heading out to not drop $10 per beer at a club.

But, there are couple exceptions. If you are going to a formal dinner party, your hosts will probably have organized the wine and beer for the evening. Yippe! And most corporate engagements I have attended also cover the alcohol. Be sure to check.

Finally, Friday night: battled the cold, stood in long lines to get in the bolaget and out, and beaten the other crazy Swedes to get the last bottle of Stella. What happens next is weird. I get to the party, expecting lots of rambunctious swedes and instead get… people sitting, drinking beer, and minding their own business. Little purple and blue are placed securely between the owner’s legs for fear of grand theft beer by other guests. No one really talks to me and people just mumble a bit with each other. I compare it to a wake; without someone to mourn. It is really bizarre and yet reflective of the dependence (or perceived dependence) to get these funny people to socialize.

Eventually, people make it to their third beer. and OMG! life! The Swedes wake up from their comas and start chatting, walking around, mingling with others. Finally someone will say, “tjena! i heard you are from the US. how do like my country??” And there’s a chance you can speak to a male without him running away. Pretty awesome. But if you wait too long to talk to folks, you may end up having some very drunk conversations. And Swedes, as we all know, have some issues when it comes to human interactions.

And if you forget the bolaget bag…? Well, hope to god that some Swede misplaces his bag and you can steal that lovely Swedish beer and begin conversing with people. Like how you’re supposed to do it. With beer.