5 weird ways Finland polices drinking
Finns love a drink. In fact, every person in Finland chugs their way through an average 10.4 litres of the shine every year. They even buy a third of all the booze sold in Estonia. These guys raid their mates' liquor cabinets on a truly grand scale.
So it's surprising that Finland inflicted 13 long years of alcohol prohibition on themselves back in 1919. In a nation of dark, cold winters, and long light summer nights – two perfect drinking kinds of weather – the buzzkill idea went down like a sack of hammers.
Naturally, criminals quickly got rich selling black-market hooch, leading to a violent crime wave and many boring Saturday nights. Finally, the government sobered up and repealed prohibition in 1932. It made sense to do this, as a whopping 70% of the population voted to bring back the booze through a national referendum.
But the hangover of Finnish prohibition is still evident today in the nation's weird and wonderful ways booze is policed. To see for yourself, check these five out.
1. Homer Simpson would not like Finland
The Simpson family has travelled to many countries over the years, but they're not likely to come to Finland any time soon. Here, Homer's much-loved Duff beer is strictly prohibited due to its connection with the famous animated family. Finnish alcohol companies aren't allowed to use cartoon characters in advertising campaigns, which is understandable. But Duff beer has no real connection to The Simpsons. In fact, creator Matt Groening himself has refused to license it for fear of encouraging kids to drink.
2. Companies can't give free samples to the public
Microbreweries are a big deal in Finland, especially in trendy areas of Helsinki. But setting up a microbrewery in Finland is no small task, as promoting products proves difficult. Here, alcohol can only be given out in licenced supermarkets or bars, and handing out free samples is an absolute no-no. What's more, alcohol companies have to deal with miles of red tape before giving potential investors a taste of their product. Talk about a hard pitch!
3. Finland's famous "Long Drink" was invented for tourists
When Helsinki hosted the Summer Olympics back in 1952, city officials were quick to find a way to sidestep strict alcohol laws created after prohibition was abolished. Vendors needed to be able to sell alcohol to foreign customers, so laws were relaxed, and the national alcohol beverage retailing monopoly got to work on some ready-to-consume drinks. One was the Gin Long Drink, which remains a much-loved libation to this day. This was a clever idea, as Finnish Long Drinks taste uniquely mild and resemble a tame glass of fruit juice, despite containing 5.5% alcohol.
4. Bloggers can't promote alcohol
Despite writing about Finland's love of alcohol, I'm not allowed to give you any details about my personal preferences, even though i'm not being sponsored. Restaurant owners and bar managers have to watch what they say, too, and even have to remove positive comments about alcohol brand from their social media feeds. This is mainly because the Finnish government incorporated social media into its alcohol act back in 2015, making Finland the first nation to do so.
5. Alcohol slogans can't mention strength
Strength is important to Finns. After all, a country doesn't defeat a superpower like Russia without some grit and perseverance. The idea of carrying on through tough times plays such a massive part of Finland's cultural identity, and many don't want to confuse the sacred idea with drunken decadence. Because of this, simple slogans such as "The strongest of its breed," which was used on a famous Finnish beer was enough to raise a few eyebrows.
For better or worse, alcohol plays a big part in Finnish life. And although legislation can be rather complicated at times, most people agree that relaxing with a cold drink is a fine way to unwind and enjoy the moment.
Photo credit: Timo Newton-Syms