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The use of strong alcohol in Finland is largely due to the fact that Finland has sub-arctic or temperate weather, where you cannot grow wine grapes but beer and spirits can be produced. In the early twentieth century, the misuse and overuse of alcohol was a big social problem, leading to a prohibition law. The prohibition was not well received, as one might guess, and was eventually abolished. The prohibition did, however, lead many to re-think their drinking habits. With the restrictions put on the alcohol culture by the law, Finns began to take note of the hazards of drinking and attitudes toward alcohol are slowly changing.
While heavy drinking is a historically strong culture trait that Finns share with other Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland) attitudes are changing slowly, especially among young people. The "European way" of drinking is spreading. This European way is opting for lighter drinks, such as beer, cider, and light wines. This is related to Finnish city-culture. Drinking is a social activity, and Finns drink wine at dinner or when visiting friends, or they will just have one beer while socializing. The idea is to drink lighter, and avoid getting drunk.
You have all heard the stereotype of the "silent Finn". Well, as many Finns drink to relax or have a good time, alcohol is seen as the Finns' way to open up. Only when Finns are drunk are they "permitted" to speak and show their emotions. This may be why drinking is so strongly tied to socializing and relaxing.
However, among Finnish students having fun usually means drinking and getting drunk. Spirits are still the drink of choice, which is illustrated by the fact that the amount of spirit used in Finland is one of the highest in the world. Many holidays are humorously referred to as "official drinking holidays". Many of these holidays are highlighted by public celebrations, and it is not uncommon to see drunken Finns on the streets. This may be where some of the stereotypes come from. While the drinking age is officially 18 in Finland, people of all ages drink as the minors have "their ways" of getting alcohol. Finnish students are renowned for their heavy drinking and celebrating, so let's take a look at some of these celebrations!
VAPPU (1st Day of
A Finnish Celebration
Vappu (sometimes called Vappen) is the official student celebration all over the country , as well as the celebration of working people and spring. The best way to experience Vappu is to get together with the Finnish students. While Vappu officially starts on the first day of May, the festivities typically begins a few days before. Vappu officially begins on April 30th with a traditional rowing competition on the Aura river. You can usually see the Finns wearing overalls and traditional white students' caps at Vappu. Vappu is a combination of many international influences, such as the traditional spring-time revelry of Scandinavian students, the European celebration of spring, among others, topped off with the enthusiastic Finnish drinking style.
Midsummer, celebrated on June 15, is the biggest party of the year. It is the celebration of the longest day of the year (most sunlight hours) and celebrating often lasts all week. Finns typically celebrate Midsummer by going to summer cottages or to lakes. The idea is to be in a rural setting and enjoy nature, and those in the cities will decorate buses and the like with birch leaves to create a "natural" atmosphere. Midsummer goes hand in hand with celebrating by the water. Unfortunately, this often means there are many drownings during Midsummer, because mixing alcohol with water activities is a dangerous combination. Aside from this, a bonfire is usually the highpoint of a Midsummer celebration, along with grilling sausages (with a beer, of course!)
INDEPENDENCE DAY--DECEMBER 6TH
Finland gained it's independence from Russia on December 6, 1917. Independence Day is a serious holiday for most Finns. The President has a televised party with some of his fellow politicians and other diplomats. The Finnish citizens usually make fun of the clothes the politicians were wearing. Finns put candles on the graves of those who died in the war. Still, Independence Day is considered by some of the younger Finns, to be a drinking holiday. They celebrate by having a party at someone's apartment. They drink and socialize.
For more information about Finnish Holidays, check out this website!
There are several types of places to go drinking in Finland. The first is a restaurant. A restaurant in Finland is a place that serves both food and alcohol. After dining, patrons usually move to the dance floor. Dancing in restaurants is very popular. Going to a restaurant involves getting dressed up. Couples go to a restaurant for a night out on the town. Singles go to either hang out with friends or try to pick up that special partner for the night.
Pubs are another place to go for drinks. Pubs are not as fancy as restaurants, but they have a class all their own. Drinking and socializing are the primary reasons for going to a pub. The crowd is usually older men who do not know how to behave themselves. Food is also served at some pubs. The food served is usually along the lines of grilled sausages. In September, crawfish are abundant and are a very popular choice at pubs. These crawfish are considered a delicacy. Pubs do not have dance floors, but people do dance when a band happens to be playing. Throwing darts is another activity Finns like to engage in at pubs.
Bars and discos are also popular places to go. A bar is more upscale than a pub. Bars are more modern and some have colorful neon signs that electrify the night air. Most of the discos also have the bright neon signs to attract its customers. The bar is a favorite place to meet your friends for a drink. Drinking and socializing are the main activities at bars. Some bars are devoted to having live music like "jazz bars" or "rock clubs". Discos are exactly what they sound like. The words "disco" and "night club" can be used interchangeably. They have the dance floor with flashing lights and loud "hip-hop" dance music. People usually dress up to go to the disco. Bars and discos are another place to go on a date or go as a single to try and find that special someone.
Many times Finns will meet at someone's apartment to have a party. They will get dressed up so they look presentable. To some Finns it is important to dress up even if they are not going out in public. They just like to wear clothes that look good. At a party wines, beer, and ciders will be consumed. Sometimes the party is just a starter before heading out to the bars. Other times the party will stay at the apartment, eat food, drink, and socialize.
A related idea is the Finnish drinking custom called'saaunakalja'. Finland's trademark custom is going to the sauna. This is where friends and even strangers can go sit and talk. The sauna is a socially acceptable place to share personal stories and emotions. After being in the sauna, everyone has a chilled beer (lemonade for children). The beer makes the pleasure of the sauna complete!
Finnish law says that it is legal to drink in public places. However, many of the larger towns have prohibited drinking alcohol in public places. Yet sometimes you can see drunks wandering around in the park. These people are usually homeless, alcoholics, or someone trying to see if they can get away with breaking the law. Usually a police officer will tell you that you should not be drinking in public and will not give you a ticket. In the summer months the city allows for public celebrations. Certain areas will be blocked off so people can consume alcohol in these places.
Some useful words
bottle of beer pullo olutta
draught beer hanaolut
pint tuoppi, pitkä
one beer yksi olut
two beers kaksi olutta
3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 kolme, neljä, viisi, kuusi, seitsemän, kahdeksan, yhdeksän, kymmenen olut
spirits, liquor viina
sparkling wine kuohuviini
pub pubi, kapakka
shop, store kauppa
thank you kiitos
good bye näkemiin
excuse me anteeksi
In 1155, when the first Finnish settlers arrived in the territory now called Finland, they had no beverages. To satisfy their cravings, they created Sahti. Sahti is a wheat based beer that closely resembles the taste of home brewed beer. This beer is difficult to make because it requires a special yeast and it is difficult to maintain the correct temperature for brewing. Today Sahti is drunk mainly at weddings and formal parties because it is a tradition. Sahti is not a very popular beer, mainly because of it's taste.
Kilju was the next beer produced after Sahti. Kilju is similar to Sahti, but it tastes worse. It also has the habit of giving its drinkers the worst hangover they've ever experienced as well as diarhea. We've included a recipe for Kilju in our recipe section.
Koff beer is made by the Sinerbykoff breweries. Sinerbykoff is the oldest brewery in Finland that is still in business. It is located in Kerava, near Helsinki. Sinerbykoff has historically made the best beers. Their beers have a dry plain taste, which many Finns classify as dull and having no distinct taste.
Olvi breweries are located in eastern Finland, approximately 300 km from the Russian border. All Olvi's have the same basic taste, yet each beer is slightly different. Olvi Special is stronger than most other beers. Many people don't like it because of the strong taste, however Olvi Special is one of the three best selling beers in Finland. Olvi Sandels has a softer taste than Special. Olvi Sandels is named after the Finnish war hero who lead his troops to beat the Russian armies in the early 1800's. The historic site of this battle is only 80 km from the Olvi Breweries. Another type of beer is Olvi Vaakuna. This beer is almost the same as Sandels except the name is different.
Karhu is a very sweet beer. Karjala is a strong bitter beer. It is named after the part of Finland that lost to Russia in World War II.
Lapin Kulta is brewed and bottled in Lapland. This is the most popular beer in Finland. It has a very mild taste and is best served cold. Finns say, "If you don't like the taste of beer, you'll like Lapin Kulta." Lapin Kulta is also sold everywhere.
Finland also has several seasonal beers. Summer beer is light and made with less malted hops so one does not feel weighted down on a hot summer day. Winter beer is a very dark beer. It is made to have extra calories to help give energy during the cold winter months. Christmas beer is the darkest beer made because it is consumed during the season with very little sunlight.
When Finland was under Russian rule, the selling rights of beer were sold to the highest bidder. In 1819 in Helsinki, Nikolai Sinebrchoff bought the rights to sell beer and that is why his breweries, Sinerbykoff breweries are the oldest breweries in Finland.
Alko is the government controlled company that was created to controll the sale of alcohol to all of Finland. Customers were only allowed to buy as much beer as bottles they brought in and had to be 21 years old. Alko would buy all the beers from all the breweries for distribution. Alko would resell the beer to shops and restaurants. Alko paid the breweries the same price for all beer, no matter how it was different. Breweries could not make any money unless they produced a cheaper, lesser quality beer. For this reason it is why so many breweries did not survive.
Keskiolutluki was the name of the law that restructured the beer selling and buying rules. This law created the following four classes for grading the alcohol content of beer:
Olut: below 2.25% alcohol volume
II Olut: 2.25 to 3.7% This class is not used
III Olut: 3.7 to 4.7% Most common beer type
IV A Olut: 4.7 to 5.8% Traditional normal beer
IV B Olut: more than 5.8% This class is relatively new
Importing beer was made legal in 1994. You can buy most wines, ciders and certain types of beer at liquor shops or the grocery store. Hard liquors such as whiskey, tequilla, the ever popular vodka, and very strong beers must be purchased from Alko. A class Olut I beer can be bought for about 3 FIM. A class Olut III beer will cost around 6 FIM. A generic lager will cost about 15 FIM. Vodka can be very expensive, a bottle may cost anywhere around 100 FIM or more.
YOUR OWN FINNISH BEER
Recipe for Sima
From the Mission
Place in a large bowl, preferably something with a tight lid:
lemon's outer rind ("zest")
1 lb. sugar
1 gallon boiling water
1 pkt. dried yeast
juice from lemon
into the bottles:
Rinse and dry lemon, grate its outer yellow peal. Place in the container. Add the sugar and water. Cover the container and let the mixture cool. When lukewarm, add yeast and juice. Let stand for two days. Sima is then poured into bottles through a seive. Add 1 tsp. sugar and a couple of raisins in each bottle. Cap each bottle tightly and place in a cool place. After about a week or two, the raisins will have floated to the top, which is a good indication that sima is ready for your enjoyment. So--enjoy! (Be careful not to let it ferment too long. You might enjoy it too much!)
Contributed by Liisa Berg
(a beer similar to Sahti, but it tastes worse!)
Warning: can cause a severe hangover and diarrhea!
liters of water
peels of orange
half a loaf of rye bread
50 grams of plain baking yeast
berries, fruit, or potatoes
Put in a container with a hole in the lid, store in a warm place.
Ready to drink in 2-3 weeks!
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