On Socialising

About 5 min reading time

One thing I’ve noticed during my past half ish year of traveling outside of Europe is the difference in how young people interact and socialise with each other, compared to the customs in my native country Sweden.

The Problem”

People seem to have more fun in South America, with less alcohol.

The Explanations”

(or Observations I’ve made, and what follows is a rambling mess I’ve tried to tie together into something that could resemble a coherent opinion on the matter”).

Work hard, since that shit will pay off  — Don’t be flamboyant and too happy all the time, people will think you’re a crazy person — Having a glass of wine for lunch on a Tuesday?! What are you, an alcoholic? — Jesus, are you dressed like that little thing for the beach? — Um, we can’t go to the club yet, I’m not drunk yet. We won’t have fun sober, you know?

Those are common things you hear here and there in Sweden.

One time in Brazil, north of Rio de Janeiro, me and my group of friends was at a bar with live music. We noticed a larger number of families with small children around. The clock was around perhaps around 21-22 in the evening. I could see the Moral Police of Sweden going Rambo on their asses with This is not a suitable environment for a child! There’s alcohol around!”. Oh really, you don’t say? My friend elegantly put it something like:

The parents here aren’t shit drunk, of course. They bring their kids to this social gathering to be with them — just to hang out with their kids. To teach them the subtle ways of communicating in groups and socialising with strangers. Simply treat them as people.

Nordic people aren’t renowned for their extrovert flamboyance and openness – more for their unwillingness to talk with strangers, not making too much noise for themselves, and foremost the inability to handle the prices on alcohol in warmer countries during vacation. Even though the word lagom” in Swedish means just right — not more, not less” we have a terrible habit of doing the opposite: either be the stiff person who doesn’t let loose on a samba party, or be that shit drunk person who goes way too far. Not that lagom.

This kind of hypocritical thinking in social environments is more rare in South America. Alcohol isn’t a central stimulant, even though you of course can buy it anywhere at almost any time of the day. It feels like people of all ages and genders are having fun when they’re together. Why wouldn’t they?

Is it because we don’t invite our kids to the party earlier on? Teaching, no, showing them social manners” and how to have super fun without alcohol? They won’t do as you tell them anyway — they’ll do as you do.

Politics, Social Dictatorship, and Bullshittery

A friend linked me a piece on YouTube about various facets of Swedish mentality and culture throughout the years. It sharply highlights the sad destiny of our social life on beer cafés” — institutions similar to the British pubs. The narrator points to the fact that Swedes often has a need of being somebody, somewhere”. We have few social institutions in Sweden where you just can be as you are, and not feel like you’re being put in a box.

An elderly man (back in the 1960s) in the video above puts it:

Well, we need a place to go to. Where else are we supposed to meet people? We can’t invite everybody home all the time.

In the land of Equality, Lagom, and Jante, people have had the need to set themselves aside in some subtle way. In this case, it’s about going to that specific club, or hanging out at this obscure subcultural bar. There are few regular fucking bars and cafés” around, with decently priced drinks and food. The levels of pretentiousness are soon becoming unbearable.

Some back story: in Sweden, the government controls all sales of alcohol. All stores are government owned, with quite rigid opening hours and quite high prices on especially hard liquor (I can rant on about this godforsaken monopoly, but let’s not go into that). There are also strict food and alcohol laws for restaurants, clubs, and bars, which in itself is good but to a limit.

Zoom back to South America. Or Rio, where I currently am located, where I seldom notice a branded bar” or something out of the ordinary. Everything is what it is. You drink beer on wooden (or on authentic plastic) chairs on the curb, where the bar is a hole-in-the-wall institution. I doubt the bar in question needs to apply for some silly warrant from the city to have that. The tab seldom goes above $6 per person if you’re two people splitting a few large beers (that’s the minimum price for a small single beer in Sweden …).

Does Sweden have too strict alcohol and food laws, which hinder small business to grow and let people eat and drink out more often, in order to socialise and get out of their houses? Yes, I believe so.

Insecurities

Feminism should be a baseline everywhere, since the world is currently skewed between the genders. Violence, abuse, unbalanced working conditions, harassment, slurs, attitudes. All that crap that a huge part of women need to put up with every day. That’s one thing Swedes do better than South America: the macho attitude and conservative lines here are strong.

A lot of nice but awkward young men are opting out of approaching women because there is no opportunity for them to make mistakes without suffering worse embarrassment than ever.

The Sexodus: Part 1

I read an article from 2014 called The Sexodus: Men giving up on women and checking out of society. I highly recommend it, even though I think the article is a bit from a single point of view and downplays rape culture.

It brings up on how young, white males are so extremely filled with instructions on how they should behave in society. They’re constantly being told to check their privileges”, even though they might come from a not-so-easy-going, struggling lower class background — but still being white guys.

This is also discussed in the slightly irrelevant piece Democracies end when they are too democratic — on how the current situation in the US with Donald Trump might be due to our obsessiveness with democracy and political correctness”, which has now been turned against us.

On white, male privilege:

Even if you agree that the privilege exists, it’s hard not to empathize with the object of this disdain. These working-class communities, already alienated, hear — how can they not? — the glib and easy dismissals of white straight men” as the ultimate source of all our woes.

Young men are confused. The old ways” of interacting with the other sex simply don’t hold up any longer, since you’re not sure if you’re offending the other person or not. And now the radical feminists say

Buu-fucking-huu, you dick, are you comparing that with the shit us women been through for the last hundreds of years? #mantears”

Nope. Not comparing. Just putting it out there that society is affecting men in ways you might not think about. I’m not saying we should adhere to traditional gender roles. Things need to change. Men and women are equal.

This lack of firm foundation is something I haven’t experienced in Brazil, where young people seem so secure in themselves and how they are when socialising. It’s so fluid, so normal, no fussing around, no tension. Again: focus on the fun.


I find it sad that the Swedish society as a whole isn’t opening up its eyes and see how it’s not so dangerous to lower the guard on letting restaurants and bars pop up here and there, doing their thing. It’s sad that young people have to end up in the ditch every time they go out, since it’s the only world they know. It’s sad that we don’t have a society where no member of the sexes need to feel frightened, threatened, insecure, or embarrassed when they interact with the opposite.

When I’m out in Brazil, I know it’s gonna be fun – regardless of the people involved. Not so in Sweden. Even though I prefer meeting new people all the time, the safe bet often is to hang out with people you know. Since others are often too drunk, or too boring to talk to while having your overpriced beer in a bar that probably will change style from Eco Hipster” to Bulgarian Iranian Fusion” in a few years.

Keywords alcoholsocialsocietysouth america