Restaurants & Bars

A reflection on living, eating and drinking in Sweden

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A reflection on living, eating and drinking in Sweden

mdibiaso | Feb 11, 2004 01:54 AM

At the request of a true hound, here is a very personal take on Sweden today. And please remember is it Switzerland not Sweden that has those big mountains and chocolate. Furthermore the language in Sweden, despite what the international tax lawyer at the US headquarters of my company thinks is Swedish not German (some expert eh, and he wanted to eat Chinese when he visited us!)

With mixed emotions I say the country has become
more Americanized the past 15 years, particular
in Stockholm. This means you can no longer set
your watch by the arrival of the subway, taxis
rip people off occasionally, things like bank
robbery have increased tremendously, there are
beggars, the streets are not particular clean.
But on the good side you can go shopping after 6
PM and on Saturdays and Sundays, grocery stores
even have strange things like marshmellows and
maple syrup (15 years ago you could not even buy
a chicken that wasn't frozen!), TV is not just 2
channels with 5 hours of public broadcasting a
day, people do not look at a person with dark
skin as if they just stepped off a spaceship...

As far as prices for dining go it is VERY
Swedish. Everything is schrunched towards the
middle because of the tax system and social
welfare net. There are no really cheap places
unless you want to risk food poisoning and
willingly want to contribute to an illegal
operation. But there are no really expensive
places like Paris or New York or London. The
best value on an international basis is to go to
places with main courses around 30-35 dollars
(tax and tip included always in the price). You
can dine at a restaurant with a Bocuse d'Or gold
medal winner actually behind the stove in this
price range (Bon Lloc is the place and they serve
Nuevo Latino, 15 years ago Sweden did not even
know what tapas or tacos were). The same is true
for wine. Because of the taxes there are no
bargins under 10 dollar a bottle. But at the high
end, for example a good bordeaux, the prices are
often 20% LOWER than France and for European
wines above 40 dollars a bottle probably 30-40%
lower than the US. Reason is all alcohol is sold
by the state and the goal is not to make profit.
It is to reduce drinking. So the tax and profit
on a 50 dollar bottle is probably only 2-3
dollars more than the tax and profit on a 5
dollar bottle. Collectors actually fly to Sweden
to buy things like Romanee Conti and then take it
to London to sell at an auction for a big profit.
Strange huh. In restaurant you want to do the
same, order more expensive wine, but the markup
is like the US about 300% so it is still not
cheap. You want to totally avoid beer and spirits
because they are considered "bad" alcohol and
taxed much higher than wine.

Finally the exchange rate makes a difference.
When the dollar was at 10.5 SEK it seamed dirt
cheap to eat here in Sweden (McDonalds was
actually cheaper than the US for a while) and now
at 7.2 it seems expensive again. But hej, when
you have a child you get 13 months maternity
leave PAID buy the government and you can split
it between the mother and father who cares! This could explain the country's reputation for being fixated on reproductive activities.

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