Exploring the drinking culture at concerts in Norway and the U.S.

By Ethan Reddish

When I came to Norway, I noticed how prevalent alcohol was in daily life, at least compared to my home in small-town south Georgia.

A man drinks a beer and smiles.
A concert-goer enjoys a cup of beer at Bergenfest. Photo by Ethan Reddish

In Norway, people seem to drink with every meal but my family never drank at lunch or dinner. My college, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, is a dry campus, but at Alfaskolen where we hold classes, students could have a beer with lunch off-campus and still be accepted in class in the afternoon — provided their behavior was unaffected, according to school officials. In the Bible Belt, a social stigma applies to most alcohol consumption, but in Oslo people seem to judge others on their actions after drinking, not on the drinking in itself.

With the drinking age at 18 and bars everywhere, I thought music festivals would be much looser than at concerts back home. At events in Georgia, venues may limit how many drinks someone can buy each time they return to the bar.

At Musikkfest, a city-wide event in Oslo, people could wander from venue to venue taking food and drink with them.

At Bergenfest, which seemed like a typical Norwegian music festival in regards to alcohol, people were not allowed to bring their own alcohol, but there was an abundance sold at the event itself. I saw people go into the bar and lounge, then come out with a half dozen beers in a carrier.

A music lover carries a carton of beer cups. Photo by Ethan Reddish.

“The general policy is, you cannot be drunk at a public event,” said Ole-Morten Algerøy, one of the Bergenfest promoters. “If security sees someone who looks like they’ve had too much to drink, they will ask them politely to sober up. If they don’t, they ask them to leave.”

Dalton Spangler, an ABAC student and music critic, says this seems to be a more proactive approach than at American events, where security tends to intervene only when the drunk person in question becomes a nuisance.

Concerning Norwegian drinking culture, Algerøy said, “The regulations here are quite strict. You can’t buy it (alcohol) past 8 p.m. in the shops on weekdays or 6 p.m. on weekends. And not at all on Sundays in shops. But we don’t have many of the alcohol-related problems compared to countries with looser regulations. In Norway, either we have a party, or we don’t have a party.”

I was surprised to find that Norway managed their alcohol more proactively compared to concerts in the US, and even stricter in general life. In truth, Norwegians drink less than people in Georgia, by about 20 percent, according to sales data from the US and Norway. It shows that appearances are really only surface deep.