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Tony Öhberg
Stacks of beer boxes to bring home at an Estonian cruise ferry traveling to Helsinki. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Stacks of beer boxes to bring home at an Estonian cruise ferry traveling to Helsinki. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Only 8 days to Midsummer Eve. The nation is slowly preparing to the bacchanal of the nightless night. The light alone is enough to drive most Finns batshit crazy, but after a few funky cold medinas, there is nothing stopping the happy clacking of Mölkky, the smell of the barbecue grill and plastered rowboat trips to the nearest island.

It’s peak season for booze in Finland, a close second to Christmas.

There’s only one problem: the booze is so damn expensive. Food is pricey too.

Alcohol is 72 percent more expensive in Finland than in the European Union on average, and the prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks exceed the EU norm by about 20 percent.

However, there’s an old, well-tried prescription for the thirst of the hard stuff.

All it takes is a two-hour ferry trip to Estonia, where the price of booze is in the mid-range according to the European standards. The price of food is about 90 percent from the Union average.

Yeah . . . many things are better across the Gulf of Finland . . . the taxes, the women (Estonia has the highest number of international supermodels per capita in the world. Bring some to play Mölkky?); the hospitality and patience of the people in the majestic medieval Tallinn is enviable. On a sunny or a rainy day, you would be hard pressed to not find a typical Finn smashed and carrying a month’s worth of strong beer back home. (For Midsummer the same amount will have to do for a day.) Remains of Estonian food can be found in the nearness of the port terminals. In one form or another.


The aqua vitae is also cheaper in Sweden and Denmark – if we focus on the Nordics – with Iceland and Norway being the most expensive. (The two latter ones are, however, not EU countries.)

Food prices compared with Finland are about the same in Sweden, but costlier in Iceland, Norway and Denmark, with the latter grabbing the crown of the most big-ticket food-country in the EU, where the price of a grocery basket is doubled compared with the cheapest country in the Union, Poland.

The data is based on a recent survey released Wednesday, which compares the average food, beverage and tobacco prices in 2015. It’s conducted by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The survey consists of 38 European countries, including all 28 EU member states, and covers about 440 comparable products.

There’s one product where Finland places in the middle of the EU average: tobacco . . . which is interesting; drinking and smoking in excess kills, but according to one study alcoholics die 20 years sooner on average than the general population, so maybe the pols on the Arcadian Hill are on to something. Or, maybe, an average Finn can’t simply be trusted with a keg in hand. (Or on the hand, they can count on a typical Finn to buy booze in excess – a guaranteed tax revenue.)

It will be interesting to observe the consumer behavior in the beginning of 2017 when the reforms to the Alcohol Act are likely to come in effect, and strong beer can be picked up from the shelves of a corner store and, according to some speculations, the alcohol prices could actually drop.

Until then, happy traveling.