Booze cruising is alive and kicking in Norway! This is my first experience of Harrytur!
The promised land of Sweden, the home of cheap stuff for countless Norwegians. Harrytur is the concept of crossing the border to enjoy the lower costs of alcohol, tobacco, meat and other goods.
I don’t quite fully understand where the phrase “harrytur” has come from, however a quick google implies that “harry” is a derogatory term to mean “cheesy or tacky”. So the final translations roughly means “tacky trip”.
The beginning of Harrytur
The destination of choice for my first harrytur was Charlottenberg, a town a little over 5 km away from the Norwegian border. The town benefits largely from border traders, Norwegians who visit to take advantage of lower prices.
The trip began at 11.00, with 3 colleagues in tow to help me transition to this new way of life. The trip down was largely uneventful, but it was clear that we were not the only ones taking advantage of the long weekend. As we passed Kongsvinger, a small convey of Norwegian cars had started to form.
The traffic worsened as we crossed the border and made it to our first destination, Charlottenbergs Shoppingcenter.
All courtesy and order flew right out the window when trying to park in this godforsaken place. Honking horns, dodgy parking and people with a total disregard for designated crossing points provided the wonderful hindsight that maybe, a bank holiday weekend wasn’t the best time to visit Sweden.
At first, I wondered why the hell we chose this as our first destination, but it quickly became apparent why.
“This is where Systembolaget is” a friend informed me.
“It’s the Swedish wine monopoly”
Much like Norway, Sweden adopts a policy of having designated government owned stores that distribute alcohol above 3.5%. It was therefore our first destination before it closed at 15.00.
Because Sweden is in the EU, and Norway isn’t (kind of), there’s a certain quota that must be adhered to. Fortunately, handy posters are littered around the shops telling you how much you’re legally allowed to bring back. For those curious, this handy guide from toll.no helps!
However, most shoppers at systembolaget seem to ignore the quotas. Perhaps they were Swedes, but judging by the car park number plates, it was more likely some Norwegians trying their luck. Maybe customs officers are a bit lazy on bank holidays.
So exactly how cheap is the alcohol in Sweden? If compared to Norway, then it’s significantly cheaper. I think a decent bottle of beer is around £1, maybe £1.50. Compared to which would be closer to £3. I ended up saving around 50% on what I would have spent in Norway.
Alcohol purchased, it was time to buy some slightly cheaper clothes too. I’ve been dying for some summer shoes, and some new jeans. I ended up spending around £100 on new clothes too.
After buying enough alcohol to sustain me for perhaps two weeks, it was time to head on over to Eurocash.
This store is located back towards the border, and is pretty similar to Tesco and Asda superstores found in the UK, just a bit “tackier” I guess. The store is like a giant warehouse, just a bit more accessible without the use of heavy machinery.
Here is where most Norwegians buy food products in bulk. At first I was a indifferent to the selection. I drove this trip with the intention of just being a bystander in this funny craze, and food isn’t something I particularly love shopping for.
That all changed when I saw the glorious frozen pizza selection. Now I’m a fiend for frozen pizza’s, and one of my favorites since coming to Norway is Dr. Oetker’s Rustica Pepperoni. This typically retails for around £8 in Norway, but oh boy, in Sweden it was a glorious £4.
All inhibitions went out the window after that. Like the filthy addict that I was, I stocked up on about 4 or 5, weirdly scared that some other Norwegian would come along and start stealing the remaining. The floodgates opened after this, and I ended up buying kilos upon kilos of minced meat, bacon, chicken and other items.
Unfortunately, I also have a pretty crippling coke habit. Not the powder form unfortunately, but the black liquid type. A bottle costs around £3 in Norway, but in Sweden I could get 4 bottles for that. What a treat.
The journey back
With a great fear that I was putting more stress on my suspension than needed, it was time to return back home. A quick check of my bank balance indicates that I spent close to £200 on food, alcohol and clothes, but it seemed worth it.
My fridge is well and truly stocked up a while on frozen meat and alcohol, but I think some rookie mistakes were made. After living in Norway for nearly 6 months now, I had become used to the higher priced goods, and I’ve learnt to shop a bit more conservatively.
On the drive home, I started to wonder if I’d gone a bit overboard on my shopping spree. Seeing significantly lower prices takes away a couple of inhibitions that Norway had instilled on me, so maybe I bought things I wouldn’t have normally done so.
Either way, I feel a tad bit more integrated into Norwegian society now, for better or for worse. Experiencing a harrytur seems like a right of passage for most foreigners to do, and I’m glad I’ve done it.
I’ll probably go again next month…