Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bar Fights in Stockholm

Swedes, as a general rule, are a peaceful bunch. They like puppy dogs. Butterflies. Sunshine. That’s what made last night so very interesting. But first, let me set the scene.

I found myself out at a bar with a few friends. We got a later start to the evening so didn’t even get to the bar until about midnight. I had never been there before. But when I saw that there was a large fish tank in the window, I knew it was obviously a classy establishment. My assumptions were proven correct by the walls lined with mirror and the stripper pole towards the back of the bar.

The four of us went and camped out next to the stripper pole. Because we are classy. And also because it was the only place left to stand.

The classiness did not stop there. Over the course of the next two hours, I was witness to everything that makes a night out in Stockholm so very exciting.

I saw a girl, who clearly came with a guy who’s company she was enjoying, dance on the stripper pole, exchange about five words with a random guy who walked by, make out and both walk in their separate directions.

I saw a creepy little man walking around with a camera taking pictures of pretty people. He approached a girl, who proceeded to channel her inner Madonna and vogue for the camera. By herself. At least four or five poses.

But, most exciting, I saw a fight. Apparently a fight that started over a girl. Usually, bar fights seem to follow a predictable pattern. Guy one says something stupid. Guy two pushes him. Guy one takes a swing. Guy two swings back. At this point, a slight hush has fallen over those in the immediate vicinity. A crowd forms, at which point the screaming and yelling picks up. This is the point at which a good Samaritan or the bouncer comes in to break up the fight.

But this was different. It was incredible, like no one saw anything. No one stepped in. No one screamed. No one yelled. No one tried to stop anything at all. A guy in a pony tail had taken a swing at some guy. Some Guy was bleeding profusely from his nose. Some Guy had taken quite a few steps back as the blood flowed. It seemed like a smart thing to do. Pony Tail on the other hand had gone back to talking to his buddy, sipping calmly from his beer.

Suddenly, Pony Tail went to attack. Again. Some Guy got a couple good punches in leaving Pony Tail bleeding from his nose and forehead. Some Guy was still bleeding from his nose, and now from his chin. Again, the other bar-goers did nothing. Finally, the bouncers realized something was going on and cleaned house. Some Guy was dragged outside. Pony Tail was slammed up against the cigarette machine. Order was restored.

Of course, since everyone had just chosen not to see anything, it wasn’t like all that much order needed to be restored. But still. I suppose if there had been more disorder, the bouncers would have realized something was going on and remove the two from the situation immediately.

Obviously, I have been reliving this in my head. Discussed it a bit with the others who were there. There’s plenty that can be culled from the incident. The desire of Swedes to live in their own world. A live and let live sort of attitude that people sometimes use to describe Swedes. The desire of Swedes to avoid conflict. There’s that whole neutrality thing. The effects of alcohol in that desire to avoid conflict. That’s not necessarily specific to Swedes, but interesting none the less.

Whatever conclusions that can be drawn, I was just amazed. Maybe in a sick sort of way. I’m not sure what it says about me that the highlights of my evening involved a bar with a stripper pole and a fight. Maybe Vegas is someplace I could learn to love after all.

Welcome to Sweden. And bar fights in Stockholm.

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  1. Geez Hairy, are you sure you were not at The Revolution (Biggest nightclub here in town) on Satuday night? Aside from the cigarrete machine, which is illegal in Canada, stuff like that happens all the time around here. It is ridiculous because everyone pre-drinks here before going out since the LCBO (Liquor Licensing Board of Ontario) and The Beer Store ( Yes, we have government-owned alcohol monopolies here too) are a lot cheaper than buying drinks at the bar and people just don't keep a handle on their consumption, get to the bar, have some more and then get stupid and fight over the dumbest things. Reminds me of that t-shirt I saw a couple of weeks ago that said "Instant A**ole, Just Add Beer!"

  2. Also, when there are a lot of others around, people tend to not do anything because they think "hey- there are so many other people here. Someone else will take care of it!"

    That could also be a factor.

  3. Mybe people not reacting is a good thing. In the US we have bar fights all the time and it kind of sickens me that people get so excited. Want to watch it. Make a crowd. Like its the gladiators getting eaten by lions (which is a fascinating thing to see). Plus, drunk people getting involved often only grows the number of people beating and getting beaten.

  4. @Néstor – I think that plays a big role here. In fact that’s exactly what we did before we went out. Drank a little at home because its cheaper. But if you’re then going to drink yourself stupid at the bar it kind of defeats the purpose since you’re not really saving any of that money then.

    Of course, like you said, some people just can’t figure ut their limits.

    @Jessy – In a lot of situations I think I would agree with you. Here though, it was such a small bar and small area that it should have been one of those times when everyone wants it stopped because it was encroaching on them.

    That being said, the lot of people around someone else will take care of it, often does play a big part in these sorts of situations. And not just in Sweden.

    @m8surf – People not reacting in enjoyment is a great thing. Absolutely. People not reacting and letting things continue is not a great thing. And that’s what I saw happening. And that’s what was so frustrating.

  5. As a person who always used to get jumped when going outside even though I have never had any interest in fighting I have a lot of experience in this. The reason no one steps in is because the people who fight usually fight because they want to fight, so any person getting involved will get involved in the fight. The classic situation is when the two people fighting turn on the person getting involved and kick his ass. In other words, never get involved in a fight.

  6. It's a Viking-thing. :D
    If they have a problem they'll solve it in a duel. Only without fighting to the death. :D
    Nah, but i usually think: "Idiots. If they want to wake up all beaten up tomorrow, let them."

  7. @anonymous - fair enough. although I have broken up fights both between friends who were acting stupid and also random people at bars without anyone trying to goad me into the fight.

    @anonymous - I like both of your theories. and came up with another one. perhaps this was a bar that was so used to fights that no one reacted.

  8. I have always sort of wanted to get in a bar brawl. But there would need to be so many rules (a guarantee not to be permanently hurt is chief among them) that I don't think it will ever happen (not to mention that I'm old and reflex-less, these days).

    By the way, we're in Lund and it is glorious!

  9. Hahah, you never seen a bar fight in the U.S.? :D

    Took a look below at them things you could do for fun during the holidays. I wonder how they come up with everything.

  10. @John - maybe you could pick a fight with an old person? I feel like that might help with all of your rules.

    glad to hear lund is glorious. stockholm has been pretty glorious as of late also.

    @Daniel - thanks, I'll check it out!

    @anonymous - Ive seen plenty. and even broken up one or two.

  11. Hej! This has nothing to do with bar fights in Stockholm... just I am surprised you haven't written about this yet:
    Seems right up your alley ;)Watching that video was the first thing I did this morning and it has made me laugh all day.
    Love your blog by the way, I read it all the time. Keep up the good work!

  12. Hairy Swede
    I dont know if you are a fan or not, but The Daily Show did a segment on Sweden last night (april 21). Its available online the Daily Show website, 3rd segment.
    "Wyatt Cenac travels to Sweden to wake them up from their socialist nightmare"

  13. @vinranka - I just didn't really know what to do with it to be honest. It was just so glorious in and of itself.

    @travis - I saw that. Gotta appreciate Sweden getting some press. And stereotypes.

  14. Hairy...this sounds like a hockey game you were at one time, only with much less onlooker violence......

  15. Obviously i have no idea as to what you could be talking about.

    Fighting at hockey games should be contained to the ice. Not in the stands. Helping an old man.