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Being wasted is no longer okay

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What was once tolerated, is no longer considered appropriate. This change has happened gradually.

In the past few months, the public debate has revolved around several incidents, each more sensational than the next, where a powerful figure has been fired or at least publicly frowned upon due to their drinking habits. Two of the incidents have involved the same company, Sanoma Oyj. The first to get the boot was Kaius Niemi, senior editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat, and he was followed by Jussi Tuulensuu, executive editor-in-chief of Aamulehti. Niemi tried to drive a car in the parking garage of Sanoma while heavily intoxicated, and Tuulensuu behaved inappropriately towards students at a stakeholder event. Alcohol use in ministries has also been scrutinized more closely following the discussion on Minister Mika Lintilä’s drinking habits.

Gulping down hard liquor is something you rarely see anymore.

In Finland, attitudes towards the use of alcohol in work life have always been slightly strange. Those of us who have beavered away for some time now are used to people turning a blind eye on drunken escapades. After all, practically everyone has had a bit too much to drink at an office party at some time or another. The boozy mating rituals of Christmas parties have become their own sub-genre of drunken exploits. In years past, an editor-in-chief or other prominent figure would be unlikely to lose their job after showing poor judgement, because attitudes were different back then. It was a normal part of work life that every few months – at summer parties, Christmas parties or similar – the entire community would reboot and create shared memories, usually with the help of booze. Bosses and workers side by side.

But the world has changed. Being wasted in professional settings is no longer okay. What was once tolerated, is no longer considered appropriate. This change has happened gradually. The number of abstainers is increasing and there are fewer heavy drinkers. Alcohol is served less often at professional events and, even if it is, it is just one glass of sparkling wine or a mild drink. Gulping down hard liquor is something you rarely see anymore.

The generation gap here is obvious. The older generation that is more used to a boozy work life has gradually had to clean up its drinking habits and adapt to a changed world, whereas young people seem to consider moderate drinking perfectly normal. I guess they’re smarter than us in that respect as well. 

Some might say that life sure has become boring. That may be, but it is more likely that this wholesome work life trend will turn out highly positive. We may no longer get to laugh at our drunken blunders together, but many negative aspects – hangovers, regrets, shame – are also becoming a thing of the past. Fortunately, the world has become a place where there are other options to choose from. We can reboot and create shared memories in other ways besides having two per mille of alcohol in us.

Have a happy summer!

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