5 ways to be a badass in Finland

 Casual nakedness, Moomins on every street corner, friendly folk who hate small talk: Finland is a land you have to visit to truly understand.

With so many unique unwritten rules in Finland, it's hard for non-natives to abide by all of them straight away. But what are those rules? And which ones do you need to break for the Finnish to consider you the biggest, toughest badass in the land?

The Finns are famous for being reserved and sometimes shy. But in the sauna, they are anything but. 
Where some cultures view nakedness as sexual and very funny, the Finns don’t think twice about letting it all hang out in the sauna when spending time with friends, family, and even work-mates. It’s tempting for an outsider to hang on to their speedos upon their first sauna visit, but not flaunting your birthday suit in a Finnish public steam-room will just make you look awkward.

Vappu is Finland’s “Labour day,” and takes place on May 1st, just as the weather is turning picnic-friendly.  Routed in ancient pagan tradition, the atmosphere of Vappu is of fun and celebration, with many Finns indulging in debauchery and consuming copious amounts of the traditional Finnish mead, Sima.  On Vappu, the streets of Helsinki are so full of laughter, vomiting and stumbling that Las Vegas looks like a small, wholesome desert town in comparison.
Staying in on Vappu is not an option. OK, some Finns choose to spend Vappu at the summer cottage, where they can get away from the excitement of the city. But you can bet that even those guys will be fall-on-their-ass drunk by 9pm.

In Finland, Moomins are kind of a big deal. Created in 1945 by Swedish-speaking Finn, Tove Jansson, the Moomin brand is now a global behemoth worth over 500 million euros.
The chubby pale hippo-like creatures are unbelievably cute and resonate with millions of people, especially the Finnish.  If you ever visit Finland, be prepared to see more Moomins than you have ever seen in your life. Moomin cafes, Moomin sodas, and even Moomin medical supplies are a common site in the city of Helsinki.  If you want to vex  the people of Finland, refer to their much-loved creatures as “spooky hippos” “chubby weird ghost things” or say “ meh, I don’t know what people love about them!”

In most countries, putting your litter in a city bin makes you an upstanding citizen. Not in Finland. Officially recognised as the world’s cleanest country, the government encourages citizens to recycle by paying 40 cents for every empty 2-liter bottle disposed of in one of the many PALPA machines available.  If a Finn cannot find a PALPA recycling machine, they normally leave empty containers on the street to be collected by the homeless, who can use them to earn a decent amount of money. 

A country that’s 78% forest has a way of teaching its 5 million inhabitants to value privacy, personal space, and silence.  As a result, Finnish public transport is designed to give people space and gives me the luxury of finding a seat on the Helsinki metro at rush hour.  Although Finns are friendly, they don’t tend to enjoy making small talk on public transport, so saying stuff like “nice weather today, isn’t it?” will be met with confusion and annoyance.

So, there you have it.  Keep your clothes on, put your litter in the bin and say "hello" to someone on public transport. Then just wait for your tough persona to get you some attention.

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