Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Party time, Finland style

I've recently finished reading a cracking book, Popular Music from Vittula, which is a thinly-disguised autobiography of someone living in the rural Pajala region of Sweden, on the border with Finland. Woven through the narrative are comments and examples of local dialects, drinking habits, social events, and local gossip.


It's been a thoughtful exercise comparing it to The Stornoway Way, which is also about living in a rural place (in this case the nearby island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides). Both places share a lot in common: the long darkness of winter, the drinking culture, complex local social niceties, local dialects that people from further afield, in the same country, cannot understand, the urge to escape, and the urge to stay.


One of my favourite chapters in this, and any book, concerns a post-wedding party. The meal is described in often brillant detail:
The first course was local crispbread and salmon. Every single one of the men turned his piece of crispbread upside down, so that the holes were underneath. That way they would save butter, just as their impecunious parents had taught them.

The event degenerates into a series of contests between the families of the bride and groom (one group local, the other from over the border in Finland), including eating, drinking, fighting and sauna endurance. Yes, sauna endurance. I was thinking about this again when looking at the pictures from the pre-Christmas party at the games lab in Tampere University, the pictures from which are immersed in this blog entry.


Video games! Lots of running around dressed in sparkling Christmas lights! Eating a quite splendid looking buffet! This may be a bit knapsu for some people, but it sure looks fun to me. And then, erm, everyone gets into a hot tub and touches toes: 


At my previous place of work, before I (wisely) went self-employed, if this list of activities was suggested as the staff party, it would have been received with horrified silence. Followed by most people quickly booking leave, or being "ill", to avoid it.


Actually nowadays, such festivities would be banned under the draconian "Health and Safety" legislation that stifles the UK; out of the 12 pictures in the Finnish party collection, at least 8 contain activities that would either be banned, or require a "risk assessment" or expensive insurance cover, to take place in a UK university. Within 2 minutes of the party starting, some security guard would have run in, pulled all the wires out and turned off the hot tub.

The Scandinavians, on the other hand, seem to know how to always have a good time with no fuss or hassle. Heippa! 



  1. Are you one of the lads in the tub?

  2. No, I'm not. If I was there, I'd be finishing off the buffet.

  3. Off to meet the “evil Santa”… at Silversprite20 April 2007 at 06:32

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