Warm-hearted Finns enjoy centenary in a cold climate

Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

In a lifetime of gracing strange pubs and nightclubs, the weirdest of all was one in Helsinki that took its theme from the humble tractor – and the Zetor Bar was like no other bar on earth.

Tractors abounded . . . actual tractors, with drinks tables built into them, tractor seats – and bizarrely bales of hay to sit on, at a time when smoking was still allowed in pubs.

But that was almost in keeping with the Finns themselves who may well be the friendliest – and equally the strangest – people you’ll ever encounter.

This week Finland is celebrating the centenary of the state’s foundation after an eternity spent either as part of Sweden or Russia – and, boy, do these guys know how to party.

If the Finns were cars, they’d have just two gears – neutral and fifth. And no reverse.

By day, they are a quiet, sober people…right up to when they start drinking, and then sobriety goes out the window faster than a pre-election promise.

And then they dance . . . in a manner last seen here when Abba were top of the charts. It’s Dad-Dancing as an Olympic sport and it’s a joy to witness – because it’s full of fun and because it convinces us all that we still have what it takes to own it on the dance floor.

They also love karaoke, with an inability to actually sing appearing to be neither an impediment nor an embarrassment – indeed it might be said that the standard of singing is in keeping with their ability to dance.

The craziness isn’t confined to drinking, dancing and dodgy singing – because Finland is the home of the sauna and these mad things love nothing more than cooling off after a steam session by rolling around in their altogether in the snow or by jumping into a specially drilled hole in a frozen lake.

Even for those with less of an appetite for adventure, the sauna can take you to places of deep discomfort for your average Irishman, unaccustomed in the normal course of events to having their naked, sweating body gently beaten by a man with a handful of twigs.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.