What the hell’s going on here?

Slate has just published a good article.

Quick, fire that editor.

And one from Jussi’s vocab set:

the Finnish spiritual equivalent to hygge is something far less convivial and much more difficult to pronounce: kalsarikännit, which translates as “pantsdrunk,” refers to the practice of binge drinking home alone in your underpants.

16 thoughts on “What the hell’s going on here?”

  1. “This is not a state of national mourning in Finland, these are Finns in their natural state; brooding and private; grimly in touch with no one but themselves; the shyest people on earth. Depressed and proud of it.” As far as facial expressions of the Finnish people, not much has changed since then. We are still just as reserved and melancholy as before. If happiness were measured in smiles, Finnish people would be among the most miserable in the world.”

    Wonderful people, am warming to them.

  2. Old joke “How can you tell when a Finn really fancies you?”

    “He looks at your shoes, not his”.

    Told by – no, really – the Finnish Foreign Minister at a public do.

  3. In her youth, my late missus had an Icelandic boyfriend, whom she characterised as “infantile” and would disappear occasionally for a booze-up round his mates’ houses, in fact just a normal Icelander.
    She said this below sounded like a typical such evening…


  4. “The Nordic countries provide decent lives for their citizens and prevent them from experiencing sustained periods of material hardship.” I remember a boss of mine who’d recently come back from a couple of years in Texas. He told the occasional story about it. His most heartfelt comment was “I’d hate, really hate, to be poor in the USA”. I wish I’d explored that further with him.

    It now reminds me of Steve Sailer’s argument – one of the worst things about being poor is having to live among poor people.

  5. A colleague of mine from Portugal, on first arriving here and being shocked at the cost of living (London rent, train/tube fares) said “I’d hate to be poor in the UK”.

    It’s all relative.

  6. The US is a bad place to be truly poor. Some half remembered numbers. The bottom 10% there do about as well as the bottom 10% in the UK or Sweden when all is counted. But the bottom 5% do much worse.

  7. I will try to remember that the next time someone whips out their electronic benefits card at the supermarket to pay for steak and all manner of brand name junk food. With the booze and cigarettes carefully separated and paid for with a wad of cash.

  8. As somebody once wrote about retirement, everywhere’s ok if you’re rich, the trick is to find a place that’s still ok if you’re poor

  9. I’ve pondered long & hard about the dichotomy between Finnish men & women. Finnish men are rather troll like. Finnish women tend to be very tasty. I put it down to glamour. Not the Page 3 variety but the magical one. Actually the men & the women are identical. Even to the beards. The women just seem attractive. Have you ever seen a Finnish bird cast a shadow? Reflected in a mirror? And accounts for the gloom & suicidal drinking of the Finnish men. They know what Finnish women actually look like.

  10. Talking about Finland, I was stumbling around (probably kalsarikännit at the time) on the internet when I came across the story of Simo Häyhä.

    A diminutive little chap (just 5′ 3″ tall) who was a sniper in the 1939-40 Winter War against the Soviets. Not bothering with a sniper’s scope (which he said made shooting too slow, meant being a fraction higher out of your foxhole and might glint and give away your position) he nevertheless had a staggering 505 (or 542 depending on which records you believe) credited kills. And he was only on active service for 95 days. Compare that to ‘American sniper’ Chris Kyle’s 160 odd in four tours of duty and Vasily Zaytsev (Enemy at the Gates) who had around 250 during WWII and you’ll see what a busy chap Simo was.

    To add to the “Hollywood should make a film of this” stuff, Simo’s good luck ran out when a explosive round took out most of the bottom half of Simo’s face and he ended up in a pile of dead bodies before someone noticed that he wasn’t. He woke from a coma to read stories in a newspaper about his death and wrote a letter to them to correct the misunderstanding. 26 reconstructive operations followed before Simo went back to being what he was before the war, a farmer.

    Obviously his health was badly affected by this and his years of farming and he died aged 96 in 2002.

    Finland being somewhat strapped for cash between the two world wars, the Finnish government came up with a crafty idea. If you paid a contribution to them, you got to ‘look after’ the rifle you’d been issued during your National Service (during which Simo had served in, of all things, a bicycle Battalion) and Simo took them up on the offer meaning that by the time he got to use it on Soviet soldiers, he’d been firing his rifle for over a decade.

    There are some doubts about the actual number he shot but no doubt that he was a remarkable rifleman – on one occasion in practice hitting a target 150 meters away 16 times in a minute – and his was a bolt action rifle holding 5 rounds in the magazine.

    Interviewed shortly before his death, he was asked if he felt remorse for killing so many people. He replied, “I did what I was told to do, as well as I could. There would be no Finland unless everyone else had done the same”

  11. “The Nordic countries provide decent lives for their citizens and prevent them from experiencing sustained periods of material hardship.”

    That only aplies to Finland if ‘Material hardship’ excludes: temperature of -20 c for weeks on end, pitch darkness for weeks on end, 20 miles to get to the nearest liquor store which is closed on Sunday anyhow, Russia on the border, and national food beet soup. Somehow I think the author only knows about financial hardship.

  12. “…binge drinking, alone, in your underpants”. I can’t speak Finnish, but what do you think a shed load of us have been doing for the past 12 months?

  13. “during which Simo had served in, of all things, a bicycle Battalion”

    The bicycle battallions were at the time a practical solution to a serious problem. And Finland, by far, wasn’t the only one who had them.
    Same sustained speed as cavalry in most places, without all the logistics and food(!) large amounts of horses neccessitate. And can get places quickly cars and horses can’t.

    Like anything military they had their pro’s and cons, and the germans one-upped them with their motorcycle squads, but they weren’t as “silly” as they’re often put down as.

  14. Ummm. Something really does need to be done about the title of that article. The Finns may live in Scandinavia, but they are not Nordic in the same sense that the Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Icelanders are. Their language isn’t Nordic (it’s related to Estonian and Hungarian), and nor are all the people – the blond ones are (of Swedish descent), but the darker ones (who IIRC tend to be the more serious drinkers), aren’t.

  15. @AndrewWS
    I think you have it the wrong way round. Scandinavia is the Sweden + Norway peninsular + Danish islands by extension, and those three countries are Scandinavian. ‘Nordic’ applies to Scandinavia + Finland, Iceland, maybe Faroes, possibly Greenland. Finns generally don’t like being taken for Scandinavians, probably as much to do with histiry as geography.

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