Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Finland: Tango Finlandia

While I didn’t write a formal blog post for my Summer 2016 European adventures, I thought it’d be fun to share some memories I initially stored on Facebook.

Back in '93, 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer did a story called "Tango Finlandia," which purported to explain why Finns are so shy and morose. "To be noticed is an embarrassment," he intoned. "To take notice an affront." Pretty much anyone who visits Finland today will find a much more vibrant country than the one Safer experienced. While its capital Helsinki can hardly reflect the complexity of the whole country, you'll find countless people chatting, drinking, and laughing in cafes that line the major streets (in summer, of course). They are celebrating the hours of light that have come to banish the seemingly endless darkness of winter. They are also celebrating friendship, love, and all the other things that make life worth living. Yes, I have met many, many happy, friendly, welcoming Finns. Still, during these weeks in Jyväskylä, I have to remind myself to stop nodding and smiling when I pass strangers on the sidewalk. They look at me (if they look at all) like I'm crazy. Perhaps they're wondering, "Why would you pretend to be friendly with a stranger?" I imagine that Finns also tire of the U.S. American tendency to over-celebrate the most banal things. "How's the coffee?" one might ask. "Great! Awesome! Perfect!" many Americans will reply. I think that Finns are measurably more happy than U.S. Americans because they maintain more reasonable standards.

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