>> Dec 22, 2009
He comes into the room, has a quick chat with one of the old ladies and goes back through the door from whence he came, leaving the door open to reveal 20 or so more naked men, many not wearing towels, lolling around in a lounge drinking beer.
And not a single person in the bar bats an eyelid.
Welcome to Finland!
A Finnish Christmas party, or a Little Christmas as is the direct translation from Finnish, is not quite the same thing as it is in England. It begins with everyone getting naked for a start.
Most visitors to Finland fail to believe they aren't being conned somehow when they are told to strip off and climb inside a hot, steamy wooden box with a bunch of other similarly naked people. They find the whole naked stranger thing too much to bare and many, regardless of the fact that everyone else is naked, will wear bathing suits inside the sauna. Why on earth anyone would want to wear clothes to sweat into is beyond me.
And this is how the Little Christmas starts, with getting naked and drinking beer with your colleagues, friends and family, and often friends and family of colleagues whom you have never met before, in a sauna. Sometimes mixed sometimes segregated into sexes, the sauna and beer and the occasional beating of yourself and each other with birch twigs, is the warm up to the second stage, the dinner.
The dinner, usually a buffet, invariably consists of million courses of fish, fish roe and more fish with a few bits of meat thrown in and a huge salted ham. Plus of course, plenty of alcohol. Which is desperately need if you hope to live through the third and final stage of the evening, the stage that can only be tolerated smashed out of your face. The karaoke stage.
Middle aged men and women that quite frankly should know better stagger to the stage, grab the microphone and try to perforate your eardrums whilst murdering popular Finnish songs. And you are just grateful they have all put their clothes back on.
This last stage drives you once more to the bar, this time for a litre bottle of vodka and a straw. Which you determinedly down whilst waving away any and all attempts to get you on the stage to sing. If you are lucky and have enough of your wits about you, you will survive the evening without being coerced into making a steaming twat of yourself with a microphone in hand. Instead you will get occupy the time by making a twat of yourself off the stage instead by dancing on tables, falling off tables and throwing up in the plant pot.
Merry Christmas one and all from the strange and disturbing bowels of Finland.