Pantless drinking at home – Ishay Govender-Ypma gets to grips with kalsarikännit in Finland. Written for SAA Sawubona inflight magazine, July 2017.
You’ll remember this. Opening credits roll to Bridget Jones’s Diary. Renee Zellweger’s character sits on the couch in her Christmas PJs, glugging wine, staring down her message-less answering machine to the soundtrack of Jamie O’Neal’s “All By Myself”. It’s a once-seen, never-forgotten clip – wretched and relatable in its pervasive loneliness about our dating culture, circa the Nineties, that had us all futilely waiting by the phone at one point. The Finns have a word for drinking alone, but rather cleverly, they’ve negated the need for jammies and generally one needn’t be heartbroken to partake. They’ve fashioned an on-trend matching emoji to go with it. The word, fully entrenched in Finnish culture is: kalsarikännit.
Kalsarikännit is, according to Juha Heikkinen, a musician and member of Day with a Local, Helsinki, “always fun” and “more tragicomic than sad.” He says, “It’s appropriate when you are tired and you don’t have the motivation to go out.” Solo pant-less boozing. The Danes have hygge, a concept loosely woven around cosiness and pleasure. Swedes have logam, or the Goldilocks-ideal of “just enough”. My friend, travel writer Lola A Åkerström, has penned a book about logam, subtitled, “The Swedish Secret of Living Well.” And the Finns have kalsarikännit. As far as living with a joyful heart goes, the Scandis have it have it waxed.
It would take a February trip to the coldest reaches of Finland for me to appreciate kalsarikännit and put it in practice. This time, without the burden of Bridget-style heartache. Picture this: the temperature outside is -10 degrees Celsius at noon. By night we lose another six to ten degrees. Minus 20. It’s not how many sun-loving Southern Africans would imagine wilfully celebrating a birthday. But here we are – in Rovaniemi, Finland, 10 kilometres from….