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Small-Town Salsa With Reserved Finns

Small-Town Salsa With Reserved Finns

Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

During the summer, weekends mean it’s time to head out.  Whether in big cities or small towns, Finns enjoy bustling nightclubs and semi-empty bars. It’s no secret that these Northern residents enjoy the occasional drink, so for university students here in Joensuu, weekend nights are best spent in crowded dance floors where alcohol—lots of it—is involved.

My friend Karen, also a Mexican, once suggested going out to a salsa dancing club. I tried explaining that I can’t dance—I have no rhythm, two left feet, and all other dancing handicaps imaginable. “But you’re Mexican,” other friends would say, “dancing is in your genes!” Well, my genes failed me.

That night, despite my clumsiness, I joined a group of friends in what turned out to be a free salsa dancing class for beginners. “One, two, three, one, two three,” the Finnish instructor counted out loud to the class. Five lines of beginners, mostly Finns, performed a set of basic steps that seemed impossible to replicate.

[alert type=white ]My genes failed me.[/alert]

So as to not to die of embarrassment, I decided to sit back and enjoy the moves from the commodity of a chair. The dancers, mostly women, tried to follow the music, not bump into each other, and listen to the instructor all at the same time. My friend, a natural Mexican salsa dancer, was way beyond the class so she danced the night away with the coolest moves and impeccable rhythm.

Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

In between songs, she came to the table where I dutifully guarded our drinks and noted an interesting observation: how on Earth do you get a Finn to dance with you? According to a born and bred Finn, Pekka Pohjola, it’s not as bad as it looks. “Clubs do make it easier to meet people. Finns can be pretty reserved, and we like to stick to our own groups, but when you get us some liquor, I think we can be very relaxed and opened,” he said.

Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

[alert type=white ]”When you get us some liquor, I think we can be very relaxed and opened.”[/alert]

Pekka, who works at one of the most famous nightclubs in Joensuu, also gave interesting insight into working night shifts in Finland. According to him, working at a nightclub is not much of a struggle. “We have a lot of fun together. There are different types of people too, but we all get along great.

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The customers really seem to like it because even though we take our job seriously we´re not too serious about the job or about ourselves,” he said when asked about the working environment. So it turns out that whether on the dance floor or behind the bar, Finns like Pekka know how to make the most out of the evening.

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Spending weekends at nightclubs means that “the best nights are when a favorite band is playing. With the whole place packed, there’s not much time to focus on the show, but it is still pretty exciting,” said Pekka. In this small Eastern town, nightlife is similar to that of bigger cities.

Because it is a university town, there are a lot of active organizations and there is always something going on. Smaller bars are a favorite for groups of friends and those interested in playing board games or watching sports. For semi-professional salsa dancers like Karen, dance floors are always open for foreigners to show some innate dance moves and perhaps even make some first moves on shy Finns.

This summer you may want to try new dance moves, or perhaps join a class, although, for me, dance floors will probably be reserved for the very distant future.

About The Author

Paulina Bouzas

Born and raised in Mexico City, Paulina decided to move to Finland to study a master's program in Linguistics. She likes learning random facts about languages and enjoys listening to incomprehensible Finnish words as she explores Finland. She currently lives in Joensuu.

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