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Episode Info: In today’s episode, we’re heading north for cross-country skiing under the aurora borealis, sailing amongst the Baltic islands, and silence amongst the Finnish forests. I worked in Helsinki one summer in my twenties. The nights were bright and we drank vodka in the sauna and then jumped in the Baltic to cool off. I remember how musical the Finnish language sounded in the dusk of the midnight sun and I always intended to go back. But that was the late 90s, and I haven’t returned to Finland, so it was wonderful to talk to Helena Halme about her native country. We talk about the introvert nature of Finns, why the landscape might be the key to happiness, the unusual Aland Islands, and how Finland’s history of occupation still shapes the country today. Plus, Helena’s view of the English as an ex-pat. Helena Halme is the award-winning author of contemporary Nordic romance with a hint of noir. Originally from Finland, she now lives in the UK. On the happiness and good work-life balance in Finland Why saunas are important to Finnish culture Why cross-country skiing is so popular in Finland The Aland Islands, summer sailing and inspiration for a romance novel Finland’s rocky history with Russia Finnish food and book recommendations You can find Helena Halme at Transcript of the interview Joanna Penn: Helena Halme is the award-winning author of contemporary Nordic romance with a hint of noir. Originally from Finland, she now lives in the UK. Welcome to the show, Helena. Helena Halme: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Joanna Penn: It’s great to have you on the show. Now I want to start with this hilarious thing. According to the World Happiness Report for the last two years, Finland is the happiest country in the world. I want you to tell us, why is Finland the happiest country? Helena Halme: You tell me. It always makes me laugh as well, because Finns can be really miserable. If you go to Finland and you don’t know anybody, they are really hard to get to know. But once you do know them, somebody told me that Finns are like puppies. Once they get to know you, they’ll never leave your side. But the Finnish are really private people. They are very outdoorsy. They love the forest. 65% of the country is covered by forest, and they like being on their own. There is a really successful set of modern books called Finnish Nightmares. And it’s all about this character, Matti, it’s drawings about situations that most people really in the Western world, find to be fine. For Finns, it’s a little bit painful. Like if you live in this in a block of flats and somebody who lives opposite you opens the door at the same time, you don’t really want to see them. Or if somebody sits next to you on the bus. And it’s full of these awkward moments that Finns really find difficult because they’re so used to not really having many people around, so I don’t know why they’re so happy. Joanna Penn: It’s interesting, as...
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