People in the Twin Cities have likely become familiar with some new Scandinavian concepts over the last few years, such as hygge, the Danish and Norwegian word for the contentment you feel in coziness. With its evocation of a roaring fire in the middle of a dark winter, the term — which looks like, has the same origin as and is supposed to feel like a “hug” — was one Minnesotans were ready to, um, embrace.
Then there was the Swedish term lagom, meaning “just the right amount.” Anyone familiar with IKEA can immediately grasp the concept — a northern European ideal that’s neither minimalist nor overstuffed but instead seeking to smartly fulfill needs. Again, a useful concept for modest Minnesotans.
But there’s another Scandinavian and specifically Finnish term that can come in handy in the winter months: kalsarikännit. It also describes a feeling, but in this case, it’s the feeling of when — and this is how the country of Finland’s website describes it — you’re going “to get drunk home alone in your underwear with no intention of going out.” The Anglicization of the term is pantsdrunk, where “pants” is short for “underpants.”
And lest you think this is just some kind of flash-in-the-pan slang for what the kids are doing these days, know that the government of Finland commissioned and released official emojis of a man and a woman drinking in their skivvies.
Minnesota United’s own Rasmus Schüller hails from Espoo, Finland, and after a 2018 season that saw him lead not only the team but the league in tackles per game and rank 11th in MLS in interceptions, I wanted to ask the very active midfielder about this much less active aspect of life in Finland.
“That's Finnish culture in a nutshell,” he laughed. “Finns are honest and modest and true to themselves and that's sometimes what you need to do. So it's a big part of Finnish culture.”
While the idea of sitting at home and drinking might strike you as depressing, Schüller emphasized that it’s really not in a country where the sun rises around 9:30 a.m. and sets at about 3:15 p.m. on the Winter Solstice.
“It’s not as sad as it sounds. It's a positive thing,” he said, adding, “You don't have to do it by yourself. You can have close friends do it with you.”
It seems like it’s working. Finland scored the highest on the UN’s 2018 World Happiness Report, which ranked it as the most stable, safest and best governed country in the world and among the least corrupt and the most progressive. Kalsarikännit is less about excess and more about balance, about taking what life gives you, about taking downtime seriously. You only need ask Schüller — one of Minnesota United’s hardest working, most active players — if he’s participated in it to know that balance is important.
“Of course,” he says