As it really happened # 1: On the North of happiness, wealth and sauna

As it really happened # 1: On the North of happiness, wealth and sauna

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia
By Michael Booth / Vintage Publishing, February 2015. £7.99. ISBN: 9780099546078

Accompanied by a warm coffee, green tea, we were exchanging some impressions about The almost nearly perfect people by Michael Booth. It would be great to keep telling the story but the writer’s style and some general features of the book is the aim of the following lines.

Michael Booth is a British freelance Journalist and award – winning for his numerous non – fiction books. His field of interest: food and travel, Japan and France and most importantly, Nordic countries. The almost nearly perfect people is the writer’s ‘tentative’ of uncovering what it is behind of the imaginary of wealthy and happiness in the Nordic countries, using neologism, euphemism and sometimes, sarcasm.

In the introduction is possible to catch the sense of humour which will be present in the following pages. His own definition of ‘who Scandinavian are’ warns the readers of the writer’s confidence about the argument he will present to the audience, of course in the most hilarious way. In fact, how come he dare to add Finns and Icelanders in the closed/exclusive circle of wealthy people with fancy furniture?

Hygge, happiness & Wealth. The Danish section is a compilation of good connections between Gini’s index and happiness as variable. Connecting hypothetically wealth with happiness, he tried to discover the complexity behind of those associations in a way that let the readers formulate questions and amuse by extension. Is it possible to live in a very expensive country and smile 24/7? The country is ranked as one of the best countries to live as per quality of life index. Sarcastically, the cards are on the table: to reach the happiness, do we have to live as ordinary Danish? Maybe the happiness is a matter of personal definition.

Jumping up to the Norwegian land. The writer’s tone and the sense humour used to tell us about ‘Dubai of the North’ seems to be different. Starting with 17th of May parade seems to be the writer’s strategy to relax the audience for what he will tell us soon. In fact, the writer drives the audience’s attention towards two main points: Norwegians and immigrants and Norwegians and oil. Few past episodes are highlighted: the murder a young foreigner by radicals and how the oil shaped the society  and determined the protectionist, closedness and indifference norwegian behaviours. By the end of the part, the writer’s request of openness and grateful exposures the needs for truce: “It would be suit the Norwegians so much better to show a little more openness and generosity of spirit.” (p. 215)

Having a good time at the sauna. The writer’s creative skills has not limits while telling us about Finland. He opened the chapters using comical neologism which makes the reading more pleasurable: “If you ask me, they should just change the word ‘fantastic’ to ‘Finntastic’. Helsinki? Heavensinki more like” (p. 221). The hot climax is reached when the writer described his experience at the sauna, showing the controversy of the nakedness rule. It must be admitted that the historical connection between cultural factors and the obsession for alcohol is well structured and motivates the audience to understand taciturnity Finnishness.

As per Sweden and Iceland. Let’s say that the these parts of the book follow the same sense of humour to uncover the Elves’ belief and the defects of the democracy. As a matter of personal opinion, these part of the book do not follow the strength of the connections presented in the former chapters, despite of the allegorical resources to picture the iconic of each country, for instance Bjork.

The book is just a perspective from which is possible to understand those cultures. The book is just a good reading while commuting work or waiting for the hairdresser. It is unique selling point is the writer’s style but never take it as the bible to understand a whole culture.


Comments are closed.