Finnish nightclub etiquette might seem even a bit odd for a foreigner. But no worries! Here are a few tips how to survive barlife in Jyväskylä.
On weekend nights, throngs of people gather in downtown Jyväskylä as bars and clubs buzz into life. For foreigners, the way one behaves in Finnish bars and clubs may seem quite different, even strange, compared to what we’re used to in our home countries. Before going off to paint the town red, perhaps it’s best to consider appropriate behaviour thus ensuring an awesome evening out.
There are a myriad places to choose from. The more popular bars and nightclubs are located downtown in and around Väinönkatu. Take your pick from rocking Pub Katse and Bar Soolo or put on your Lady Gaga ’poker face’ for fun in Giggling Marlin and Kharma. There is something for everyone, whether you want to dance the night away or chat to friends over a beer.
For those serious about live and often international acts, cross the train tracks to Club Lutakko, or for a more sedate evening indulge in absinthe and whiskey at The Green Fairy (Vihreä Haltijatar) further uptown on Kauppakatu. Regardless of where you go, there are certain expectations staff and patrons will have of you.
Do not be surprised if doormen ask you for I.D. Many clubs have an ’ask-regardless-of-appearance’ policy. At every venue a cloak room or coat-rack is provided where staff will place your jacket for the evening giving you an identity tag in exchange.
In many venues you are not allowed to keep your jacket – especially large winter coats – with you inside. A small fee is charged for this service, usually not more than 2e, cash only so make sure you have change.
Be polite and friendly towards the doormen and coat staff but you do not need to tip them. A tipping attempt may be met with confusion. Tipping the bar tender is also not usually the done thing in Finnish clubs.
“Don’t think tipping is expected at all. It’s like after trying to tip, the bar tender says: ’Oops, you gave me too much money! Here’s your change.’ It’s kind of dorky to have to explain that you were trying to tip him”, explains Minnä Rämä, a medical student.
Finns are notoriously shy and this tends to change only after a few rounds at the bar. If you’re keen to make your move on a good-looking guy or girl, wait until later in the evening to avoid awkward moments of silence.
“In general guys are not expected to buy girls drinks, like in a group of friends, but if you want to make your intentions clear, offering to buy a girl a drink is a good idea”, Rämä says.
Conversely, it is rare that a girl will offer to buy a guy drink whether in friendly or flirty situations.
Do not be afraid to get your groove on but respect other people’s space on the dance floor and try to apologize if your elbow accidentally connects a chin or worse still, a drink! However, offering to replace the drink is not expected.
“It’s ok to dance with strangers but Finns dance in their own friend circles and don’t really mix with others”, Rämä says.
Simo Oinas, a philosophy student, agrees:
“As long as you’re polite and respect personal space. Also take the hint, people might not say ’shove off’ but just turn their backs; either way it’s time to stop.”
When having a good time, it is easy to over imbibe on alcohol. Drunk and unruly behaviour, such as falling over, will result in the doormen escorting you out. Bar fights are rare despite Jyväskylä’s reputation for bar violence, and rarely escalate beyond a few flailing fists. Avoid aggression, be defensive only when you feel directly threatened and always try to solve the problem politely with words or call the doormen and let club security handle the problem.
Also remember that while alcohol lowers your inhibitions, overtly sexual behaviour is often frowned upon.
“Couples do tend to kiss and grope each other on the dance floor”, Oinas says, but warns:
“It depends on the place how much touching is considered normal in public.”
Everyone wants to have a good time out; being friendly and respectful of both staff and other patrons in bars and clubs is one way of ensuring a pleasant evening.
Suzanne van Rooyen