Let’s set the record straight – Finns are extremely punctual. My task was to attend the “Overall Baptism” in the Central Park of Kouvola at 8pm. Naturally as an American, I expected that showing up to this party about 15-20 minutes late would put my arrival at the perfect time slot (I was wrong). When a Finn says a party starts at eight, it starts at eight. I was toting my camera, dead center in a sea of overalls when the man in the middle held up a megaphone and blurted out “That was a great baptism, now the party continues! We move to Bar Q to drink!” My jaw dropped… Not only did I miss the event, but my assignment would surely fail with nothing to report on. Scrambling to save my ass, I spoke to the man in the middle:
“I am Antti Huuki and I am the head of events in the student organization Kupla. So, I’m responsible for all the events that we’re organizing. Luckily, I have a lot of great friends helping me out with them. In this event, I took on a role of the evangelist (Reverend Huuki), who was just yelling to the megaphone all stereotypical evangelist-stuff.”
“So, what is the history of the baptism and what does it entail?”
“Overall baptism has been a tradition in a lot of schools in Finland. It’s a kind of a welcoming ceremony for new students, and their overalls of course. Usually it’s only about getting your overalls wet, with a hose or maybe even diving some lake or something. But we wanted to take this kind of “holy” approach to the whole thing.”
“But this is my third year studying in Kouvola and the first time I’ve heard of such an event. Can you explain why?”
“Kouvola has always been the kind of place for students where things work differently than in other schools. Kind of an “ugly duck” or “black sheep” if you will, but only in a good way, I think. This tradition has never raised any interest for me or other people arranging parties and events, but now we saw that there was a great possibility for us to put our little twist on it.”
“Then it was it a success?”
“Yes, it was! We were actually expecting like 10-20 people in the baptism ceremony itself. Finnish pessimism, of course. We counted that over 90 students got baptised, so we were terribly wrong. We got great new freshmen it seems! Also, there were some older students too, which was nice. The after party had like a couple hundred people, so yeah, I’d call it a success.”
“That’s wonderful! How many people did you offend in the process?”
“I was actually talking to one Christian after the ceremony, and she didn’t get offended and said it was just funny. I wasn’t making fun of her religion, just the way some people do it. That’s why I chose the southern voice.”
“Oh, a win-win situation then. Do you see yourself as a future evangelist?”
“My mother wanted me to be a priest and thought that I could be great at it. But no. Absolutely not. My mother got it wrong. If there’s something you could learn from today, it is that I could be a far better cult leader than an evangelist.”
But why bother with the overalls? It is because they offer belonging to a group, and an avenue for creativity. The group identity comes in the form of color: business students are given maroon overalls, design students are given black ones, and nurses are given pink. Note that when I say “given”, I do not mean for free. Paradoxically, while the color helps one to blend in, the badges on the overalls offer the chance to stand out. The badges can be collected at student parties or ordered online but once sewn to your overalls, they become a part of you. The badges often sport dark humor, because they represent how the Finns get through the long dark winter – by laughing at it. I’ve collected some of the favorite badges of some Finns and some from my own collection.
- On tämä saatana työmaa – a meme featuring a Moomin episode with an angry worker dubbed atop. Search for it on Youtube.
- Sanoiko joku viinaa? – Did someone say booze?
- Vittu mikä operaatio – something you say when work is unbearable.
- Veli, auta – “Brother, help.” – that dramatic moment from the Lion King.
- Tonnin seteli (1000 bill) – from a Finnish sketch show that has become a meme
- Tortured artists club – picture of Van Gogh, just funny because it is relatable as an art student.
- “That blue diamond: Hupellus – best ski trip ever. Made a lot of new friends.”
- “International party: Memorable party last autumn. Made new friends (again)! Met almost all exchange students there.”
- “And last one is joke :). Me and my friends all ordered this same badge. “Towards and beyond psychosis.””
- Drunken Spongebob – Needs no explanation.
- Halloween 2017 and The Amazing Race Freshman Party 2018 – Souvenirs from costume parties.
- Titanic swim team 1912 – Not politically correct.