Reporters on the Job

Finnish Touches: Reporting in a small country like Finland, where people know each other and are also friendly, is often easier than working elsewhere, Peter Ford found in Helsinki. Looking for the building where he had an appointment one morning, he asked a woman standing at a pedestrian crossing where he would find it. She worked in the same place, it turned out, so walked Peter there, and as they walked, Peter explained what he was doing in Finland.

"In that case," the woman said, "you must go and talk to Jouko Kajanajo. I heard him speak and he is an expert in the subjects you are interested in."

The woman gave Peter the man's number, Peter called and got an appointment, and had a productive interview.

But Peter found later that it is possible to push even the congenial Finns too far. Enjoying a quiet sweat in the hotel sauna one evening, Peter found himself caught between the Finnish and Japanese versions of sauna history.

"One of the Finns in the sauna asked one of the Japanese gentlemen whether they had saunas in Japan," Peter says. "He laughingly responded by suggesting that the Finns had actually copied the idea from the Japanese."

The next thing Peter knew, one of the Finns had ladled a half-liter of water onto the coals to boost the humidity to attention-getting levels. After a few minutes, when the air was again breathable, one of the Japanese threw on more water, sending a blast of scorching steam through the little wood-lined room.

The contest went on for some time, and having no stake in it as a Brit, Peter decided to leave his sauna mates to it. In the end, he noticed from the cold shower, four Japanese scampered out one after the other. The Finns had won.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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