How does an honest tribe live, work and think? This was Max Boyle’s enquiry when he travelled in Finland, looking for answers to the secrets of this Nordic culture.
At an age when many of his peers might be considering a cardigan and slippers lifestyle, fifty-something Max Boyle departs his native Huddersfield, England, for a backpacking journey in the southern regions of Finland, taking in the cities of Helsinki, Tampere and Turku, as well as smaller towns and villages. Inspired by his own Finno-Ugric roots, he seeks out aspects of Finnish history and culture, enjoys boat trips in Finnish Lakeland and a not-so-daring funfair ride, discovers something of Finland’s celebrated heavy-metal scene, indulges in a traditional sauna and, not least, samples a variety of bars and restaurants.
His leitmotif for the trip, however, is an enquiry into Finnish national character, conducted through a number of interviews with those he encounters on his tour and prompting views on supposed Finnish characteristics such as sisu (a never-give-up attitude), concealment of feelings, modesty and, above all, ultra-honesty.
Variously basking in sunshine, assailed by rain, and targeted by mosquitoes, Boyle makes his way around the country’s South, home to the majority of Finland’s population, and duly encounters a people referred to by American Finnophile Richard D. Lewis as ‘the honest tribe’. This, Boyle’s book of that name, relates the author’s experiences in what is often a light-hearted journey in one of Europe’s most quietly successful countries.