Experiencing first ever sitsit – a view by an exchange student

By: Stanislav Cernega

Sitsit. Isn’t that a funny word? When I first heard it, I thought of some silly children’s game like ‘musical chairs’ (because, you know, you have to SIT down when the music stops) or a new type of exercise for lazy people. Anyway, I would’ve never thought it might be one the best nights you can experience as a student in Finland.

Tables are ready and waiting for sitsifolk. ©Morgan Walker

As an exchange student in Helsinki, you probably want to try and experience all the typical things that are part of the students’ life in Finland and well, so I put sitsit on my to-do list. Our lovely tutor Iida gave us the most captivating description of what’s going on during a sitsit and suddenly it seemed so much better than just ‘academic dinner party’. Singing, drinking, eating and talking; come ooon, how can any student not like that? And if there is a sitsit thrown by CISSI, where things mostly happen in a language you can actually speak, you simply must go. However, seats for the best sitsits sell like hot cakes and I wanted to be sure that I got in. So, when the time for signing up came, I was patiently waiting for the registration to begin and I managed to sign up for the first sitsit in my life (yaaaay!).

Sitsits usually come with a theme or a have a slight formal dress code, which troubled me at first since I didn’t really feel like buying a new suit here. However, bright people in CISSI had thought through every small detail and probably realised that a suit of a formal dress doesn’t typically make it into exchange and international students’ jam-packed suitcases. The theme was therefore open, possibilities were endless and I picked my favourite shirt to stick to the smart casual idea.

No sitsit without people singing on their chairs. ©Iida Tulokas

Well, the day finally came and I obviously needed to prepare for that magnificent night. The most important thing was to read and try to remember as much as I could from the ‘Sitsit for dummies’ manual. It might seem funny, but believe me, there are many rules and punishments that you wouldn’t want to undergo. Although it might sound horrible now, you can get used to that really quickly. Just remember not to leave the table during the dinner even though you feel like weeing yourself and the rest is easy. You can drink, eat and talk as much as you desire but you should not do this when somebody proposes a toast before a song (which happens quite often so eat fast!). I knew that anybody could ask a person giving a toast anything they wanted to but I was quite surprised when after some time questions got really (really really) personal. But you know what they say, in vino (and vodka, and cognac, and beer) veritas. Besides, as far as a stereotype about un-talkative Finns goes, this might be the only chance how to find out who in the room is single and not to leave a sitsit alone.

Although singing Finnish songs without having a clue about their meaning was another funny part of the sitsit, the best part usually comes afterwards. Afterpartaaay! Then you can freely move and dance and talk to people whom you asked about their relationship status. The most important thing is to have fun, though. So, if you’re an international student in Helsinki, experiencing a sitsit is a must. Therefore, don’t wait any longer and sign up! And remember, drink responsibly!