Sauna and sauna tips. Sauna is a big part of the heritage and culture of Finland. It is estimated that there are more than two million saunas in Finland. For a population of 5.3 million, this amounts to an average of one per household – there is even one in parliament.
There are many traditions and customs related to the sauna experience, but the most important for the Finns is to relax and purify both body and mind.
Did you know that the word ‘sauna’ is Finnish? Whether it’s an electric sauna in a modern business environment or an old-fashioned wood-fired sauna at a lake cottage, a sauna is always near you.
There is nothing more Finnish than a sauna, and many Finns believe that you cannot understand Finland or its culture without having been to a sauna. However, Finns understand that foreigners have certain inhibitions and concerns when it comes to stepping into a heated room without clothes on.
8 Saunatips for beginners
What exactly do you do in a Finnish sauna and what not?
Sauna is good for everyone. Only newborn babies and people with serious conditions such as open wounds or heart problems should avoid the sauna. Everyone can enjoy it carefree, and in Finland it is possible almost everywhere.
The Finnish sauna has nothing to do with sex, and you will not score points with Finns for this. It is a place for physical and mental cleansing, and many suggest that one should behave in a sauna as in church. That’s not to say you shouldn’t relax – just sit back and take it easy.
Colored light, aromatic scents and relaxing music have nothing to do with the Finnish sauna. Real Finnish saunas are dimly lit, there is no music or smells except fresh birch and natural tar or a touch of eucalyptus.
Yes, Finns go to the sauna naked, even with strangers. Don’t worry, they’ve seen a lot of naked bodies before and it’s not important to them. It’s natural, and there’s no shame in being yourself, but if you can’t get over it, Finns will understand that you want to wear a bathing suit or towel.
A ‘vasta’ or ‘vihta’ (the name depends on the region) is a bundle of fresh birch twigs with which you gently pat yourself. It sounds weird, but it’s really good for your skin – you feel the smoothness afterwards.
There are no rules about how often you should throw more water on the stones. If you’re up for another wave of steam, go for it.
You will sweat profusely in a sauna, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Water is probably best for you, but beer and cider are what the Finns enjoy the most. Roasting sausages on an open fire or in aluminum foil directly on the sauna stove is another important part of the sauna experience.
There are no real rules when it comes to sauna, and the way it is done depends entirely on the occasion. The most important thing is to relax, have a chat, have a few drinks and enjoy the blissful feeling after the sauna that you have cleansed both your body and your mind. It is of course very nice to swim to cool off.