There are many reasons to visit Finland. The population consists of beautiful, happy people who welcome tourists with open arms. There are countless natural and man made attractions, and if you need space, there’s plenty of land to stretch your legs. Sure, we could go into more detail about those attractions, but there’s one crucial element of Finnish culture that is often overlooked and can be surprising if you’re not expecting it: the Sauna.
Saunas are a great way to chillax in the cold of winter, and if there’s anything we’ve learned from Game of Thrones, it’s that winter is coming. If you’re looking for a way to relax your mind and warm up your body, look no further.
Saunas for the most part have their roots in Finland. If you’re not familiar with saunas, time to stop living in a hole in the ground- actually, if your hole is heated, then you’re ahead of the curve. The first saunas were literally holes in the ground that people were living in, usually cave-esque dwellings. They would take rocks from the fireplace, and pour water on them, allowing the steam to create an intense warming feeling to warm up the dwelling. That would allow the inhabitants to remove heavy winter layers and relax a little bit before having to go back out into the elements.
It wasn’t long before all of Finland was enjoying saunas. They became a great place to relax and cleanse the mind. It became an important part of Finnish culture. It was not uncommon for families to have important discussions, or for women to give birth in saunas. Nowadays, Fins view the sauna not as a luxury, but as a necessity. There are roughly 5 million people in Finland, and roughly 2 million saunas. Yes, that’s about one per household. You will find them everywhere. They exist in the Parliament of Finland, the bottom of the Phyasalmi Mine, and most corporate HQ buildings. There is even a traditional sauna day- Saturday. The practice is borderline sacred. If you’re in Finland and get invited to a sauna, it may be considered rude to decline, so here are some things to keep in mind during your next vacation in Finland.
The sauna is a non-sexual zone. If an attractive person asks you if you want to sauna, they are not hitting on you, just being polite.
Any kind of clothing in the sauna is going to be frowned upon. This includes bathing suits, so check your modesty at the door. During the “cool off stage,” it is acceptable to wear a towel.
Sitting on a towel is perfectly fine. The wood is extremely hot, so you want to be comfortable.
The sauna may or may not be fragranced with different herbs, most commonly birch leaves. Don’t put anything on the rocks unless asked, this can be a polarizing topic of discussion for Fins.
It is common to enjoy a tasty beer after the sauna, but usually not during, as it is simply too hot.
Do you have a sauna tradition that you enjoy? Leave a comment below and let us know!