Finnish sauna experiences: Living in Finland and enjoying the culture.
Travelling to Finland whether for a weekend or a week long holiday or vacation is something would recommend, if you are looking for somewhere new to visit and if you are interested in sauna. I became interested in sauna and my experiences of living in Finland. My introduction to sauna was when I moved to Helsinki for 5 months, as part of an Erasmus exchange program at university. Within days of moving to Helsinki, and settling in, it immediately became clear how important sauna (and vodka) is to the Finns. Maybe of you will already know that the word 'sauna' is a Finnish word, with sauna having been invented by Finland. The Finns are extremely proud of sauna and more than 75% of Finns have a home sauna.
The Haaga Institute where I studied has its own sauna facilities and these were discounted for students studying at the institute. In England during the student years, the social life is always based around pubs and student bars. In Finland, bars are of course popular as Finns drink their way through the long dark winter months, but it is sauna, which is the main focal point of Finnish social life. Saunas are so popular in Finland that some people are said to have even been born in saunas.
The sauna culture is very different from other European countries such as Holland and Germany whereby the majority of saunas are male only or female only, rather than mixed saunas as one finds all over Germany and Holland. The similarity between Finland, Germany and Holland is that clothing of any kind is always banned in the sauna. Wearing clothing in a sauna is considered unhealthy, with the materials stopping you from naturally sweating and as healthily.
Finnish saunas themselves are usually heated to around 95 degrees Celsius and the best Finnish saunas usually use smoke saunas which use wood to hear the sauna. The smell of the wood gives added benefits with the sense of smell also invigorated, whilst the sight of burning wood is preferred by many, because it is considered relaxing to watch the burning wood.
In Finland, in between sessions in the sauna, I watched (and then tried myself) the traditional habit of going outside butt naked and walking down to the lake (if there is one nearby) and jumping into the icy water. If there is not a lake then people tend to roll around in the snow instead. Many modern saunas usually have heated rocks and water is then used to generate more steam and heat in the sauna.
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Latest update: May 10, 2010