Finland The Birthplace Of The Saunapoolandspadepot
If you want to understand the Finns, first go to a Finnish sauna. These birch-lined steam houses have been central to the national identity for a couple thousand years. They’ve been used to heal the sick, for curing meat, and even as the site for childbirth. Saunas are so woven into the culture, that there are 2.3 million saunas in the country of just five million people. That’s almost one sauna for every two people. And if you don’t have a small sauna in your tiny flat, there is bound to be a communal one for the entire building.
While saunas are popular around the world – thanks, in part, to Finnish athletes – there’s nothing quite like the original.
In December of 2020, the Finnish sauna was added to UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage list. The sauna tradition is in good company on the list with, for example, Indian yoga, Beijing Opera, Argentinian tango, Turkish coffee ceremony and Iranian rug making and it demonstrates just how important the sauna is to Finnish life.
History Of The Finnish Sauna
In its primitive form, saunas were pits dug into slopes and heated with hot rocks. The entrance was covered, trapping the warm air inside so people could bathe in winter. In the English language: the word sauna is old Finnish and means “earth” or “snow pit.” The Finns believe that each sauna has its own steam (löyly), and the better the löyly, the better the sauna.
The sauna got its start in rural areas but over the years has grown from simple wood structures to modern and luxury sauna models that can fit into any type of home.
Why The Finns Cannot Live Without Saunas
Easy and Affordable Healthcare
Smoke and heat kill germs and bacteria. So even the most used and black from steam, sauna, is the most sterile place in the house. Visiting the sauna regularly helps to improve blood supply, boosts the immune system and has a positive effect on skin and muscles. These facts have been known for a long time, but the researchers’ new discovery is amazing: the sauna can also help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease! For 20 years, specialists have monitored the health of men who visit the sauna. It turned out that warming the body in the steam room for 4-6 times a week reduces the risk by 65%.
A Place To Socialize
A sauna is a good opportunity to socialize not only with the family, but also with neighbors, friends and colleagues. That is why in the basement of any apartment building there is a place for a sauna. And not only in houses and apartments: saunas in Finland are just everywhere. They are put on construction sites so that workers could rest and gain strength. The most imposing offices are equipped with them. Of course, any sports or spa complex is unthinkable without a sauna.
You can talk in the sauna, it’s actually encouraged! The sauna is a common ground and bridges barriers. You can make new friends, or chat with and amongst them. It is completely normal to have a sauna session with some friends, especially in the summer when the sun doesn’t set and you can enjoy a midnight swim at the same time.
Finnish Sauna Etiquette
Yes, it is fairly common for Finns to go to the Sauna in the nude. However, In many mixed saunas, people wear swimming suits. Many public saunas or saunas in hotels are separate for men and women.
Interesting Facts About Finnish Saunas:
- Sauna is good for everybody. Only newborn babies and people with serious conditions like open wounds or heart problems should avoid sauna. Everybody else can enjoy it with no worries, and in Finland, you’re more than likely to.
- Finnish Saunas can fit the entire population of Finland at once
- On average, the sauna is around 80 degrees Celsius
- Finns make saunas in all kinds of weird places: hockey stadium facing the ice, Burger King restaurant, gondola
- Getting invited to a sauna is an honor. If you have a reason for declining, fair enough, but it better be a good one!
- Colored lights, aromatic fragrances and relaxing music have nothing to do with Finnish sauna. Real Finnish saunas are dimly lit, there’s no music or smells except for fresh birch and natural tar.
- Finns go to sauna in the nude even with strangers. They were raised this way. However, they will understand if you want to wear a swimsuit or a towel.
- In groups, women and men go to sauna separately, but families go together. When in a mixed group that is about to go to sauna, it is perfectly fine to ask people and discuss who should go with who.
- A ‘vasta’ or ‘vihta’ (the name depends on the region) is a bundle of fresh birch twigs that you gently whip yourself with. It sounds strange, but is really good for your skin – you’ll feel the smoothness afterwards.
- There are no rules for how often you should throw more water on the stove. Whenever you feel like another wave of steam, go for it.
- Drink lots of water because you will be sweating heavily. Roasting sausages either on open fire or in tin foil directly on the stove is another key part of the Finnish sauna experience.