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Finns Love Sauna
One indisputable part of the Finnish culture is the traditional Finnish sauna. Historically, saunas have been a major part of Finn's life from birth to death. Mothers gave birth in the sauna because it is considered to be the cleanest room in the house. Saunas has served as place for purification rituals before marriage. The bodies of the dead in the olden times were washed and prepared for burial on the wooden benches of the sauna room. However, these things are no longer practice during the modern times. Instead, sauna nowadays is mainly meant for Finns' well-being. Finns regard sauna as a place for relaxation, a sacred place. It is therefore no malice to be totally naked while entering the sauna room among Finns.
Finnish Sauna Etiquette
No clothes or swimsuits are allowed, for the same reason that you would not wear anything in the bath or shower as every part of the body needs to be properly cleaned. This may be difficult for foreigners to comply but some locals but not all may say it straightforward to non-compliant sauna goers. It is practical to behave well because there are often clear signs No underwear please posted on doors of sauna rooms. In public areas, there are separated areas for each gender unlike sauna at homes where family members can go together for a sauna bath. As the line goes, if you are in Rome, do what Romans do.
It is totally okay to talk in the sauna. In some cultures, like in Germany, saunas are quiet places for relaxation. But surprisingly in Finland, Finns love chatting inside the sauna even though Finns are labeled as being shy. Sauna is a great place for a traveller or foreigner to make Finnish friends. And take note, one way to make a Finn happier is throwing more water into the stones producing more löyly. Most Finns however will ask permission from other people inside the sauna room if he could throw more water. It is clearly a polite way to show manner of consideration.
Types of Finnish Sauna
A traditional Finnish sauna may be too hot for starters as the temperature may vary from 70-130 C but as you sit on the lower benches, the temperature gets lower too. Electric saunas are common nowadays in private residences and public saunas. But our favorite is wood-burning and smoke saunas in summer cottages because the steam is very soft and moist.
Steam saunas are becoming common in Finland too. You will find them in many swimming halls and spas around the country. Compared with the traditional Finnish sauna, the steam sauna has tolerable temperature up to 50 C. It is therefore a suitable alternative if you can not withstand long time the high temperature of the traditional Finnish sauna. Though Finns also like to visit steam saunas.
Health Benefits of Sauna
Sauna has many health benefits proven by a Finnish research suggesting that sauna can help lower the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as well as dying of heart ailments. And another good news? A latest study conducted by Finnish researchers has found that regular sauna bathing is associated with reduced risk of hypertension, which may be a mechanism underlying the decreased cardiovascular risk associated with sauna use. The body temperature rises, sweating, in turn, removes fluid from the body, which is a contributing factor to decreased blood pressure levels. The heat inside the sauna improves the function of your endothelium, the tissue that lines the inside of your blood vessels. Additionally, sauna bathing may also lower systemic blood pressure due to overall relaxation of the body and mind. These findings were published recently in the American Journal of Hypertension.
The same study also made a recent analysis which revealed that those taking a sauna frequently have a lower risk of pulmonary diseases. So if you want to experience how to be a Finn and get rejuvenated while taking care of your health, do what Finns love here to do, be confident and visit the sauna during your stay in Finland!
Where to Experience Public Saunas in Finland
Travellers in Finland usually want to try a real Finnish sauna. But where to find one?
Probably the best experience is to have Finnish friends and visit a real summer cottage and try a savusana (smoke sauna) there. Surely you can also rent a cottage yourself but trying a savusauna for the first time without any help may be a challenge. So make first Finnish friends if you want to make this unforgettable experience.
If your visit is only a quick stop-over and you stay in Helsinki area there is no enough time to visit a summer cottage. But remember that almost every building in Finland has a sauna. So if you have Finnish friends in the city, ask for a permission to try their saunas. They will be really happy to let you have this unique finnish experience.
In the unlucky case that you do not have any local contacts there are still many spots where to try sauna for a fee:
- In the summer time, there is a great and beautiful lake called Kuusijärvi really close to Helsinki in a city called Vantaa. It can readily be reached by a bus. There is a traditional Finnish sauna and you can jump to a lake afterwards. This is something unique and special experience to try during winter season too! Read out article about Vantaa to learn more.
- Almost all swimming halls in Finland have saunas with few exceptions. In Helsinki area, we recommend you to try Yrjönkatu Swimming hall with its traditional architecture.
- Finnish spas have many kind of saunas too. For example Flamingo Spa near Helsinki Airport is a good choice with about 10 different saunas. Check offerilla.com* for discounted tickets to Flamingo Spa.
- In the Helsinki city center there are also a few nice public saunas.
- Kotiharjun sauna. This is a traditional wooden sauna in Helsinki. Some people may say this is the best public sauna in Helsinki. It is not so modern but so authentic. The sauna is popular among travellers.
- Allas Sea Pool. This is a new modern sauna and outdoor spa area in the heart of Helsinki.
- Löyly is another new and modern public sauna in the Helsinki downtown.
Buying Your Own Sauna
In Finland buying a sauna isn't a big challenge. Saunas are included in new buildings so the purchase process is almost automatic.
In foreign countries it may be even difficult to identify companies that are producing saunas. Harvia Saunas are popular in Finland and they are real good products. We are not co-operating with them but we suggest you to check Harvia web pages.
Still Hesitating Going to Sauna?
Do not hesitate but do it. And there is no minimum time you have to spend in sauna. Just go in and out as often as you want. Cool down by taking shower in between sauna sessions and remember to re-hydrate yourself too.
Source of some sauna facts: http://www.uef.fi/en/