10 SAUNA TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
What exactly do you do in a Finnish sauna and what not?
There is nothing more Finnish than sauna, and many Finns think you can not grasp Finland or its culture without bathing in a sauna. However, Finns understand that foreigners have certain inhibitions and concerns when it comes to stepping in a heated box with no clothes on. Have a look at our tips below and you need to worry no more.
1. 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.
2. Finnish sauna has nothing to do with sex, and suggesting it will not score points with Finns. It is a place for physical and mental cleansing, and many suggest one should behave in a sauna as they would in church. That is not to say you shouldn't relax - just kick back and take it easy.
3. Getting invited to a sauna is an honour. If you have a reason for declining, fair enough, but it better be a good one! Bathing in a sauna with people is somewhat of a bonding process - when you're bare in all senses of the word, you're sure not to hide anything. It is said that in Finland, more important decisions get made in saunas than in meetings.
4. Coloured 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.
5. Yes, Finns go to sauna in the nude even with strangers. Don't worry - we've seen our fair share of naked human bodies and it's not a "thing" for us. It's only natural, and there's no shame in being you, but if you can't get over it, Finns will understand you wanting to wear a swimsuit or a towel.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. You will be sweating heavily in a sauna, so be sure to drink plenty. Water is probably best for you, but beer and cider is what Finns enjoy the most. Roasting sausages either on open fire or in tin foil directly on the stove is another key part of the sauna experience.
10. There are no real rules when it comes to sauna, and the way it is done totally depends on the occasion. The most important thing is to relax, socialise, have a couple of drinks and enjoy the blissful post-sauna feeling of having cleaned both your body and your mind.