A massive portion of Finnish culture is concentrated around the sauna. Most Finns have access to a private/semi-private sauna which they visit at least once a week. The purpose of the visit is generally one of two: the general purpose is as a cleansing experience, but when more people come together it can also take on the role of a social meet-up where they sit around, drink and talk.
Being in Finland I couldn’t not experience this! So one of the first thing I asked my brother to do is to book the sauna in the apartment block they live in for when we were there. First time I asked I was told it was too early for them to book as papers for booking were not up yet (I was too eager). When they checked again, the paper wasn’t there, so they hand-drew the booking table themselves, and a time was booked for Friday!
This being my first time in a Finnish sauna, I asked to be shown exactly what should be done. So here it goes!
- Wash yourself with water
- Enter the sauna and stay there as long as you want
- Go out and have a proper shower soap and all
- Get back into the sauna
- On exit rinse yourself and get dressed
We did also go out in the cold in between sauna periods (though we didn’t roll around in the snow as it was all ice, and that would have been painful!) :D.
But wait…I say: get dressed. Why? Well, the Finns generally go into the sauna naked (unless it is a mixed group). Being non-Finnish, and there being my brother and his super thin girlfriend, I didn’t think this was the best option, so it was swimsuits for the sauna!
At first I thought that the benefit of the sauna would be that I would feel relaxed. However, on emerging I could really understand what Michele was trying to say when she said they go to the sauna to get clean: my skin felt super smooth and clean afterwards! We did enjoy the ‘social part’ too though – or I did! The ‘Hartwall Original Long Drink’ was great :D. The lack of emphasis on relaxation also did not bar us from rebooking the sauna for the next day, following our return from skiing :D.