Finland, Travels

Things to Do in Finland #1: Sauna

Things to Do in Finland gives introductory notes on how to survive a trip to Finland.

We Finns might be reserved to the point of rudeness, but there is one place where we don’t hesitate to squeeze into a small, hot cubicle and still enjoy a cheery conversation. And this place is sauna.

Sauna is a big part of Finnish identity: in fact, if you want to be a teenage rebel in Finland, the best way to start shocking your parents is by declaring sauna an idiotic and overly sweaty bad habit. But after the hormones calm down even the most rebellious of us get in line and have at least one weekly, normally Saturday evening, sauna.

It has taken some time from my eternal sidekick, being from eternally sunny Rio de Janeiro, to get used to the idea of deliberately entering a super-heated room just to sweat, but little by little I can see him starting to get accustomed with it. And, to tell you the truth, when the cold winter months hit us, I’m sure he’s starting to appreciate this warm Finnish institution even more!

What: During “having a sauna” you pour water on hot stones and try to endure as much heat as possible without showing that you are suffering. Tip: Drop some beer in the sauna water, löylyvesi, to produce a malty scent into the steam!

When: You can enjoy sauna whenever you want. Most common time are the evenings, although morning sauna has a slightly, luxurious note to it, and it can be a nice, relaxing way to start your day – especially on cold wintery months.

Where: Almost every household has a sauna, and if not, there is a communal one in every block of flats: you can book a private time for your sauna, or enjoy socializing with the folk of your building in saunas that are heated on set dates and hours – there’s normally gender division so check before entering: ‘NAISTENVUORO’ for women ‘MIESTENVUORO’ for men. My particular favourite is the cottage sauna, mökkisauna, as these saunas are normally heated by wood instead of electricity. This provides softer heat, or, löyly (yeah, try saying that in +80-celsius degrees). Cottage saunas are normally situated by lakes also, so the view is always uplifting.

NOTE: Things to Do in Finland introduces points of interests for anyone visiting Finland – as a native Finn returning home with a carioca sidekick, it is refreshing to experience my homeland with a new pair of eyes in tow.

Sauna by a lake - it cannot get much more Finnish than this.

Sauna by a lake – it cannot get much more Finnish than this.

P.S. For more Finnish experiences read my On Cottage Culture in Finland 

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