Becoming familiar with Finish necessities

Before going to Finland, I had been to saunas in Switzerland, maybe once or twice a year in combination with a spa day. It was okay to be in a sauna for twenty minutes and then to go outside and take a cold shower but it was nothing I was super excited about.

When I moved into my student accommodation in Helsinki I knew there was a sauna in our building but I had no desire to go there. I could not understand why the Finnish people were into saunas  so much and why it was so important to them to have one in almost every household. A sauna is a standard element in swimming baths and sports centers, hotels, holiday centers and camping sites. We even found a sauna at a motorway service! When I started to get to know Finnish culture better, there was no way to avoid the sauna, because it is a substantial part of it. For Finnish people the sauna is a place to relax with family and friends and also a place for physical and mental cleansing.

Once my friends and I rented a cabin in the North of Finland just next to a lake. The cabin had – of course – a sauna and we decided to try it. We made fire in the wood stove and waited until it was properly heated. Then we all took a beer or cider with us and just sat down and relaxed. 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. I really felt that in the sauna we had some very deep conversations. It is said that in Finland, more important decisions are made in the saunas than in meetings.

After some time and a lot of sweat pouring off of us, we ran out of the sauna and jumped into the cold lake. To say it was exhilarating is an understatement. Once you get out of the water you feel your blood pumping through your veins like never before and you have a great adrenaline rush. From the moment we jumped into the lake I couldn’t imagine having a Finnish sauna any other way! Not only is it refreshing but you also do something you would have never expected you would do with such pleasure and courage.

Finns know very well what they do if they build saunas near lakes. There is nothing better than jumping into cool water after using a hot room. You do not jump to swim in the cold water for minutes. It is enough to stay in the water until you feel refreshed, which might take only 30 seconds to a minute. Moreover, the more times you repeat this cooling-off procedure in the same day, the less cold you will feel.

During our cabin trip we went to the sauna every day and after this trip I could not imagine not going to saunas anymore.

A Finn explained to me that for him saunas are not a luxury but a necessity like having a coffee every morning. It just becomes part of your daily life and you need it to make your day complete.

Since going on this cabin trip I have been to saunas as often as I could go. We even organized some sauna parties and it became a place to be, to meet friends, have a beer and a nice conversation. I am very happy that I have tried this important part of Finnish culture, I wouldn’t want to miss this experience!

Niko Ando

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