How to prove you take sauna seriously
You can't visit Finland without taking a trip to one of the nation's two million saunas. Here, immersing yourself in hot steam is a normal part of life, and dates all the way back to 1112. So to honour the longevity and cultural significance of the humble sauna, we at Very Finnish Problems have put together some handy tips for you to steam up in style.
1. Get Naked
Finns are famous for being reserved and humble. In fact, when they read they were the happiest people on the planet, they wondered where the surveyors found the information. Because of this, many are surprised to learn that Finns have a hippy-like attitude to public nakedness in the sauna. But the sauna is a place of reflection and relaxation, and you can't feel fully relaxed in a pair of Speedos. Indeed, nakedness is viewed as hilarious and awkward by many nationalities, but Finns have no time for such childish comedy. So get naked and steamy with pride, and save any embarrassment and giggles for another day.
2. Don't overdo the löyly
Everyone loves löyly. The sound of sizzling water followed by a warm blanket of fresh-smelling steam is what makes the sauna so wonderful. But overdoing it will leave you looking like a New England lobster. So what's the best way to prevent this fate? When it comes to Löyly, never try to beat a Finn. Finns have been sauna bathing since childhood, and their seasoned skin can handle continuous intense bursts of steam. On the other hand, sauna virgins require years of dedicated practise before getting liberal with löyly.
3. Get to know your fellow sauna dwellers
Finns are famous for their dislike of small talk in public places. But in the sauna, it's a different story. Here, small talk plays a serious role and helps spark new friendships. In fact, Finns believe that you should treat the sauna as you would treat a church. So get to know your congregation by engaging in conversation and sharing ideas. Also, be sure to keep a bottle of water close by as great conversations tend to last a while.
4. Brave the icy water
After you've warmed up in the 100-degree heat, it's time for your next challenge. Traditionally, a visit to the sauna is followed by a swim in one of Finland's 187,888 lakes, even in winter. The practice known as avanto swimming (ice swimming) is excellent for your health, and perks you up faster than the strongest coffee. That's if you can build the guts to do it, of course. Ice swimming is a sure way to test your grit. Sure, you'll feel nervous, and your first plunge into the icy surf will chill you to the bone. But with enough sisu and courage, you can honour the ancient tradition like a true Finn, and feel the rush of endorphins wash over you.
So, if you're setting off on your first sauna adventure, remember these four tips. They'll turn you into a serious and passionate sauna aficionado in no time.