The finnish sauna may be a shocking experience for some foreigners. Ben Ross from Telegraph was a bit amazed when he was invited to finnish sauna. And he was supposed to be naked with complete strangers…
“The Katajanokan Kasino’s sauna is not usually open to visitors. However, it being Sauna Day, they had gone for the Full Monty, as it were. There would even be a traditional round of sausages and beer afterwards.
To be honest, I didn’t really want to think about sausages at that point. In Finland’s public saunas, men and women have separate areas, or keep to different hours, but nakedness is the norm.”
This is what he writes in his reportage.
But his is the essence of finnish sauna: There is nothing that Finns have been so unanimous about as their sauna. This unanimity has remained unbroken for centuries and is sure to continue as long as there are children born in their native land, as long as the invitation still comes from the porch threshold in the evening twilight: ‘The sauna is ready.’
There are a bit over five million inhabitants. At the same there is over three million saunas in Finland– an average of one per household. For Finnish people the sauna is a place to relax with friends and family, and a place for physical and mental relaxation as well. Finns think of saunas not as a luxury, but as a necessity.
Before the rise of public health care and nursery facilities, almost all Finnish mothers gave birth in saunas.
In one interview a finnish sauna expert described the sauna like this:
There wouldn’t be a Finland without the sauna. It’s in our DNA,” he says.
“If somebody wants to understand what it is to be a Finn then they have to understand what a sauna is. If you do not experience sauna then you do not experience Finland.
By now I’d learnt some sauna vocabulary: there’s was the kiuas, or sauna stove; the loylykauha, a ladle for throwing water; and the kiulu, or water bucket. I’d even got my tongue around kiuaskivet, the name for all those hot stones. But, I asked, what do the Finns call this rolling around in the snow thing? Fundamental to the Finnish psyche the sauna may be, but it seems that some things simply can’t be mystified.
“There isn’t a specific saying for running to the snow from a sauna,” I was told. “We mostly just call it rolling in the snow.”