Naked Sauna Customs of Finland
Be warned: a Finland sauna is typically a naked sauna. Some saunas suggest that you be naked while enjoying the heat, while still allowing the use of bathing suits, while others may actually have a “no clothes allowed” policy. Interestingly, in Finland nudity in saunas is an important part of the culture. Not only do the Finnish people believe that saunas work best when visitors are nude, but it can also be seen as a sign of respect for the local community. Remember, in other countries as far as Russia and Europe, public nudity is not as sexualized as it is in the U.S.
Traditional Finnish Sauna Etiquette
Besides the issue of naked sauna customs, you must also familiarize yourself with Finnish sauna etiquette. Before you enter the sauna, or a public bath, you must shower and make yourself clean. When you enter the sauna use the provided towel to sit on the bench. Now sit back and relax as heat is emitted, opening the pores of your skin. A real sauna in Finland is usually powered by a wood stove and sauna rocks, not electricity. Therefore, to add more humidity you can throw water onto the rocks, which will also increase the temperature. Though you can have a dry sauna, there must be some water thrown over the heated rocks; otherwise, too much dry heat can be harmful to the respiratory system.
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It is important to note that when you are in a sauna, you must not stay too long. While you can stay on the general premises, you should not stay in the sauna beyond 20-30 minutes. (Some people can only take 5-10 minutes) At this point, leave the sauna and go into a cooler changing room, or perhaps a public bath or pool, if it is provided. When you are cooled down, you can go back into the sauna and relax again. The total naked sauna experience is traditionally an hour and a half. When you are finished for the day, shower the sweat away and dry yourself. Remember to rehydrate by drinking lots of water. Some visitors also bring moisturizer to help replenish their skin.
How to Conduct Yourself
The temperatures inside a sauna are typically between 160°-194°F (70°-90°C). This means that unless you are in naked in the sauna, any clothing you wear will be very uncomfortable. Enjoying a Finnish sauna requires that you take part in the local culture and respect the people around you who are likewise naked and loving it. Since you know everyone is naked in the sauna, do not “laugh and point”; even joking about nudity is a form of sexualizing it. In Finland, nudity and sex are not equated together, at least not in public places. You will undoubtedly see a variety of body shapes congregating together. Nobody is paying attention to the imperfections.
When you are in a naked sauna it is not polite to stare. Sit on your towel, keep the door closed and look “serious.” No creepy grins or boisterous laughter. No controversial topics or awkward conversations. Focus on relaxing and perhaps even meditating. It’s important to become involved in the spiritual aspect of this ancient-to-modern Finnish pastime as this will help you reap its benefits.
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