A Finnish Cultural Institution
You could start your adventure into the other side of Finland by visiting a sauna.
It is something you have perhaps heard about, as sauna is the only Finnish word to have entered the world vocabulary.
With Santa Claus it is one of the rare Finnish phenomenon to have spread around the world.
Sauna is an institution and an important part of Finnish culture, tradition and everyday practises.
The age-old tradition still has an important role in the lives of most of the Finns, who bathe there once a week or even more often.
There are approximately one million saunas in Finland – one for every 5 inhabitants – and you can really see it: there is one in every fitness centre, hotel and public swimming pool.
There are even bars and restaurants with saunas.
A popular but sadly untrue saying goes that there are more saunas than cars in Finland!
There is now even an event called Helsinki Sauna Day that opens the doors to the city’s saunas for everyone willing to visit them.
Traditionally sauna has been a place for silence, and Finns are experts in the field.
We have a high tolerance for silence – you can witness this in any form of public transportation or any similar gathering place.
Finns do not generally have a great need for small talk. Do not be put out by this, because nearly everybody speaks good English and the overall willingness to help tourists is great.
How to Sauna
A Finnish sauna is a heated room where people, usually naked, gather on wooden benches to enjoy the warmth of 70 to 150 degrees Celsius.
In one corner of the room, there is a stove that generates the heat.
Cold water is thrown for steam on the hot stones of the stove. An important part of Finnish culture for thousands of years, sauna keeps finding new ways of keeping itself alive in spite of urbanisation.
It is not only a place to wash yourself or to relax, it is also a meeting place for friends, colleagues or political decision-makers.
There is now even a sauna society in the Finnish embassy in Washington D.C., introducing high-temperature lobbying to the powers behind the scenes of Washington.
In winter, the sauna experience is heightened by a roll in the snow or a dip in a hole in the ice. Ice swimming is popular in Finland, and there is also an ice swimming society, and ice-swimming holes are maintained by other organisations, as well, even in the Helsinki area.
Try it out for yourself at the centrally located Kulttuurisauna (Hakaniemenranta 17). The minimalistic and modern sauna can offer you a zen-like experience