In Finland, there are five million inhabitants and one and a half million saunas! For Finns sauna is much more than just a place for washing: it is a place for physical and spiritual relaxation and truly a part of the Finnish way of life. An old Finnish saying claims the effectiveness of the sauna stating that ‘if sauna, liquor and tar don’t help, the disease must be fatal’.

What do you do in a sauna? First, having undressed, you take a shower. Then you enter the dimly lit sauna room and sit on wooden benches. The stones on top of the stove in the corner are very hot and when you throw water on them, a humid cloud of steam suddenly fills the small room. Your face gently burns and your body sweats. You can also try the sauna whisk (vasta or vihta) that is a bunch of young, leafy birch twigs. Dip it into warm water and then gently beat yourself all over with it – it feels better than it sounds! If the sauna is by a lake and it is summer you can take a swim to cool yourself.

During the winter some Finns make a hole in the ice and enjoy dipping themselves into the icy water or rolling in the snow – both are worth trying! However, usually you only take a shower.

Please note that it is not customary for men and women to go to the sauna together, unless they are members of the same family or particularly close friends.