For most of us, the idea of sitting in a hot steam room or sauna might be something enjoyed every once in a blue moon. Perhaps after a long workout, or even while enjoying a luxurious day at the spa. But for the people of the Nordic region, sauna is actually a way of everyday life.
– The Nordic Sauna Tradition.
While steam rooms might be enjoyed all across the Nordic region, the word ‘sauna’ is actually a Finnish word. It means something akin to ‘bath house’. In Finland, the sauna has been used as a communal relaxation and bathing area for well over 2,000 years. To Finns, the sauna is just something that exists in everyday life because, well, it always has.
Today, saunas are so prevalent in daily life that there are nearly enough saunas for every man, woman and child in Finland. With a national population of 5.5 million, there are just over 3 million saunas in the country. So, what do the Finns do with all of them?!
– How to ‘Sauna’.
In the Finnish language, the word ‘sauna’ is actually a verb in and of itself. It doesn’t just mean the steam room, it also means the act of being in and using the steam room. But the way that Finns ‘sauna’ is a bit more complex–and fun–than just sitting in a hot steamy room.
The first thing that needs to be understood is that a sauna is not just for luxurious spa days or post-workouts. Sauna can, and often is, an everyday activity. Most houses have a personal sauna attached to their shower rooms. And in the absence of a personal sauna, there are countless public saunas used for leisure and fun.
The second thing to remember is that sauna is often enjoyed beside a lake, or the sea, and with regular swims in that water between ‘sauna’ sessions. Imaging leaving the intense heat of the sauna, and immediately taking a dip in a cool refreshing lake or pool of water. That is the key to a good sauna for Finns!
Next, you must remember the ‘Löyly’. Löyly is the Finnish word for the act of pouring water on the hot stones to create steam. This is something that is done often, and keeps the room steamy. A sauna is never enjoyed without löyly!
Lastly, never forget the ‘makkara’ and ‘olut’. That is, sausage and beer! Finns are notoriously relaxed people and never take sauna too seriously. Sauna is an ‘everyman’s’ activity and is not considered something only the rich and wealthy can enjoy. This means that you will often see finns enjoying a beer with a sausage on the grill while they make trips from the sauna to the water. It truly is a one of a kind experience!
– Sauna as a Tourist.
Every year millions of travellers visit Finland specifically for exotic experiences like the sauna. The sauna is something that is enjoyed by all, and visitors are always welcome by the Finns! So, if you are planning an exotic Nordic holiday, always keep Finland on your list. You could be enjoying a delicious sausage, a robust beer, and a relaxing sauna beside the lake day in and day out! It’s no wonder Finland was voted the happiest country on Earth!