I am Li-Hsin from Taiwan, and I came to Finland about half a year ago to study Bioinformatics. After spending the major part of my life south of the Tropic of Cancer, it was exciting to move to a place, where it actually snows. From time to time, though, I do miss the warmness of the tropical area, and that is where sauna comes in!
Finnish sauna quick facts
For those of you who aren’t familiar with sauna, here are some quick facts about sauna and how to do it, so that you’ll be ready to start as soon as you arrive:
- There is an estimation of over three million saunas in Finland, a land with a population of just more than 5.5 million.
- The temperature in saunas can be anywhere from 60 to 100 °C (140 to 212 °F). If that sounds too warm, don’t fret. It’s actually amazingly enjoyable in the middle of Nordic winter. However, those with cardiovascular problems and other medical conditions should always consult a doctor.
- There are many different types of saunas. The two most common ones are the wood stove sauna and the electric sauna. The former is more common outside city areas while the latter is common in apartments and public saunas.
How to do it
There is not a single, correct way to do it. The process roughly looks as following, but it varies depending on the person and the occasion. The point is to relax and enjoy!
- Drink some water about an hour in advance. Some say one should fast for 1-2 hours. In any case, don’t eat too much.
- Take a shower (there is a place to shower just outside of the sauna room, and it’s perfectly normal to take off all clothes when showering. If you still don’t feel ready and would like to wrap yourself with a towel, people will understand).
- Enter the sauna with wet or dry skin depending on your personal preferences. Take a small towel with you so you can sit on it (in public saunas, they can be free or for rent).
- The top benches are the warmest and the lower ones are cooler. Pour water over the stove when you need more steam.
- One should not stay in a sauna for more than 15 minutes (usually it’s 8-10 minutes, but of course it can be shorter if you are not used to the heat). Go out for a shower or a dip in the lake or rolling in the snow to cool yourself down. Drink some water (some drink cider or beer).
- After 5-10 minutes of cool down, get back in for another session. You can use a “vihta” (or “vasta” depending on the region) in summertime, which is a birch bath broom for lightly whisking yourself to stimulate the skin.
- Repeat the sweating and cooling process as many time as you wish. After the final sweating, take a final shower before putting your clothes back on.
Saunas in student housing
Now, perks of being a student in Finland. In Turku, tenants of TYS (The Student Village Foundation of Turku) get four free sauna sessions per month. All we have to do is to book a sauna session in our own neighbourhood via the online booking system, and when the time comes we just show up.
One sauna session lasts for an hour, which is plenty of time for showering and several times in and out of the sauna. There are also free public sauna sessions weekly where we can go without prior reservation. For students in Tampere, free sauna is available with prior reservation, and students in Joensuu have one free sauna session per week with reservation.
Sauna in TYS housing
As soon as I started to prepare for moving to Finland, importance of sauna in Finland was hard to miss. It’s mentioned everywhere in culture-related articles, on the student housing website, and there’s even a place that specifies the availability of sauna on apartment renting websites. Indeed, sauna is an indispensable part of Finnish culture. It’s a place to enjoy and socialise, and it’s a place of mutual respect as well. It is an honour if you are invited, so make sure you say “yes” when that happens!
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