Friday, June 3, 2011

The Finnish sauna

Finns really love saunas.

The friend I was staying with in Turku has a private sauna in his actual apartment (even though the apartment itself is tiny). His parents are even more obscene: they have one sauna inside the house and another outside, in a separate building in the backyard!

Finns are proud to declare that the word 'sauna' itself is Finnish (pronunciation sounds something like 'sou-na'). Finns believe that saunas are very good for you. When I first arrived in Finland, I was told that women use to give birth in the sauna and that the sterile conditions meant there were less birth complications. People also like to drink beers and cook sausages at the sauna (though I soon realised that the grilling of sausages takes place OUTSIDE the sauna itself, on a nearby is bad etiquette to grill sausages inside the sauna proper).

There is no such thing as modesty when it comes to a sauna session in go naked. Here, is a chance to see all of your family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours naked.

"It's not a sexual thing", a Finn once told me.

"Yes", I replied "but it's more a nakedness thing."

(As an aside, I've once had to tell a Finn to avoid her local sauna back in Australia because it was being used as a sexual thing.)

But back to the Finnish sauna...for added pleasure, you can beat yourself with birch branches. Pine branches, though, are a definite 'no, no'. Alternatively, go to a public sauna to be washed by old, angry-looking finnish women (the kind that look like female hammer-throwers at the Olympics).

Alas, as much as I enjoy the sauna (It really does make one's skin feel smooth and subtle), it also gives me heart palpitations so I try not to do it too frequently.


Evol Kween said...

I found the Onsen's in Japan most relaxing. Especially after a hard day's snowboarding! After a while you realise that the nudity is no big deal.

Adaptive Radiation said...

I definitely think we would have less issues with nudity (and body image) if we grew up in an environment where it was not viewed as taboo.

I wonder if Finns would have kicked up as big a stink about Bill Henson's photographic images?

Anonymous said...

Unlike Evol, I chickened out on on onsens.I just could not do it. I maintain my moral high standards. Only my partner and the occasional bit on the side see me naked. (Can you get the irony? I tire of American who never can)

Victor said...

There are some workmates I wouldn't mind seeing naked (all male) and many more I'd prefer not to.