Sauna culture in Finland

The Finns can't get enough of it: the Finns and their sauna. Everyone uses it for personal hygiene, for political diplomacy, for relaxation or, in some cases, for business meetings.
Finns love and care for their sauna
© Saunazeit

Finns love and care for their sauna

Sauna culture in Finland. It is said that Finns invented sauna and worldwide Finnish sauna culture is considered legendary. However, this is not quite true. As the homeland of the sauna, in Finland it is used not only for relaxation, but also for body care, and sometimes for political diplomacy or business meetings. Sauna culture in Finland is also expressed by easy accessibility, because those who want to take a sauna in this country do not have to travel long distances. As part of everyday life, saunas in Finland can be found almost everywhere in private homes, summer houses, and often in rented apartments or even 1-room apartments.

Celebrating in the sauna

Throughout the country, there are an estimated 1.8 million saunas of various sizes and designs. Finnish people sauna according to their feelings, from just a few minutes to a few hours, interrupted by a dip in the ice-cold pool or by the cold shower. Legendary are also the Finnish sauna championships, which have long gathered not only Finns, but also participants from all over the world. Finns grow up with the sauna, because even small children are accustomed to the hot sauna steam. In earlier times, saunas in Finland were also used as substitute bathrooms or birthing rooms. These times are over, but the sauna is still an important social institution in Finland.

Family celebrations in the Finnish sauna

It is common for families in Finland to visit the sauna together, and it is also quite common to relax in a sauna area in between family celebrations. Mixed saunas, however, are frowned upon in Finland, quite unlike sauna customs as they are in Germany. Going into the sauna is basically naked, the only exception being the Finnish Sauna World Cup, where swimwear is allowed to a certain extent in the sauna cabin.

If you are visiting a sauna in Finland for the first time, you should familiarize yourself with the local rules and customs beforehand. Clothing in the sauna is generally not permitted in the Baltic States, German-speaking countries and Scandinavia. In other countries, however, the opposite may be true.

The sauna is used as a conference room

In business decision-making processes, the sauna in Finland certainly provides a good conversational setting, because nudity means that all business partners are equal. Instead of conducting business at opulent business dinners or in conference rooms, people often simply prefer to go to the sauna together. It is therefore not surprising that many large Finnish companies have their own saunas for foreign business partners. Communication at eye level, as it works best in private or business life in the sauna, must also not be missing in political discussions.

Confidential talks in the sauna

Urho Kekkonen, former head of the Finnish government, has elevated taking a sauna to the high art of diplomacy. After his election as Finnish head of state in 1956, he had his own spacious sauna built, where both foreign state guests and Finnish politicians were regular guests. The content of conversations in the sauna cabin was strictly confidential, nothing leaked out, which led to constant speculation, not only among the population.

Finland and the sauna sausage!

Many social groups meet in Finland’s saunas, not only families, but also work colleagues, friends or students. No quarrels in the sauna, that is an unwritten law in Finland. Here, tensions are to be reduced in a relaxed atmosphere, solutions to problems are to be found and moods among people are to be improved. Foreigners in Finland who receive an invitation to a sauna from their hosts should be sure to accept.

The invitation to the sauna is an honor, even if someone may only last a few minutes in the sauna cabin. Sauna masters are not known in Finland, so anyone who enters a sauna cabin for the first time is welcome to grab the ladle and do a little infusion as a courtesy. There is no need for absolute silence in Finland’s saunas, and even enjoying a sauna sausage with mustard is quite common in many places.

A deep insight into Finland’s unique sauna culture

  • Birch twigs (Vihta or Vasta): A traditional element of the Finnish sauna is the use of birch twigs known as “Vihta” or “Vasta”. These twigs are collected in bundles and used in the sauna to massage the body. This promotes blood circulation and gives the skin a soothing sensation. In addition, birch twigs give off a pleasant scent that makes the sauna experience even more intense.
  • Löyly: The word “löyly” refers to the steam that is created when water is poured onto the hot stones of the sauna. It is a central element of the sauna experience and has an almost spiritual significance in Finnish culture.
  • Public saunas: In addition to the many private saunas, Finland also has many public saunas run by municipalities or businesses. These serve as social gathering places where people come together to relax and share their thoughts.
  • Sauna in winter: A special experience is the sauna in winter. After a hot sauna session, many Finns head straight for the snow or an ice hole in a frozen lake. This extreme temperature change is not only refreshing, but also very good for your health.
  • Sauna and health: Regular visits to the sauna can strengthen the immune system and promote blood circulation. Many Finns swear by the healing power of the sauna and use it as a means of preventing and treating illness.
  • Mobile saunas: In Finland, there are even mobile saunas mounted on trailers. These can be rented for various events or private parties.
  • Sauna in daily life: For many Finns, visiting the sauna is a weekly ritual that is firmly integrated into everyday life. It serves not only to relax, but also to cleanse the body and mind.


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