Sauna culture in the USA

Do not undress! This phrase aptly sums up sauna culture in the US. Although almost every new trend comes from the land of opportunity, nudity is one of those things.
Sauna culture in the USA: Prudish approach to nudity
© saunazeit

Sauna culture in the USA: Prudish approach to nudity

When it comes to physical culture, Americans are extremely prudish. Although this nation doesn’t exactly go down to the proverbial basement to laugh, it knows no quarter when it comes to clothing customs. For here, it is not customary to present other sauna visitors with naked facts. No American would ever think of going to the sauna without clothing, because nudity is undesirable. Here, sweating is always done separately, and there are only a few exceptions.

Anyone who, out of ignorance, nevertheless goes to the sauna without a bathing suit, swimsuit or bikini will quickly incur the wrath of those around him. Even covering one’s own nakedness with a towel is not enough. You could even be arrested for causing a public nuisance. These sauna customs should be observed when visiting foreign countries, otherwise it can quickly become embarrassing.

Fungal spores in bathing suits

In America, it is not considered unhealthy or even unhygienic to sweat into your swimwear. Nor does anyone here assume that heat, moisture and sweat could cause fungal spores to spread under bathing suits, causing dangerous health problems. Thus, it is quite possible that an American who gets into a mixed sauna in a liberal foreign country without warning may find himself in a nudist or swingers club.

Unwritten dress code

These sauna customs also go back to the generally very prudish behavior in public life. This is because textile expectations in the U.S. are generally higher than in other Westernized countries. In terms of clothing, things tend to be conservative and high-necked, although casual and sporty clothing is accepted almost everywhere. The unabashed display of primary and secondary genitals is taboo in any situation. This is all the more true the closer one gets to the so-called Bible Belt in the deep South and the rural Northwest.

Moral, cultural and religious beliefs

The moral aspect is also religiously and culturally underpinned, because Americans are for the most part very conservative and devout. This is especially true in rural areas away from the metropolitan areas of major cities. In the so-called textile sauna culture, sexual control also plays a role, because in the opinion of many Americans, this is a way to avoid possible covetousness and lustful looks.

Sauna tradition is written in small letters here

In general, sauna culture does not have a great tradition in this country. As a rule, it is used as an additional offer of wellness facilities and fitness clubs. The saunas are usually linked to changing rooms separated by gender, so mixed saunas are not possible. There are no legal regulations in this regard. Bathing textiles are therefore not mandatory, but common.

Finnish population

However, manners differ among the states. Northern Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota are home to a large Finnish-descended population that still maintains the liberal sauna customs from their homeland. Within this culture, it is quite common to sauna textile-free, but separated by gender.

Don’t make it too HOT

Temperatures are limited and infusions are not allowed due to increased liability and damage regulations. Legal regulations aside, the rule of thumb “the colder the country, the hotter the sauna” seems to apply. For it is only in the far north that the population of Finnish origin cultivates the classic sauna visit with increased temperatures and infusions. In addition, one remains however completely under itself.

Sauna temperature around 65 degrees (149 °F) – that’s enough

Many states have pleasant temperatures all year round. There is less of a need for a healthy sweat bath than in wintry climes below the zero-degree mark. And where harsh winters nonetheless arrive, which is especially true of the northern and northwestern states, the joy of saunas is either not particularly widespread or people are content to comply with the law. As a result, temperatures in American saunas often don’t go above 65 degrees (149 °F).

A few useful rules of etiquette

Apart from the ban on nudity, there are a few etiquette rules that are simply part of good style. A visit to the sauna should be relaxing and soothing. Therefore, it is quite common to be quiet during the sauna visit and avoid lively discussions. Every sauna visitor should be aware that there are other sauna guests sweating with him, who are not interested in the private problems of their fellow human beings. Therefore, conversations about politics, diseases, money and general blasphemy are undesirable and embarrassing. However, quiet conversations in whispers that serve to generally get to know each other are accepted.

Sauna culture and celebrities

In the U.S., where image and public appearance often play a major role, many celebrities also use the sauna. However, not always in the traditional form, but often in private luxury spa areas or special facilities. It is not uncommon for Hollywood stars to rave about the benefits of saunas in interviews, although they rarely visit traditional saunas, preferring private facilities instead.

Saunas and sports

In the U.S., sports are an important part of many people’s lives. Many sports facilities, especially high-performance ones, offer sauna sessions as part of their recovery and regeneration programs. Athletes use saunas to relieve muscle tension and promote circulation. It is not uncommon for a sauna visit to be on the agenda after an intense workout or competition.

Infrared cabins on the advance

In recent years, a trend toward infrared cabins has developed in the United States. These saunas use infrared rays to transfer heat directly to the body instead of heating the air. Many Americans appreciate the gentler heat and the fact that they can sweat at lower temperatures. In addition, infrared cabins are often touted as being particularly beneficial to health.

Sauna at home

While public saunas in the U.S. are often subject to certain rules and standards, more and more Americans are choosing to install a sauna in their own homes. This offers them the opportunity to use the sauna according to their own ideas and wishes, without having to worry about public sauna customs.


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