The Sauna Culture in Germany and Finland in Comparison: Similarities and Differences

What are the differences between the sauna culture in Germany and that in Finland? Taking a sauna is an ancient tradition practiced in many cultures around the world. Even though sauna culture is very popular in Germany and Finland, there are many differences between the two countries.
The sauna culture in Europe
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The sauna culture in Europe

Sauna culture has a long tradition in Europe, especially in Germany and Finland. Both countries have developed their own customs and rituals that have evolved over time. This article compares sauna culture in Germany and Finland, highlights their similarities and differences, and provides insight into the importance of saunas to people in both countries. Scientific and medical sources are also consulted to shed light on the health aspects of the sauna.

History of the sauna: origins and development

The history of the sauna goes back a long way. In Finland, the sauna was already important in the Bronze Age (1500-500 BC)¹. The Finnish sauna has its origins in the so-called “savusauna” (smoke sauna), where the smoke from the wood stove heated the sauna and then escaped through an opening².

In Germany, sauna culture can be traced back to Roman times, when public baths (thermal baths) were part of cultural practice³. In the Middle Ages, however, sauna culture in Germany lost importance, only to regain popularity in the 20th century⁴.

Commonalities: Health benefits and social aspects

In both Germany and Finland, the sauna is valued for its health benefits. Regular sauna sessions can strengthen the immune system, promote blood circulation and help reduce stress⁵. Some studies even suggest that regular sauna use can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia⁶.

The sauna also has an important social aspect in both countries. It is a place of relaxation and exchange where people come together to talk and relax. In Finland, the sauna is even an integral part of family tradition and is often used for celebrations and special occasions⁷.

Differences: traditions, temperatures and textiles

Despite the shared appreciation, there are some differences between sauna culture in Germany and Finland. One of the most noticeable differences lies in the temperatures that prevail in saunas. While Finnish saunas are usually very hot (80-100 °C), German saunas are somewhat milder, with temperatures of 60-80 °C.

Another difference concerns the use of textiles in the sauna. In Germany, it is common to sauna naked, using a towel as a seat pad. Finns are also known to sweat together in the sauna, occasionally naked, but exclusively in the company of family or friends. In publicly accessible saunas, on the other hand, they usually wear bathing suits and sauna separately by gender.

There are also differences in terms of traditions and rituals. In Finland, for example, it is an integral part of sauna culture to pour water (without added fragrances) onto the hot stones, which is known as “löyly.” In contrast, the infusion ritual in Germany, known as “Aufgüsse,” is often more elaborate and performed by a sauna master. Another popular sauna ingredient in Germany is essential oils. These are often used to enhance the sauna experience and increase well-being.

An important part of the sauna experience is the birch tassel ritual, which holds a significant place in Finnish culture. The birch tassel ritual is a technique that involves tapping a bunch of fresh birch twigs on the skin. This is said to promote blood circulation and help cleanse the skin.

Conclusion: A multifaceted culture with health benefits

Sauna culture in Germany and Finland has both similarities and differences. Both countries value the health benefits and social aspect of saunas, with differences in temperatures, textiles and traditions. Regardless of cultural differences, saunas in both countries provide a valuable ritual for relaxation and health promotion.

Sources:

1: Laukkanen, J.A., Laukkanen, T. (2018). Sauna bathing and systemic inflammation. European Journal of Epidemiology, 33(4), 351-353.

2: Valtakari, M. (2015). The Finnish sauna: A cultural history. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.

3: Röder, M. (2009). Roman spas and ancient bathing culture. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

4: Fessler, A. (2012). History of the sauna: from antiquity to the present. Munich: Südwest Verlag.

5: Hannuksela, M.L., Ellahham, S. (2001). Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. The American Journal of Medicine, 110(2), 118-126.

6: Laukkanen, T., Khan, H., Zaccardi, F., Laukkanen, J.A. (2015). Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(4), 542-548.

7: Valtakari, M. (2015). The Finnish sauna: A cultural history. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.