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  • Writer's pictureKati Pankka

5 Sauna tips for beginners

I absolutely love saunas and foreign travelers have often asked me "How should we behave in a sauna? Are there some rules or restrictions? How long should I stay there?"

I genuinely don't believe that there are strictly right or wrong ways of bathing in a sauna, but there are some things that first-timers have found useful to know so I thought to share them here too.

Here are my top 5 recommendations for bathing in a Finnish-style sauna

  1. Listen to your own body There are no rules about how long you should stay in a Finnish sauna. You may want to push yourself a little bit to enjoy the health benefits, but don’t go over your own limits. (Fun fact: hourglasses or other timers are not really a Finnish thing at all)

  2. Take breaks and cool off For the ultimate Finnish sauna experience make sure to combine the hot and the cold. You can cool off by chilling outdoors, taking a cold shower, swimming in cold water or even rolling in the snow.

  3. Stay hydrated It’s good to drink before, during, and after a sauna. Water is probably best for you, but beer, cider, and lonkero (grapefruit long drink) are what Finns enjoy the most. Sparkling drinks often feel most refreshing and soft drinks and mineral water are nice alcohol-free options.

  4. Be polite There are a couple of unwritten rules when bathing with others in a sauna. A) ‘Löyly’ is the steam generated by pouring water on the stones of the heating unit aka. ‘kiuas’. Löyly is the pampering steamy heat and is also considered to be the soul of the sauna, and you don’t want to release the soul. Always listen before entering or exiting the sauna room. If you can hear the ‘löyly’ aka. the hissing sound of the steam rising from the rocks, then it’s not the right time to open the door. Wait until the ‘löyly’ has settled before moving. B) Never leave the door open for any longer than necessary. C) Ask before pouring more ‘löyly’. It’s kind to ask your fellow bathers before generating more steam and heat if it’s ok for them. ‘Lisää löylyä?’ / “More water?” This will give others a chance to leave the sauna room before it gets too hot for them. D) It’s usually okay to talk, but don’t just don’t be too loud. Shouting and screaming should be avoided. Same goes for running. It's better for others and also for yourself to stay calm.

  5. Leave your worries behind Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly how to behave in a sauna. You can always ask around and your hosts, staff, or even strangers will be happy to teach you. Each sauna is different and the Finns are relaxed when it comes to sauna etiquette and so should you. Leave your clothes, your electronic devices, and all distractions behind and focus on enjoying the blissful sauna feeling while cleansing both your body and your mind.

By the way, did you know that it’s an honor to get invited to a Finnish sauna? Say yes to an invitation even if you feel a little nervous. Finns may first seem a little shy and unsocial, but bathing with them in a sauna is a great way to break the ice!

"What about dress code?"

Well, this tends to interest international people the most. For us Finns, it's quite typical to bathe naked if you're bathing with your friends or if it's a gender-separated public sauna. In those cases, you should have a little seat cover/small towel to sit on aka. 'pefletti'.

In mixed-gender saunas, it's typical to wear a swimsuit.

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