Friday, 23 April 2010


Okay so I felt bad dissing Kallio yesterday so I thought I'd write something nice about Finland to make up for it. I chose the sauna because the sauna is a wonderful thing and I'm glad Finland chose to invent it.

The sauna is the kind of thing that sends fear into the heart of tourists. What, naked? What, 100C? What, you're whipping me with foliage?


First of all, even though the temperature in a sauna ranges from about 85C (a cool or "Swedish" sauna) to over 100C for hardcore enthusiasts, your blood DOESN'T boil and you don't melt, because there's low humidity. A sauna is not a steam room!
So that doesn't happen. At first, however, you do wonder if all your friends actually hate you and this isn't a tradition, but they've just found an incredibly creative way to bully you. At least you're questioning their mental health because they're throwing water on an ELECTRIC kiuas. The kiuas is the stones onto which you chuck water. Luckily, it is acceptable to take the following supplies with you
to make saunaing a much more pleasant experience.

You can take juice, too, but don't tell anyone I told you.

Saunaing is a funny thing. It was once explained to me that it's perfectly acceptable to be naked in a public sauna with people you don't know, which is true. In swimming centres it's forbidden to wear swimming costumes in the sauna. It's also fine of course to be naked with close friends or family. But it's ACQUAINTANCES that are awkward. People you know and say hi to, but you wouldn't pop their zits sort of thing. The first few times in a sauna are spent doing a sort of noob yoga where you fold yourself up like a deckchair trying to find the optimal position to sit in while covering up your most delicate parts, partially because it's hot and partially because you have to go to work with this person on Monday and the idea that they've seen your nipples is disturbing.

Then your boss or mother-in-law or someone picks up part of a tree and starts thrashing you with it enthusiastically as if they're doing you a favour. This is called a
vihta or a vasta depending on where you're from.


They actually ARE doing you a favour. It's good for the circulation. And rage. So between being whipped and not really being able to eat or drink because the air is so hot and dry you are supposed to relax. It's too hot to do anything else. This is why Finns will laugh at you if you think people have sex in saunas. It's just too bloody hot. Anyways, it's rude to have sex in a sauna, you will anger the elf.

Since being in a sauna makes you incredibly hot, you have the option of doing something incredibly cold so that for about 5 seconds in between you will experience a body temperature which is acceptable and perhaps even pleasing. If you're at home in the city you usually take a cold shower but if you're in a summer cabin there should be a lake nearby. Jumping in a lake after a sauna is great:

Or not:

Yes, that is a frozen lake that someone has taken the time to drill a massive hole in purely for you to dunk yourself in so you can see if you have a cardiac problem. You could probably use the hole to fish with, but why would you do that when you can immerse yourself in icy water?

Finally, some sauna tips:

1) You should definitely try it, because it IS relaxing and you feel really clean afterwards.
2) Be careful if you're drinking alcohol in the sauna, it may be dangerous.
3) Sit on the beginner's bench or leave the sauna carefully if you get dizzy; and
4) If you see someone about to wee on the stones, run.

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