Studying and Living in Finland LUT Alumni Experience by Aisulu Harjula

The Finnish sauna. Part 2. Customs and oddities.

Have you ever thought why do saunas exist in Finland?

I understand that in some countries people consider a visit to a sauna as a very strange event. However if you look carefully and be more attentive to Finland you will understand that it’s a Nordic country with its severe climate conditions where sauna is a necessity not vulgarity. And its visit is a tradition, it’s a normal friendly and healthy event.

“It’s not right or wrong, it is just different!”

Yet the weather is cold in Finland the sauna should be always hot because it’s a treatment for your health. Having a sauna in traditional Finnish way may mean which of the following:

A) You will go ice swimming (frozen lake, a hole in the ice and off you go), smeared with honey, and whipped with birch twigs. B) A relaxing snooze in the heat, modestly attired in your swimming suit. C) An opportunity to gather naked, in a warm place, to meet member of the opposite sex.


While you think two nice guys Tatu and Patu explore the sauna visit (click to enlarge the image).


 From the book This is Finland by Aino Havukainen and Sami Toivonen 

80 degrees Celsius in a sauna is chilly but 20 degrees Celsius outside is freaking hot

Key answer to the quiz: The traditional manner in which to take a sauna generally means women and men go separately. It is not customary to keep your bathing costume on in sauna as this is thought to be unhealthy. After a short while in the sauna, a Finn will either plunge into a cold swimming pool, lake or have a shower and then return to the sauna (even in the middle of winter).

Answer A. It is thought to be very therapeutic to smear yourself with honey and be lightly whipped with birch twigs in order to stimulate the circulation. The cold water helps this as well.

(from the book Cultureshock! Finland by Debbie Swallow)

P.S. I was inspired to write this post by Tanja Karppinen, the Project Manager of International and Russian Affairs at LUT, who gave her presentation of Finnish culture to international students and let us know about Finnish oddities. =)

About The Author

Researcher at LUT, Master of Economics, LUT & GSOM Saint Petersburg State University. Focus on Strategy, Innovation and Sustainability. Background in natural sciences.


  1. Tanja Karppinen 30.7.2014 at 11:17

    I’m happy you got inspired by my lecture of Finnish culture 😉

    • Aysulu 7.8.2014 at 14:29

      Yes, your lecture was amazingly interesting!

  2. T 4.8.2014 at 07:25

    Very nice insight!

    • Aysulu 7.8.2014 at 14:29

      Thank you!

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  5. Tyty 11.10.2015 at 18:46

    It is actually unhealthy to wear a swimsuit in a sauna, at least if you have been in a swimming pool earlier. The chlorine in the suit will evaporate and it may cause breathing difficulties to people. Also it’s not good for the suit, either.

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