What sauna culture means in Finland

 – Sauna as a part of life 


Finland is well-known as a country with strong sauna culture and I also knew it before moving to Finland. However, one thing I was surprised after moving to this sauna land was that it takes root in all kinds of daily scenes.

When I was in Japan, going to sauna equipped in a public bath house was sort of like a special opportunity that happens once a month or even less. Here in Finland, on the other hand, it can be seen anywhere from public saunas and the ones in swimming halls to communal saunas in student apartments and even wooden saunas in cottages.

Therefore, accessing to sauna is easy and it could happen as many times as you want here in Finland.


 – Finnish sauna is like coffee 


So, this is the main point of this blog post. Finnish sauna is like coffee in some ways. They are addictive, good for health for reasonable quantity or frequency, and unnecessary tool for socialization and communication.


People say coffee is addictive. Finnish people are one o f the top coffee consumers in the world per capita. I know many Finns who drink coffee several times a day and actually I became a coffee person myself after moving to Finland.

Just like coffee, sauna can be really addictive too. Most people who haven’t been in sauna or those who have been in only normal electric sauna wouldn’t probably understand that, including myself before moving to Finland.   

Once you have authentic Finnish sauna experience, you are likely to be addictive to it. The authentic Finnish sauna experience here includes, for example, taking wooden sauna in summer, jumping into the lake/water to cool down, going back to sauna again, and repeating it. 

You will only know how awesome and addictive it is only after you actually try it! 

・Moderate amount is good for health 

According to research, coffee has several health benefits, while there are some risks if you drink it too much.

Likewise, research shows health benefits of sauna as well, such as increase of blood circulation, relieving stress, aiding in recovery, and so on.

The research also highlight that a few simple precautions to have sauna safety are important for us. For example, you should avoid taking a sauna when you are ill, or you better drink 2 to 4 glasses of cool water after each sauna. 

Plus, never overdo it! When it comes to coffee and sauna, the moderate time and amount is a key to get some health benefit.

・lubricant in communication 

Coffee break plays a big role in a variety of situations in Finland, including workplaces, meetings, schools, and many other places. The funny thing is that it’s usually called “coffee break” regardless of whether tea or other drinks are served.

In addition to the fact that Finns love coffee, it is obvious that coffee break brings light opportunities for people to communicate and socialise each other. In other words, it can be used as an useful tool to offer places where people talk, get to know each other and relax. It is also common to ask someone for coffee for the first date or hang out with friends in a cafe.

Similarly, sauna is a vital place for Finns when it comes to communication. It’s probably known well already that some Finnish people become talkative and more open 

In sauna and many foreigners in Finland often joke about it.

Actually, sauna has been helping me get to know people, socialise and make new friends in my life in Finland. (You can read some of my sauna stories here). I have some friends who love sauna and we often go to public sauna together by asking “Hey you wanna go to sauna tonight?”, just like asking your friends for coffee casually. 

After visiting several different saunas in Finland, I realised that people go to sauna not just for relaxing but also for meeting your neighbours/friends and talking freely about from random daily stuff to deep topics. Both sauna and coffee function as essential lubricant in communication for Finnish people.


 – Freedom of choice in sauna 


Even though sauna is a vital part of Finnish culture and daily life in Finland, there are actually Finns who don’t like sauna or who are just not fan of it and go to sauna only a couple times a year.

One point I like about sauna culture in Finland is that no one forces you or no one tries to make you follow their rules.  As long as you follow the common sense, you are pretty much allowed to enjoy it with your own style. 

Lately Japan is enjoying a sauna boom and I have got some questions from my Japanese friends who like sauna. Most common questions are like this : 

“What is the authentic style of Finnish sauna? For how long should I take, how hot the temperature should be, and how many round should I take according to Finnish style?”

We can see the clear difference between Japanese sauna lovers and ordinary Finnish people whose daily lifestyle includes sauna. They probably expect solid Finnish style of taking sauna, including length, temperature, rounds, and so on, but my answer is usually simple enough to surprise them.  

“Well, I think Finns enjoy sauna spontaneously as they please.”