Over hundreds of years, sauna procedures have remained similar to what was practiced back in the days. So few changes in the procedures and etiquette can be explained with the fact that sauna for Finns is an important part of life, much like eating or sleeping. The essential idea behind every sauna session is to enjoy it and feel better.
Although there are no strict rules about the procedures, there are steps driven by common sense, which will make your sauna experience a pleasant one.
Seven Steps to Enjoy Finnish Sauna
1. Take a shower before the sauna. This will cleanse and refresh your body.
2. Stay in the sauna without swim suits or swim trunks. If it is a mixed sauna and you feel uncomfortable being in nude, cover yourself with a towel.
3. Try to stay approximately 10-15 min so the body starts to sweat.
4. Take a contrast shower, or if you dare, a dip in an ice hole. The first sign that your body has definitely warmed up is the fact that the contrast shower does not feel that cold but rather pleasant and refreshing.
5. After the shower you can either enjoy a glass of fresh water, a cold beer, or repeat the session with 10-15 min more.
6. In between the sessions give your body time to cool down. After the final session take a warm shower to wash yourself properly and rub yourself with a dry towel.
7. Enjoy some light food and drinks after the sauna. The most common dish is grilled sausages with mustard. The food is, however, a matter of taste, so some Finns might prefer a sandwich to a grilled sausage or just some drinks.
In terms of etiquette, there are perhaps only few points to remember. Firstly, not all the Finnish saunas are mixed saunas. Spas and swimming pools have separate saunas for men and women. If there is only one sauna in a public facility, there are separate turns for men and women. Mixed saunas are common among some Finnish families.
Secondly, throwing water on the stones is usually not a task for the oldest or more experienced sauna lovers. If you happen to be the closest person to the bucket, you would be the one responsible for adding ‘löyly’ (heat).
Finally, if a Finn invites you to the sauna, try to experience that. Saying ‘no’ to the host might feel a bit offensive.