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Travel Tips: Proper Etiquette For Finnish Saunas

Travelers Today       By    Nicole Ynayan

Updated: Nov 11, 2016 04:35 AM EST

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Whenever you're travelling to a foreign country, it's always best to do what the locals do. When in Finland, you will find no activity more Finnish than going to a local sauna.

While it may seem strange to strip down to your birthday suit and enter a hot wooden box with random strangers, Finnish saunas are world-famous for their mind and body healing properties. These places offer refuge from the world, granting peace, quiet, space and time away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

However, with something as deeply culturally embraced as this, it's to be understood that there are certain rules to follow. While saunas may be stress-free places, just as Lonely Planet suggests, it's always best to know the do's and don'ts.

1. Bare All

Saunas are meant to be taken in the nude. Though that may be scary for most foreigners, the locals will have absolutely no problem being completely naked. They'll understand, though, if you opt for a towel or a bathing suit.

2. Be Considerate

Although saunas are open to pretty much everyone (except newborn babies), people with contagious diseases, open wounds, and serious conditions are advised against visiting saunas. It's also important to shower and thoroughly clean yourself before entering.

3. No Oggling

Saunas are meant to be places of tranquillity, not vulgarity. Though being around naked strangers may take some getting used to, the suggestion of sex or any form of sexual behavior is definitely frowned upon.

4. Accept The Invitation

An invitation to visit a sauna is considered an honor. If you have a good reason to decline, it's fine, but an invitation is likened to an offer to bond. The Finnish people believe that saunas make better meeting and discussion places than anywhere else.

5. Know Who To Go With

A general rule of entering saunas is that men and women go into separate saunas and families go together. However, mixed groups are allowable after a discussion regarding who goes with whom.

6. Food and Drink

Because of the amount of sweat production, it's best to remain hydrated. While water is usually best, Finns opt for beers or ciders. According to Visit Finland, it is also common to find locals roasting sausages on the open coals of the sauna.

7. Whip It

Traditional Finnish saunas offer their clientele with a bundle of fresh birch twigs that is meant for whipping yourself over the shoulders with. The process is known to improve blood circulation and the effects of the heat on skin.

8. Take A Dip

Traditional sauna experiences involve swimming in the lakes or pools located nearby. The cycle of staying in the sauna then going out for a dip is a process that is repeated until the person is satisfied.

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