Saturday, May 12, 2012


Finns love sauna. 

According to Wikepedia, there are over 5 million inhabitants and over 2 million saunas in Finland.  That works out to about one sauna per household!

(Photo from Flickr is not mine.)

Vacation properties (summer cottages) often have sauna buildings close to the water so that it is easy to take a dip.

(Photo from

Apartment dwellers (like us) can schedule a weekly time in the building shared sauna for a small fee.

We have a weekly sauna time too! Only I'm quite sure that our sauna experience doesn't look much like the typical Finnish sauna experience!

We try to make it a relaxing experience, really we do. But our three kids have not been brought up in the sauna tradition and it is a bit difficult for them to sit still and sweat. (In all fairness, it is difficult for ME to sit still and sweat!) 

So our sauna experience involves a few Superheros and a lot, I mean A LOT of coming and going.

super heros

In Finnish tradition, sauna works something like this...

After taking a shower, you enter the sauna (naked or not--usually naked in Finland--NOT in our co-ed, family situation) and sit on one of the wood benches. The room would be heated to about 170 - 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

heat element close

We are still sauna rookies, so we keep the room relatively "cool," although we are able to withstand higher temps. each time we go.  (My pictures are terrible.  There is virtually NO light in our sauna.  We've been told our sauna is quite old and dated--but what do we know?)

You pour water on the rocks, as Joey demonstrates here, to fill the room with heat and humidity. You need to repeat this a few times throughout your sauna time to keep things steamy. Our sauna is electric, but there are other kinds such as smoke or wood saunas.

put water on

If you need a break, you can leave the room and take a cool shower in the adjacent shower room (or jump in the lake!).  For most Finns, this might happen two times during a 60 minutes sauna session.  At the beginning, our kids were constantly running back and forth between the sauna and the shower and it was difficult to keep the room hot. That's when the Superheros made their weekly appearance.

Sam and Lily play with the little dudes in a basin of water inside the sauna. This keeps them inside the hot room for longer periods of time and they only leave when they need to take a break from the heat.

lily in sauna

There are a lot of health benefits to sauna. For one, it is supposed to be relaxing and lower your blood pressure. I have yet to experience even the briefest moment of relaxation in the sauna. The kids all fight over the chance to pour water over the rocks and where they get to sit. The higher you sit, the hotter it is. Of course we all fight for the bottom bench!

Our sauna

We aren't quite sold on the whole thing yet.  I just don't get the whole sitting in a hot room and sweating concept, but I'm really trying to learn to love it.  Well love might be too strong of a word. 

At one time, women in Finland gave birth in the sauna.

Oh. Dear. God.


  1. Sauna is what I miss the most from Finland (and rye bread)! I so want my own sauna! I'm glad to hear that you guys are giving it the good old college try even if you are not sold on the idea yet. I think it grows on you. At some point you need to get in there by yourself or just with your husband and kick up your feet and relax. And yes, skip the bathing suit in that case, so your skin can breath and release all the toxins. I've managed to make my American husband love the sauna experience and my two daughters who have lived in the U.S. their entire lives and we have never had our own sauna in the house. Luckily we have some friends who have a sauna and we get regular sauna invitations. A tip to help keep cool in the sauna especially for the kids. Buy a sauna hat and dip it in cold water and put in on and then throw some water on the rocks. Repeat as necessary. Also, apply conditioner, then wear a sauna hat in the heat and let the conditioner really deep condition your hair. Great for your hair! Sauna hats are sold in stores that sell handmade items. One store that I always loved for sauna items was a store where all the items are made by visually impaired people. Not sure if the brick and mortar store is still around but they have a webshop. The store is run by "Sokeva" the association for visually impaired. They have a lot of nice items that make good souvenirs and gifts from Finland and the prices are not too much (at least for Finland prices). Below is a link for the online store. It's in Finnish, but maybe a Finnish friend can help you navigate through the pages. In addition to sauna items, they sell common household items like handmade brooms and brushes and rug beaters. Have you gotten into rugbeating yet? Here is the link:

    1. The shop on Annankatu is unfortunately gone but there is one next to Itäkeskus shopping centre, about 5min walk from the metro in the same building with the blind union (Marjaniementie 74 i think).

  2. It seems that you are having fun with saunas, but I can’t blame you. It is a fun activity, especially if you do it with your family. But do take some precaution when you bring your kids to the sauna room. Minimize their steam and heat exposure as possible. Observe your kids’ post-sauna bathing behavior, so you can establish the safe limits of exposure and avoid any adaptation problems.

    Neil Dalby

  3. I was wondering if anyone ever found out anything about these. I have one as well but if a different scene and come up with nothing when researching it.