The Finnish sauna is an essential experience for anybody visiting Finland. Not only is it an important part of Finnish national identity and history, but it is also incredibly healthy, relaxing, and has a strong social aspect. But that does mean you can meet a few odd types in a public sauna. These are a few of the strangest people you will encounter, and how you can spot them.
The Nervous Tourist
How to spot them: covered up, sweating more than usual, trying to avoid looking at anyone else.
The sauna can be a daunting experience for tourists. The idea of getting naked and sweating in a tiny wooden hut full of steam is bizarre to them, especially when they have to do it with strangers or people they’ve only just met. But if they are coerced into trying it, they will try to wear as many layers as possible and will stare at the ceiling to avoid catching an accidental eyeful of naked bodies.
How to spot them: speaks mostly in Swedish.
This Swedish visitor will spend the entire sauna complaining about how saunas are better in Sweden, that Finnish ones are too hot and humid, and perhaps even arguing that the sauna is actually from Sweden. If you try to throw more water on the coals, they’ll complain about it being too hot.
How to spot them: speaking loudly, talks to you as if you’re already friends, doesn’t cover up.
Finns are known to be reserved and introverted, but not this person. They take the social aspect of the sauna a little too far, and will strike up a conversation with you the second you enter the sauna, even if you wanted to relax in peace. Even for a Finn, they are completely unashamed about nudity and will walk around the entire sauna area completely naked, still chatting away.
The Sauna Veteran
How to spot them: completely red, not visibly sweating, was in the sauna when you got in and is still there when you leave.
This person is so resistant to the extreme heat of the sauna that you might begin to worry about them or question if they are actually human. They can sit even in the highest heat and stay in for as long as an hour without the slightest discomfort, even when their skin is redder than a sunburnt tourist. It’s best not to copy this person, as overstepping your limits in the sauna can be highly dangerous.
How to spot them: holding a beer can, visibly drunk, singing the national anthem incredibly off-key.
Alcohol is a popular accompaniment with a sauna, during or afterward, to cool down. But this person has already had several drinks, and has no qualms about taking another beer into the boiling hot sauna. They might even try to pour beer onto the sauna coals, releasing the smell across the entire sauna. When they are done, they may jump straight into the nearest lake, or in winter into the nearest snowdrift, and perhaps have an ambulance called for them.
The Health Nut
How to spot them: a bag full of potions and creams, wears a peace sign necklace, won’t shut up about herbal supplements.
The health benefits of the sauna are already widely known, but this person has them a little confused. They will spend the entire sauna talking about how it is cleansing their toxins or some other pseudo-science which is clearly not true. Afterwards, they will rub a variety of expensive-looking but clearly useless lotions on their skin, again going on about how healthy they are. They might even try to sell you some, or tell you how you can make money from home by selling them to your Facebook friends, which is a sign to pack up and leave as quickly as possible.