adoption · expats · finland · life · multicultural families

E.’s first sauna

Time for another milestone for my Indian-looking Italian-speaking little Finn! He took part in his first sauna ever last weekend. If you don’t live in Finland, you may be wondering why such fuss about sauna. Sauna is one of the foundations of life here. Every house has one and there are several public saunas all around the country. It’s estimated that there’s a sauna every two people in Finland! Here are some sauna-related fun facts I collected over the years living here:

  • No swimsuit allowed in sauna. You enter just in your birth suit!
  • It’s totally normal to have sauna with your family. As a direct consequence, it’s totally normal to see your parents naked.
  • Having business meetings in sauna is common practice. This has been criticised lately as representing a gender barrier in business, nevertheless it’s still acceptable in many companies.
  • A sauna below a temperature 80C degrees is considered just warm room.
  • If you are with friends of both genders, it’s acceptable to have sauna together (like an acquaintance reasonably put it, “I doubt I’ll see something I’ve never seen before“).
  • According to Finns, every sickness can be cured by sauna. There’s literally a proverb saying “If tar, spirits or sauna cannot cure a sick man, he’ll die“. Countless times nurses suggested “just sauna” as treatment for my child’s flu (in their defense, there’s no medication which cures flu).
  • Sauna is the only place where Finnish people love to chat (while sober).
  • Sauna is the triumph of socialism. All men and women are equal inside a sauna. Actually the fanciest saunas are the most primitive ones, heated by wood and with water fetched from a lake. Nature is the new chic!
  • Finns have rough words for the wonders of technology (the word for plane literally translates to machine to fly, the word for computer is machine of knowledge, and so on) but can write a dictionary of fine terms for anything sauna.

Funny facts aside, sauna is great and we happily made it a family tradition to regularly have one during the cold season. It really helps fighting the chronic tiredness which comes with dark cold winters. Ideally, sauna should be a quiet peaceful place where you listen to your thoughts while you feel your whole body warm up to the bones. Total mindfulness. When you have kids, you slowly see this old conception of sauna fly away from you, further and further… Last weekend we put E. and R. in a baby bath on the sauna floor, so that they would keep busy and cool. The silence lasted few minutes, then they started fighting. But hey, E. was quite enthusiastic to enter sauna! I remember R. being much more difficult about it. He had two short sessions and even came outside on the balcony in between. I am looking forward to having more saunas all together. It may not be as quiet as I’d like it to be, but it’s one of our multicultural family traditions and after all we always find happiness in our joyful chaos.

2 thoughts on “E.’s first sauna

  1. I’ve loved getting to experience the sauna here! Before we moved, I asked an American doctor how old our son should be before entering the sauna. After some research and consultation, she said two years. (He was four months when we moved to Finland.) After arriving, I asked a Finn the same question, and the answer was that most Finnish babies are in a sauna by the time they’re four months old.
    What a wonderful family tradition!


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