Swedish Sauna Culture

It was first during our visit to the Finnish Institute where we learned just how essential the sauna was to the Finnish culture; as Sweden and Finland are inextricably linked neighbors with hardly any differences between cultures, we also learned how important it was to Swedish culture as well. During our stay in Malmo, Professor Myhr took a group of us to experience this pivotal part of the culture during an expedition to a local open-air spa. The men and the women moved to their respective sections of the spa, and when us men entered the spa, we were a bit surprised to say the least: everyone was completely naked! Being from America, nudity isn't as widely welcomed as it is in European countries; what really surprised me, however, was how seriously the Swedes were taking nudity. Walking throughout the sauna with our swimming trunks still on garnered us condescending looks from all of the sauna's participants, and when we attempted to sit in on the sauna with our trunks on, we were explicitly asked by one of the participants to take the trunks off or leave. The majority of the group had left after this point, but my classmate Ben Weber and I had decided to fully experience the culture and dropped our trunks.

I had never experienced a sauna before, but I instantly saw the appeal after the experience concluded. The entire experience is supposed to go as follows: stay in the extremely hot room for however long your body will allow, working up a deep sweat, then jump into the cold ocean to close up the pores that opened from the heat. Afterwards, I felt like I was able to feel the blood coursing through my body, an experience that felt rejuvenating. In the sauna, I talked with a man who I presumed to be in his 60s; after a brief discussion, he disclosed that he was actually in his 70s and credited the fact that he had never been sick in his life to visiting the sauna at least 5 times a week. Afterwards, the group of guys and I sought to replicate the experience we felt that day (with shorts on, of course), so when the hotels that we were staying in had saunas, we made sure to visit them every day that we could after our business visits and before the night's festivities. Now that I'm back in the states, I need to figure out how to bring that experience here.

The group of us that visited the open-air spa during our time in Malmo. Look at the “post-sauna” glow everyone is exhibiting!