Saturday, December 31, 2011

Introduction to European Sauna Culture

Europeans—and Northern Europeans in particular—value the institution of the sauna very highly, and the love affair with the sauna is manifested in innumerable saunas in parts of Europe, from the humble to the humongous. Sauna customs are not uniform throughout Europe, but, from an outsider's perspective, the facet of certain European sauna culture that is most notable—and perhaps even shocking—is the nudity. It's not that being naked in a sauna is all that radical a concept, but most English speakers are familiar with sauna nudity only in a gender-segregated context. In some countries in Europe, saunas are almost always mixed. Men and women use them together. Furthermore, nudity is generally not considered optional. It is expected. This reality certainly causes many North Americans to gasp in disbelief, but certain European nationalities are exceptional even among other Europeans for their casual attitude about mixed nudity.

As ubiquitous as saunas are in parts of Europe, they are mostly off the radar of those who live in other parts of the world. It can be a challenge to figure out how everything is set up and what to expect, not to mention to know the proper etiquette. We have written this page to illuminate sauna novices about the basics. The other pages in this sauna guide detail about 800 saunas in Europe, sorted geographically.

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