Why nude in the sauna?

Lately we have been to a hotel sauna and steam bath in Düsseldorf, Germany. As northern Europeans, we took off all our clothes as it is required to German sauna etiquette. However, there have been some people from abroad not understanding this. They left their bathing costumes on and seemed to be embarrassed by the other people’s nudity. 

(Picture below: sign in a Swiss SPA)

Who is wrong? Why is it required to take off clothes?

Be assured that nudity in saunas has nothing to do with sex clubs or unethical behaviour. To your information and relief almost no one, who goes having a sauna for the first time really feels totally at ease. Being completely undressed means being easily vulnerable and of course one does not feel comfortable being "dressed" like that. 

Taking off ones clothes is one way to take away all ranking that we impose on society by the way we dress. But in front of nature we all have the same value and this is the first step to free your mind from any kind of pressure. Perhaps this is the reason, why in Finland, where sauna has been invented, it is kind of a sacred place. Like in all those places  e x c e l l e n t  behaviour is required!

Nudity in a sauna is a concession to hygiene. Bathing suits are made of synthetic fibres. When these fibres are exposed to high temperatures in a humid atmosphere you create some ideal circumstances for bacterias and fungi to grow in your bathing suit. It becomes worse, if you have been swimming before in a public pool, because your bathing suit will catch some foreign bacterias who will also love to grow in your bathing suit. And of cause they will not stay there. So in the end, you can get ill with diseases of your genitals.

Also, it is very unpleasant to stay in a 80 - 100 degrees celsius (176 - 212 Fahrenheit) hot place with clothes on, because your skin will not be able to transpire properly. Bringing sweat to the surface of your body, is the natural reaction to regulate the constant body temperature. If you cover your skin, you block this reaction. You will feel very, very uncomfortable.

And last but not least, when you go swimming after having done sauna with your swimsuit on, you will spread all the bacterias in the public pool… 

If you still think, that you will continue wearing your bathing suit, it might happen that people will stare at you and demand to take it off for the above mentioned hygienic reasons. Being in the center of that kind of interest is much more embarrassing. 

By wearing clothes when doing sauna you demonstrate yourself to be a better off person, allowed to stand above common rules by ignoring them. This may be taken as disrespectful or insulting. So if you think, that people do not look friendly, you might be right. 

How to have a sauna bath - step by step:

Take off your clothes and take a shower using soap. In good saunas you can do that in a closed or more private shower.

It is only in the sauna cabin, where the light is dimmed, that you are 100% undressed. Walking around or resting, all people wrap a towel around themselves or wear a bathrobe. Before entering the sauna-cabin you take the towel off (shoes stay outside the cabin), hold it in front of yourself, open the door and enter quickly, quickly closing the door again. Once inside, you greet other people (hello will be enough), find yourself a place and climb the high steps without touching anyone. And remember: the higher the hotter. Not used to sauna, you better stay downstairs.

You spread your large towel and sit on the towel. This is very important. No sweat on the wood. No sweat on the wood under your feet, neither behind your back or head. No sweat on the wood anywhere.

This is a question of hygiene as well as of courtesy to your co-sweaters. Once you feel you have enough, you leave. Take care not to come to close to someone else, your sweat might drop on him or her - this also is a no-go.

Never look at his or her best pieces! If you do this, you prove yourself immature. If a man fears to have a problem with his best friend, then he should take a small towel with him, just in case, to cover him. In a nutshell: you behave as if the sauna were empty, but as though you were being observed through loop-holes in the walls.

After having heated up, you go and find yourself some fresh air for cooling down a little bit, wrapping yourself with the towel that you used in the cabin. After that, you take a shower (obligatory) to wash off sweat and  t h e n  you plunge yourself in that cold plunge pool that is provided in a good sauna. You will have to overcome your inner fears to do so, but it is absolutely worth the effort as this is the most refreshing and reviving thing when doing sauna. After that, you can put on your sauna clothes, like a bathrobe.

Next, you get yourself a lot of water to drink, rest and relax. In some resting-areas quietness is required. Having refreshed, start the whole process again.  

I hope I could make you see the reasons of Finnish sauna culture and persuade you, that it is not as revolting as it may sound.

Of course, I cannot take away your indisposition about foreign countries’ habits. Understanding them however, is one step to move forward. The rest is up to you, or just as Morpheus said to Neo:
„I can only show you the door. You are the one that has to walk through it.“

Have a pleasant time!

(Picture below: cold plunge pool in a very nice hotel sauna and SPA in Switzerland)