Uncovering Finlands key to happiness: Embracing Warmth and Community
Finland’s deep-rooted sauna culture, often cited as a key factor in its status as one of the happiest countries in the world, offers more than just a relaxing experience. With over 3 million saunas, these steamy retreats are a cornerstone of Finnish life, intertwining spiritual and communal elements.
Alexander Lembke, a self-proclaimed “sauna classicist,” shares insights into this unique aspect of Finnish culture. At Tampere’s Rajaportti sauna, one of Finland’s oldest public saunas, Lembke typically handles the heating process, which is an elaborate seven-hour ritual starting at 7 am. His usual attire for this task is nothing but his skin, though he opts for swimwear when guests are present. His role and dedication highlight the sauna’s integral role in community bonding, where even tasks like scrubbing a fellow sauna-goer’s back are commonplace and speak volumes about the communal spirit ingrained in this tradition.
In 2020, recognising its cultural significance, UNESCO listed the Finnish sauna culture on its intangible cultural heritage list. Tampere, just an hour and a half north of Helsinki by train, is known as the “sauna capital of the world.” This city of approximately 250,000 people boasts around 60 public saunas, offering a unique window into the soul of Finnish society.
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Source: The sauna secret: why Finland is the happiest country in the world, by Miranda Bryant, The Guardian