If the only thing you could hear in the gym sauna today was my palm slapping my forehead, then all would have been well. But it wasn’t. I don’t know, to sit in the sauna today, watching 3 fully grown but plainly dysfunctional men, unable to be away from their i-phones for 5 minutes, bleeping away I could not but despair - Tyler Durton was right, and by the look of the way western manhood is going, he’s getting more right by the second.
Your lack of Sauna etiquette is not your fault, dear Americans. I understand they don’t teach you it at school and you’re too ignorant to read what it says outside the sauna. If it’s any consolation, Brits are just the same (on a less loud/high five level admittedly), when it comes to knowing how to behave in that sacred Baltic Grotto, so I think its time I tell the world a little about how it should be in there…
Ok lets start at the beginning. The sauna, to take it back to its roots, really is a sacred, serene place in Nordic/Baltic culture. It’s where many babies were traditionally born. Its where business is conducted, vodka drunk, even relationships consummated. But all in all it’s a place where the family, or close friends congregate to relax, meditate, sweat out the bad stuff, and contemplate the meaning of life. In silence – i.e. not sitting tweeting on their i-phones. And definitely not shaving your armpits in front of everyone. Or sitting fully clothed with shoes on.
Ok lets put some bullet points in so next time you go to take a sauna, you know what to do.
1. Go naked. The point of the sauna is to sweat out your toxins not to dirty your clothes and skin. If you’re in mixed company, ladies will tend to wear a towel round to protect modesty (although they will get to see your parts, guys, is it such a bad thing?) If you’re with a bunch of guys, sweating and naked, it’s not a gay thing despite your insecurities, unless you’re actually gay, in which case you probably visit a very different kind of sauna. However if a guy gets a hard on, then you probably don’t want to invite him next time. And if the girls don’t towel up, then you’re probably on a promise. Or in Sweden.
2. Don’t talk loudly at people. Especially not strangers. Ok I understand it’s not easy to shut up for a second, but really, its not that hard.
3. Actually, don’t talk at all. That’s really not the point of the sauna. You have bars to shout at each other and hug strangers.
4. Don’t bring headphones, ipods or phones into the sauna. Apart from the fact that its not very good for them, its also pretty bad manners.
5. Pour water on the sauna, to increase the humidity and open your pores. Ignore the warnings on American saunas to not pour water on it. They are plainly idiots and don’t know anything, not least the whole point of a sauna.
6. If you can increase the temperature, do so. This will get rid of unwanted men on iphones. Or at least will break their iphones which serves them right.
7. I know this sounds hard, but after the sauna, jump in a VERY cold shower, or run out and roll in the snow. The sauna (when you pour water on it) opens the pores, and so the biting cold will close them again, and leave you feeling (afterwards) pretty amazing. Your girlfriend will thank you.
8. Use birch branches to both waft (to increase the ‘burn’) and to beat yourself or others. You really need to take turns on this – basically lie down and get another to beat you with the birch branch all over. It helps the pores again, makes it hotter, and pretty much doubles the whole sauna experience. If there are no birch leaves, just beat the guy with the i-phone with his phone until he leaves.
9. You should repeat the hot/cold combination 2,3 even 4 times if you can. Don’t stay out in the snow for more than 5 minutes though. It can feel great, and you want to go to sleep. But that’s because you have hypothermia.
10. Don’t wear shoes and socks in the sauna. It defeats the whole purpose. I mean do I really have to say this?
11. Fat people – sauna does not lose you weight or get you fit. You just lose sweat, which comes back in a few hours. Fat guy in the sauna today – Please try not to fart in the sauna, it was disgusting.
Ok so now everyone in Western New York is educated on Sauna etiquette, I’m looking forward to going into the sauna next week and having birch leaves waiting and the ultimate zen experience….