More reflections on sauna etiquette

Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis (come one, there’s more than one of you, or these WordPress stats are simply lying to me) will know I love a good sauna.

I have no idea where this addiction came from, except that a sauna relaxes me like nothing else on earth. I could spend forever alternating between a hot sauna and a cold shower – as long as I don’t run out of drinking water and towels. Afterwards, I sleep like a baby.

My ultimate sauna experiences have been in Japan, where I fell in love with the Onsen. They were so organised, so clean and so large. Perfect for whiling away an entire afternoon. I could have spent even longer, but I didn’t want to miss out on seeing more of Japan on such a (relatively) short visit.

The peace and quiet… the heat…are just so relaxing.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees saunas and steam rooms the same way I do. I know, I know. I’ve written about this before, describing my particularly unfortunate experiences in Montreal.

Unfortunately, it has continued. In just the last year, I’ve had to leave one hotel steam room because a couple had a full-on marital argument about DIY (I wasn’t the only one leaving), while in my own building, I felt compelled to walk out of the sauna when a neighbour brought in her wet laundry to dry out.


I’ve also witnessed the following in various spa facilities (sauna or steam room) in the UK:

  • A woman clipping her toe-nails
  • A man “re-aranging” his crotch to a suspicious degree while looking at the woman sitting next to me
  • A couple giving each other a full-body, body oil massage
  • A group of young accountants bragging about how they were mis-using their business expenses, naming their employers in the process
  • Two guys relaying – in excruciating detail – stories of their sexual encounters at the previous night’s office party

I’m all for people relaxing in their own way, but isn’t the sauna supposed to be a peaceful place? Not an extension of your own bathroom or the pub down the street.

A few years ago, I was in an excellent sauna in Helsinki. The absolute silence was ruined by the arrival of a couple of American airline pilots who waffled on about boring aviation nonsense, very loudly. The Finns in the sauna didn’t say a word, but instead directed the most withering and disapproving looks at the Americans until they shut up.

I have named this the “Helsinki look” and have tried it to varying degrees of success since. Having just spent 45 minutes in my own sauna having to listen to neighbours speaking loudly – and massaging each other – I can confirm it doesn’t work on everyone.

Is it just me? Am I particularly unlucky when it comes to saunas? Or is there a plague of poor behaviour sweeping the UK?

  1. Yes, there is a plague of bad behaviour sweeping the UK and it’s not just saunas we need to worry about! I miss the peace of Japanese onsen too…



    1. The onsen experience is one of the main reasons I’ll return to Japan just as soon as I can!



  2. Like a library, saunas should post signs indicating that patrons who don’t respect the silence and tranquility of the place will be asked to leave.



    1. Couldn’t agree more!



  3. […] will know how much I like my sauna. Most saunas, actually. As long as they’re clean and not filled with sociopaths. I use the sauna in my apartment building at night, as it really helps me sleep. It’s also […]



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