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The Sauna – a place to be yourself

The world is full of people on the hunt for status symbols. For them it's important to have the right clothes, the right style, haircut and car, not to mention being seen with the right people. All to show that they’re successful - people to look up to and take seriously. Never before has humanity been so obsessed with status.

But there are breathing spaces, places where you can be yourself. One such place is the sauna. Saunas aren't just for getting clean and sweating out toxins, you can cleanse your inner self too. In a sauna, no one can see if you’re rich or poor, or whether you left a pair of handmade, Italian shoes or plastic sandals outside the sauna door. You can let your guard down and be yourself. We need places like this as never before.

In a sauna, you don't just hang out with people with the same background. Gender and age are also irrelevant. A sauna is an empty room. The only things inside it are benches and a sauna heater. Some people like to talk in the sauna, and it's a great place for that. Some choose to go into a sauna not only to get clean but because the sauna is a social place, perhaps precisely because you're not judged by your financial status and can chat on equal terms. It's impossible to know if a person wearing a towel is financially successful, or if they’re a manual worker, director, a pries, or unemployed. In a sauna, we’re all equal.

There's not much else to do in a sauna than talk, so with the right audience you can tell long tales, about previous saunas, colourful characters or something completely different. In Finland, where using saunas is like a religion, the film 'The Naked Man' was made in 2010, where men meet in a sauna and talk about emotions. But women can, too! The Finnish journalist Anne Hietanen has done a whole series of interviews in a sauna, where she interviewed a different woman in each episode, asking about their relationships with their bodies.

Talking a lot and for a long time is perhaps not the most typical thing for Finns, who are often perceived as a bit quiet and introverted, and it's just as fun to sit quietly and enjoy the intense heat that surrounds you in the sauna from the moment you enter the room until it's time to go out again. If you aren’t in the mood for talking, there's no need to say anything at all.