A true sign of cultural assimilation is the ability to do the sauna like a pro – at least for this US American in Germany.
One of the first “warnings” I received as I arrived to Germany with a group of 30 other musicians, mostly North Americans, was about the sauna. “If you don’t take off your clothes, people will stare at you”. The idea of being naked in front of strangers was terrifying. So it would be a few years later before I gave it a fair chance.
Fast forward 8 years.
I just spent FIVE HOURS in the sauna ALL BY MYSELF
I’m going to break it down for you like I did to my American self – you need to chill, sauna is good for your mental and physical health, get over it and just go.
- Prep your bag (*usually available to rent)
- Robe* (thin is best, fluffy is too warm)
- Bath shoes*
- Large towel for sauna*
- Towel for showering*
- Bathing suit – if they have a swimming/thermo pool
- Prep your body
- Drink lots of water before, during and after
- Eat light before going. Too little and you can feel faint, too much and you feel sick (wait 2 hours after a large meal)
- So many choices! Is there a right way/order?
- Take a cool shower before entering sauna
- ROUND 1 – dry heat 10-15 min
- Cool down for 15-30 minutes – start with a cold rinse (+ optional plunge), then relax with your book
- ROUND 2 – heat + steam 20 min
- You can exfoliate now if a salt scrub is provided
- Cool down for at least 15-30 min – cold rinse or plunge, then lie down
- Most people go 2-3 rounds (hot-cold-cooldown), experienced sauna pros may go 4-6 rounds per sauna session
- Shower and let your body cool completely before getting dressed (or you’re gonna sweat)
- Drink LOTS of water
- Eat, you’ll likely be hungry
Put the plan into action!
Listen to your body. Temperatures are listed on every sauna. Always lay down your towel on the wood before you sit or lay down, and make sure your feet go on your towel – with the exception of the *Dampfbad or steam room. These rooms have stone seats that you rinse off with water – no towels allowed. Don’t forget to rinse after every room. If you feel a sort of buzz or tingly sensation during your cooldown time, that’s your body working its magic!
To nude or not to nude?
If you’re going in, it will most likely be nude – many saunas ban swimwear altogether. From staff experiences at the Red Tape office, it takes about 10 minutes from time of entry to forget that everyone, including yourself, is naked. Bodies of all shapes, sizes and ages drift by without a second glance. Children and adults alike. If you spot a colleague or business partner across the room, leave them to it or give a short, friendly wave if it can’t be helped, and they’ll do the same for you.
You could take a sauna buddy for moral support. On the other hand, I freaking LOVED my solo sauna time and can’t believe that 5 hours flew by (okay, 90 min was a massage that HURT SO GOOD). After a very physically and mentally stressful month of work, this was exactly what I needed.