Swedish saunas do not exist

Dear English-speaking world: please stop calling it a ”Swedish sauna”. It’s an irrational combination of words.

Sauna is not a Swedish word: it’s Finnish. The Swedes do have a passing knowledge and modest experience of saunas, but they call them bastu. Why would you call it a “Swedish sauna” when you could simply call it bastu? And more to the point, why do you feel the need to add “Swedish”, if you’re talking about sauna – which is a Finnish phenomenon through and through? There are approximately 2 million saunas in Finland, a country with a population of 5 million – and I couldn’t in fact find statistics from Sweden because they really are so much less common over the other side of the small pond. No one in Finland builds a house without a sauna; in Sweden virtually everyone does. Heck, even the Swedish Wikipedia entry on bastus talks mainly about the Finnish sauna phenomenon – bastus or saunas have not been researched, put into statistics, written or talked about much in Sweden, because the Swedes are a bit lukewarm about the whole sauna culture.

So quit with the Swedish thing. Sauna is Finnish.

… unless, of course, you’re talking about one of those sad versions you sometimes come across outside of Scandinavia: you know, the odd, brightly lit rooms with a temperature of +45 C and a big sign over the stove forbidding you to throw water on it (on account of it being deadly dangerous as you shouldn’t mix water and electricity – uh-huh, yeah) and where everyone insists on wearing a swimming suit, two towels and a hat; possibly sandals too. Then, as a Finn, I can’t begrudge the “Swedish” tag, because no Finn wants to be associated with an atrocity of that sort. Mind you, neither do the Swedes, in all probability. If you’re referring to a, er, “sauna” of that sort, just call it “a room in which one could practice hot yoga”.

This Has Been a Public Service Announcement Combining Semantics with a Smidgen of National Pride

PSA fuelled by Bucellas Arinto, which starts out currant and ends up lemon, and which I hereby proclaim a curmony wine.

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