Never Netherlands: 7 reasons Finns should never visit a Dutch sauna


In the five years, I lived in Amsterdam, I learned to love many things about Dutch culture, from their passion for King’s Day to their love of cycling. However, there was one thing, that no matter how hard they try, the Dutch will never master and no Finn will ever enjoy and that’s Dutch sauna. Don’t believe me? Here are seven reasons to avoid them at all costs.

1. No chitchat allowed

The first sauna I went to in the Netherlands was in our gym. It was a mixed sauna where people wore towels and it was the first time I learned that the sauna’s “a quiet room”. The sign appeared on the sauna door a couple of times after I’d been there with my husband. We’d been talking about how our days went, just as you would over dinner. Yet this was considered noisy. It’s rare a Finn ever gets accused of being too loud or talkative. Nonetheless, despite, my surprise, I kept quiet as sauna mouse from then on.


2. Sometimes people wear too much

No Finn likes going to the sauna wearing a towel. It gets all sweaty and it just doesn’t feel right. However, when you’ve no other choice you bite the bullet and get on with it. This resolves disappeared when one day I had to share a bench with a bunch of guys wearing their sweaty boxer shorts after a workout. I love my sauna, but there really is only so much a Finn can take.

3. Sometimes people wear too little

After that, I went looking for the perfect sauna in different spas. The first shock – surprisingly – was that many Dutch spas are no-swimsuit and mixed-sex spas. In Finland, public saunas and pools have different dressing rooms and saunas for men and women, and in the pool areas, you always wear swimming suits. I got over the shock relatively quickly, because, well, I needed a new sauna. Talking about my “naked” spa surprise with the Dutch, I discovered that lots of the Dutch wanted to go to spas but the fear of running into their boss or colleagues naked was too big to overcome.

4. Men and women get naked together

I also realised the interesting difference in Dutch and Finnish sauna cultures: for Finns, it is ok to go to the sauna with your family, friends and yes, even colleagues, but the idea of a mixed spa with people you don’t know feels weird. I guess for Dutch the idea of going to a mixed spa is still better than going to sauna with friends, not to mention colleagues.


5. Exhibitionists let it all hang out

I went regularly to spas in the Netherlands and learned to enjoy the abundance of services and different kinds of pools they offer. I also found a couple of ok saunas. However, this pleasure was sometimes tainted by people laying naked outside, on the spa lawn, in the autumn when the temperature certaintly doesn’t encourage you to rip your clothes off.  I often wondered whether they were unconcious, having sex or dead, but I never checked. The most bizarre though were the exhibitionists who’d place a chair just in front of an entrance so that everyone got to enjoy a view of their carefully arranged manhood.

6. They have the wrong equipment

As well as exhibitionists, Dutch saunas have hourglasses on the wall. This allows people to carefully follow exactly how much time they’ve spent sweating. They never leave until their time is up, even if they’re dangerous close to fainting.  What’s more, you’ll rarely find a water bucket or the stove. You can just hear the electric ticking of the sauna stove somewhere, but there is no access to it for the sauna goers. This type of a sauna makes a Finn wonder whether someone’s playing a cruel prank. If the sauna’s too cold and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. This type of sauna should be banned, worldwide.


7. They can’t handle the heat

Incredibly, I’ve also had a big argument in a spa sauna… Christmas eve.  Apparently, I threw too much water on the stones. I’m not proud of it, but just that you know: I threw less than half of the amount I wanted to as a Christmas gesture of goodwill to all the meditating, hourglass-watching sauna amateurs.

A lot of things have been difficult and are driving me crazy now that I’ve moved back to Finland, but a sauna is not one of them. As you’d expect from the country that gave sauna to the world, the sauna situation in Suomi is fantastic. So, if you’re going to the Netherlands be sure to wonder at their windmills and top up on their tulips, but save the sauna until you get home.

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KirisKirsi Kurkijärvi is the Founder and Editor of She studied Russian Literature in Tampere and St. Petersburg and is a co-editor and contributor of Mapping Experience in Polish and Russian Women’s Writing. After five expat years in Amsterdam, she’s back in Helsinki and writing about Finnish life and culture.

16 replies

  1. The Dutch don’t get the difference between sensual nudity and just plain letting it all hang out. For them “getting it out” is all about making a statement, rather than just enjoying the feeling.

    • I’m Dutch, regularly go to Dutch sauna’s, and I disagree. We do understand sensual nudity, and we also know when we’re just plainly letting it all hang out.

      Is it hard to understand that perhaps we just like it better this way? I mean, just because you don’t get it, doesn’t mean that what someone else does is making a statement. They might just do differently. And they can enjoy it all the same.

      It’s just different.

    • I left out a lot of stuff from the post including the infrared sauna (often a cold tiny cabin) and the colour sauna (a.k.a. disco sauna where the lights change colour constantly). I’m very happy all these options are available for people who enjoy them. 😉

  2. Nice article. I’m Brazilian and I lived in Finland for a year. I really miss the Finnish sauna and specially the heat.

    Saunas here are similar to the one’s you’ve described in Netherlands.

    The important thing is to appreciate all the good things a country has to offer, but regarding saunas, I’m 100% with you.

  3. Ive been to a “löyly” show in Holland where every hr an employee of the spa comes to the sauna. Dips a big towel and waves it like a mad man to generate maximum heat. I laughed and left and upon exit said, erm interesting but please leave words like ‘authentic finnish löyly show” from your advertisement, call it a bizzarre sadistic ritual from holland….

  4. Far better than the sauna at my local gym (in the US). There guys basically go fully dressed in their gym gear and shoes, hang out for a little while and check their cell phones and then leave. There’s a stone oven but no water or bucket.

    • That’s complete bullshit! Maybe you met someone extremly rude, but “the Germans” never do that. What did Germans do to make you want to insult all of them??

  5. I’ve been thinking about trying to visit Finland and a few other European countries sometime in the next few years. Is same gender nudity acceptable in a sauna in Finland?

    I’m an American, and I hate how uptight most women are here in the US when it comes to non-sexual female-only nudity in places like saunas and locker rooms.

    It’s so hypocritical and completely backward….. In America you have so many women who will watch hard-core pornography, they will watch graphic sex scenes in mainstream movies, and sometimes even go see male strippers. But changing clothes and showering must be hidden from any and all other females. Heaven forbid that a breast or butt are briefly uncovered in the presence of another female.

    I’m a straight female, I don’t get any sexual satisfaction out of seeing nude women. But I think that it’s abnormal for females to worry about covering up in a locker room or sauna when we are in the presence of other females only.

    I think that it’s so backward that some women will watch pornography which has total nudity of both males and females and graphic sex, yet some of these same women will go into a filthy and smelly toilet stall to change into their swimsuit in a women’s locker room rather than be briefly nude in front of their locker where another female might see a quick glimpse of them.

    I don’t think that that kind of attitude is healthy at all for young women to grow up with!

    I would like to take my daughters (ages 7, 11, 14) to a sauna where female only nudity is viewed as totally normal (which it is) and there is nothing at all sexual about it. I want my daughters to know that there is nothing wrong or strange about females changing clothes or showering in each others presence. And I do teach them to have no desire to watch pornography when they are older.

    So If we are lucky enough to get to Finland in the next few years I would definitely take them to a female only sauna where no-one feels a need to cover up.

  6. my experience in Den Haag Netherlands spa was that it was like any other health club in card entry, snack bar, weight rooms, cardio rooms, swimming pools, locker rooms.

    The big difference was that although the lower level swimming pool open to an atrium in the center of the health club required a swimsuit, the adjacent sauna area had adjacent showers and most people just had a towel and freely showered au naturel.
    Biggest eyeopener was the large, immense hot tub spa area was where sign indicated no clothing (but I was told that the women could wear their suit) and so it was new experience being among several males all of us naked in front of so many more numerous women, while all of them had on swimsuit.
    I just put on my towel as I left after enjoying the nude hot tub spa and did not give too much thought.
    Later the following week, a few women told at my Hague Academy classes let me know they saw me at the spa, during breaks in class.
    So perhaps the ladies were spying just a little bit.

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