Whether you’re planning a vacation or a stay-cation, you can get some inspiration from bathing traditions around the world. Wherever you may travel, it’s always fun to try out the spa or sauna and see what wellness practices people follow in different locales. But at times when travel isn’t feasible, you can bring some of those ideas to your own home, whether you’re performing a bathroom remodel that can incorporate them (think Turkish bath style) or if they just require a trip to the apothecary.
Let’s take a look at some bathing cultures around the world!
We all love a good sauna, and Finland was the originator of the practice, where the average Finn still saunas once a week. There, a person showers before getting into the sauna, and breaks up their time in the heat with a quick dip in a cold pool or a roll in the snow. Though one sweats extensively during the sauna, drinking water dilutes the urea in the skin and what is left behind after the sauna is considered good and protective, so there is no post-sauna shower.
Due to volcanic activity, Japan is replete with natural hot springs, and the people there have built up thousands of bath houses around them (called onsen). Traditionally located outdoors, more and more have come indoors for comfort and year-round use. Once the onsen was the bathing spot for everyone in an area, but now as private baths have become more common the onsen is used more recreationally.
If you travel to Japan and seek to visit an onsen, be aware that over half of them will not allow bathers with tattoos, so you may need to call in advance if you have any. This practice began in order to keep out Yakuza, the crime gang responsible for burning poor neighborhoods so that the land might be sold to wealthy developers. It is still the case that most Japanese citizens with tattoos are Yakuza, but many onsen are relaxing the rule as more tattooed tourists come from around the world.
The Korean jimjilbang is the Korean version of the spa. Centered around the sauna, a jimjilbang will feature multiple saunas with different heat intensities, ranging from very hot to cold, where men and women can congregate together. You’ll find heated salt rooms and crystal rooms, as well as a food court and a TV room.
The jimjilbang also incorporates bathing pools, again with varying temperatures of water. These areas are segregated by sex and bathers shower before entering the pools while nude. While the baths and saunas are included with the entry fee, for an extra amount you can get a massage or a scrub.
Jimjilbangs are typically open 24 hours, and the cost of entry (8,000–12,000 won) allows you to stay for up to 24 hours. Many South Korean commuters stay at a jimjilbang after a late night rather than returning home, to save time. Jimjilbangs can be found in the U.S. in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The Russian banya is a communal bath house mostly visited on Sundays by the Russian working classes. The tradition was brought to Russia from a possible combination of Finnish and Slavic bath house traditions. While wealthier Russians do or did maintain their own private banyas, for the working classes the Sunday bath would be their one bath per week, and it was viewed as a spiritual experience to visit it. Banyas incorporate steam rooms and cold plunge pools.
The Turkish bath house has a long tradition grown out of the Roman bath houses and was once an important aspect of celebrating a wedding, birth, or other special occasions. Called a hammam, a Turkish bath house is separated by sex and into three main sections: a hot steam room, a warm bathing room, and a cool room for resting. While exfoliation is a somewhat common practice in America today, it may trace back to the use of the keşe at the Turkish hammam.
Home Forever Baths
If you’re in need of a bathroom remodel, call the pros at Home Forever Baths today. Consultations are free, and we can help you achieve whatever your desire for your new bathroom may be. We’re the exclusive dealer of fine Kohler products in Northern Illinois, and our installers have over 100 years of combined experience in the business. Wherever in the world your inspiration may come from, Home Forever Baths can help you make it a reality.