Basic Finnish for tourists and travelers

Revision as of 14:19, 13 July 2017 by Jukeboksi (talk | contribs) (Choosing a sauna: +
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Tervetuloa, Welcome to Basic Finnish for tourists and travelers and kiitos for taking on elementary traveler Finnish.

You are welcome to Apotheker Jukeboksi's guide intended for learning meaningful Finnish you might actually use.
  • fi."terve" == en."healthy"
  • fi."tuloa" == en."of coming"
  • -> fi."Tervetuloa" == en."of healthy coming, to welcome"

The way to thank people in Finnish is "Kiitos" which literally translates to "a thank" (plural is 'kiitoksia' and is a slightly more thanking expression). This is the most common way to thank a person in Finnish.

Vast majority of Finns will switch to English if they encounter foreigners trying to apply less than perfect Finnish. This does not mean they do not appreciate the effort to try to learn some command of Finnish and to apply it but Finns just figure out the foreigners will not bother to learn the language spoken only by some 5 mln people. Assumption of English being the highest in common language is due to desire to be hospitable towards the non-native.

Knowing the IPA helps greatly in this task as nearly all Finnish letters are pronounced as they are written and the IPA equivalent reads pretty much the same.

At the airport / port / terminal

While you are at the airport, port or train station we could interest you in purchasing a prepaid-data sim card prepaid dataliittymä from R-kioski. You will be going to the R-kioski anyways to get a (multi)day pass matkakortti for the public transport system as the single tickets are expensive and inconvenient for the traveler as they are valid for only 69 minutes (Helsinki internal) and 80 minutes (Helsinki-region).

Just talk English as "everyone" talks English here but feel free to use 'kiitos' and everyone will be impressed how well versed you are in Finnish as a foreigner.

Lets get your luggage to the hotel and you to enjoy the Finland.

Choosing a sauna

Oldschool sauna. No chimney ergo smoke sauna. These are actually some of the most enjoyable saunas around. Don't worry, the hotel sauna looks like in the picture below just more lavish and luxurious.
  • fi."allas" == en."pool"
  • fi."teltta" == en."tent"
  • fi."löyly" == en."steam, quality of sauna experience"

Some famous saunas in Helsinki are:

  • Allas Seapool by the central market square with saunas, warm swimming pool (which floats in the sea) and the sea pool itself. Single ticket 12€, discounts for kids etc.
  • Arlan Sauna oldschool sauna since 1929. Kaarlenkatu 15. Single ticket 12€.
  • Helsinki Swimming Stadium is an outdoor swimming stadium with milder and hotter saunas is an inexpensive and authentic way to experience sauna. Hammarskjöldintie 5. Single ticket 4€.
  • Kotiharjun Sauna is the original wood heated public sauna in town. Open Tue-Sun 14:00-20:00 with bathing till 21:30. Harjutorinkatu 1. Single ticket 13€.
  • Lapinlahden telttasauna by the sea in the scenic Lapinlahti grounds open Fri and Sat 15-20 is renowned for their trademark smooth and mellow löyly administered by the 'Sauna Major'.
  • Löyly is a recently built designer sauna with sun decks and a restaurant in Hernesaari. This sauna is by the sea. Hernesaarenranta 4. A 2 hr sauna session is 19€ includes a towel, seat cover as well as soap and shampoo.
  • Sauna Hermanni is a traditional sauna in the Hermanni district. Hämeentie 63. Single ticket 10€
  • Sompasauna is free of charge but bringing löyly water (normal tap water) and firewood (available at gas stations) will be appreciated at this community-built and community-run sauna. This classic sauna is by the sea.
  • More alternatives from the Helsinki City tourist site

Helsinki Sauna Day is an event held on Saturdays annually or biannually. The plot is this: Saunas are heated and opened up to sauna-goers free-of-charge. This is an excellent way to discover quality saunas inaccessible normally. On the website you may either register your sauna to participate or to book seats in sauna waves (usually 1hr long slots). Not limited only to Helsinki. Next Helsinki Sauna Day is 2018-03-10 (Sat March 10 2018).

To the sauna

You want to experience the wonderfully indescribable soothing effect of the Finnish sauna. Excellent choice dear Sir/Madam.

Depending on your choice of sauna, i.e. municipal swimming hall, country-side cabin sauna, old-school commercial sauna a few exist, hotel or restaurant's sauna or one of the new design saunas that have recently sprung up the rules are slightly different but lingo is unchanged throughout Finnish sauna culture.

Getting to the sauna

Even geeks can do it.
  • fi."Missä?" is equivalent to the English expression en."Where?"
  • fi."on" is the verb 'to be' for 3rd person singular in present tense and the plural is ovat
  • fi."puku" == en."dressing, suit, costume"
  • fi."huone" == en."room"
  • fi."kalja" plural "kaljat" == en."beer" (slang) officially the word is olut but people call it kalja

Now we are ready to form some useful sentences

  • fi."Missä on sauna?" == en."Where is the sauna?"
  • fi."Missä on pukuhuone?" == en."Where is the dressing room?"
  • fi."Missä ovat kaljat?" == en."Where are the beers?"
  • Now we can also form the compound word fi."pukuhuonekaljat" == en."dressing room beers", awesome!
Modern Finnish sauna, probably of a private individual
  • fi."Tarvitsen" == en."[I] need"
  • '-ko' or '-kö'-suffix always forms a question but is not the only way to do so.
  • fi."pyyhkeen == en."a towel"
  • fi."shampoo == en."shampoo"
  • fi."uima == en."of swimming"
  • fi."housut == en."pants"
  • fi."uimahousut" == en."swimming trunks"
  • fi."uimapuvun" == en."a swimsuit"

Lets apply with what we know so far:

  • "Tarvitsenko pyyhkeen?" == en."Do I need a towel?"
  • "Onko kaljaa?" == en."Are there any beers?"

In the locker room

In private properties' saunas there are no lockers but many, except the most ad-hoc saunas, offer a lockable locker. Key is attached to a rubber ring (at the swimming hall) that is to be worn around the ankle.

This is usually the start of nudity area but sometimes people may go to the shower room with swim wear on and only there remove it to go to shower, sauna, shower, put swim wear on and hit the pool.

  • fi."päin" == en."the direction of"
  • "Missä päin sauna on?" == en."In which direction the sauna is?". Follow the wave hand signal direction.

Shower room / bathing area

  • In hotel and restaurant saunas toiletries will be provided by the establishment for the traveler. In private saunas these are also on the house. In other cases bring your own.

In the sauna

Vihta (Western Finland dialect) or vasta (Eastern Finland dialect) is an essential sauna culture thing. It is a bunch of birch branches tied together with a birch branch and it is used for whacking self and/or others with it. Believe it or not it actually makes the sauna even more soothing in the end-game.
  • fi."Vihdo" == en."[you] whack with vihta"
  • fi."lujempaa" == en."harder"
  • -> fi."Vihdo lujempaa" == en."Whack me harder with your vihta."
  • fi."lisää" == en."more [of x]"
  • fi."heitä" == en."[you] throw"
  • fi."löyly", plural löylyt could be translated to "steam" but in fact löyly is a far wider concept i.e. it is not only about the heat and humidity percent. Löyly can also be used to refer to the quality of the löyly in a certain sauna.
  • The suffix '-ä' or '-a' (determined if there are umlauted characters present in the word body or not) forms the partitive case.

Lets put that all together, you want more löyly you ask for:

  • -> fi."Lisää löylyä." == en."Throw some more water on the stones."
  • -> fi."Heitä löylyä" == same thing
  • fi."hyvä" plural "hyvät" == en."good"
  • fi."Hyvät löylyt" == en."Good steams"
  • fi."Helvetti" == en."Hell"
  • fi."liian" == en."too much"
  • fi."kuuma" == en."hot"
  • -> fi."Helvetti, liian kuuma" == en."Hell, it is too hot in here."

Getting out of the sauna

Ice swimming is a high speed way to cool off and it releases a variety of wonderful chemicals onto the blood stream. For higher rush you of course go for fi."Kieritään lumessa!" == en."Lets roll in the snow!"
  • fi."mennään" == en."lets go"
  • fi."uimaan" == en."to swimming"
  • -> fi."Mennään uimaan" == en."Lets go swimming"
  • fi.'-lle'-suffix == en."for someone/something, to somewhere, to somebody's place"
-> fi."Mennään kaljalle." == en."Lets go have a beer."

Then we go for the more extreme sauna cool down

  • fi."Hypätään" == en."lets jump"
  • fi."avanto" == en."ice hole"
  • fi.'-on' / '-ön'-suffix == en."to inside"
  • -> fi."Hypätään avantoon" == en."Lets jump into the ice hole."
  • fi."kieritään" == en."lets roll"
  • fi."lumi" == en."snow"
  • fi.'-ssa' / '-ssä'-suffix == en."in something"
  • -> fi."Kieritään lumessa!" == en."Lets roll in the snow!"

After the sauna

  • fi."lonkero" == lit. "tentacle" but means a classic drink made of gin and fizzy grapefruit soda sold in bottles ever since the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. An alternative after sauna drink.
  • fi."grillataan" == en."lets bbq"
  • fi."lähdetään" == en."lets go"
  • fi."ravintolaan" == en."to a restaurant"

Special times in the sauna calendar

  • is a day when the saunas are heated and opened up to the public free of charge. Website has possibility to enroll a sauna or book a sauna slot.


  • Midsummer sauna with fresh vihta is enjoyed on the Friday closest to the summer solstice

July 2017


  • Joulusauna on the Xmas eve afternoon is a family classic

March 2018

  • Helsinki Sauna Day annual-to-biannual free sauna day will be organized on Saturday 2018-03-10