A special sauna society has been set up for diplomats at the Finnish Embassy in London. BBC correspondent James Landel arrived to get information about this.
For many years, Finnish diplomats have been using the sauna as a relaxing place to discuss international policies and solve problems. Now a similar sauna has been made in Britain as well.
BBC correspondent James Landell Went to the Sauna Society inside the Embassy of Finland in London and tried to find out what Sauna Diplomacy is and how it works. Sauna is a special place made for taking hot steam where more than one person can sit for hours and talk to each other.
Diplomacy takes many forms – international summits, high-level meetings and lavish receptions where guests are treated to fine wine and exquisite chocolates.
But Finnish diplomats say they have a unique way of attracting people’s attention, provided they are willing to take off their clothes and take a sauna bath with them. They consider it the ‘secret weapon’ of diplomacy.
For years there has been a Diplomatic Sauna Society in Washington DC, USA and with the Embassy of Finland around the world. Now a sauna society has also been formed in the basement of the embassy in London. It has been opened only last year.
The method of ‘sauna diplomacy’ is simple. Diplomats of Finland invite their acquaintances and guests to the embassy. After being introduced, people have a few drinks and then prepare to go to the sauna.
If women are included in the guests, they first go towards the sauna. After their turn is over, it is the men’s turn. In the end everyone gathers once again to have something to eat and drink.
This can be called naked networking and it is largely effective too.
Women and men spend different amounts of time in the sauna
get to the bottom of matters
Helly Sominen is Finland’s press advisor in the UK. She says, “Taking a sauna bath has been an old tradition in Finland, it is an important part of people’s life in Finland.”
She says that the purpose of Sauna Diplomacy is to increase trust between people and deepen friendship. She says, “It creates a good environment for open talk. Since you are not fully clothed, everyone seems to be equal. It becomes easy for you to forget your positions and your roles, so you can get to the bottom of the matter.” Can go.”
The logic behind this is that a person feels relieved due to the heat of the body and sweating due to the steam. This creates trust, ends tension and makes it easier to improve relations with each other.
I really felt the same way when I experienced this method of Sauna Diplomacy one evening in London.
Although sauna also has its own clear rules. You shower first, then put on a swimsuit or wrap yourself in a towel. There are either separate arrangements for men and women or both go to the sauna at different times. Upon entering the sauna, a towel called a ‘bum towel’ is given to protect you from the hot surfaces. Can be worn and seated.
When I entered the sauna, according to the thermometer the temperature inside was around 80 degree centigrade. You start sweating and in this environment the conversation starts. After this, very soon in the course of the conversation, the curtains that people have made around themselves begin to be removed.
However, this type of sauna diplomacy does not work in all countries. In some places it is not accepted to be unclothed in public, and in some places people may be uncomfortable sitting in a small space with other people. But when I asked the people present there whether they were feeling uncomfortable sitting like this, they all replied in the negative.
Federico Bianchi is currently in London working for the European Union. He says that he liked this method because it was different. In his profession, the best suits and mobile phones are common methods of diplomacy.
Federico Bianchi says, “It is very strange that you are without clothes. You do not worry that you have to impress the person in front of you with your look and the person in front will see you on the basis of your clothes. ” He says that your dependence is only on words i.e. on what you are saying.
There has also been a time when Finnish politicians used the sauna directly for diplomacy.
During the Cold War in the 1960s, Finland’s leader Urho Kekkonen took then-Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev to a sauna. There he discussed with them all night and prepared them to allow Finland to side with the West.
In 2005, when Vladimir Putin visited Helsinki, he spent time in the sauna with the husband of Finnish President Taria Halonen. He described it as an “amazing experience”.
‘You want to be a part of this club’
But nowadays sauna diplomacy is more concerned with establishing cultural contacts.
Sana Kangsharju is a diplomat from Finland. She is currently working for the European Parliament. She used to run a Sauna Society in Washington DC.
She says it was very popular. She explains, “The sauna society became a kind of underground thing and everyone wanted to join. Almost all countries have embassies in Washington. We all wanted to get attention from journalists and people working in Congress. So Everyone wanted to be a member. We could only invite 25 people once a month on a Friday evening.”
Sana Kangsharju admits that it would have been impossible for her to build a strong network in the US without Sana.
“People want to have a special experience. When you meet someone, you can say ‘Oh, I didn’t recognize you in your clothes,'” he says. You want to be a part of this exclusive club.”
Helly Sominen says that for many people there is a difficult question associated with the sauna and it is definitely about sex. In some societies there is a deep connection between the two but this is not the case in Finland.
She says, “Finland’s sauna is a place without sex. You meet more people here than anywhere else. The place is safe for everyone and it’s a sacred thing for us. The purpose of the sauna is that every person Be comfortable here and feel respected.”
Some methods of diplomacy may involve a lot of eating and drinking. This also includes increasing the working hours. But after an evening of sauna diplomacy, I felt better and felt the stress of the day wash away in a sweat.
While leaving the Sauna Society, I had taken the membership certificate with me. That was its motto – “Ever created all men equal and nowhere is that more equal than in the sauna.”
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