Living in one of the most tech countries in the world like South Korea is very tiring sometimes. That might be why Koreans love going to sauna or jjimjilbang. Korean saunas are affordable, fun and you can find them everywhere. Well, there is still a little problem for foreigners… You have to get naked and take a shower in front of other ladies who by the way walk very relaxed without clothes. But, believe me, it only takes time to get used to it.
Korean sauna structure
Usually, Korean saunas are located in the basement of different buildings. At the entrance, you have to pay around 8 dollars during daytime and 11 or 12 dollars during night time because you are allowed to sleep over if you want to or if you need a cheaper alternative to the hotels.
After paying you are given a key with a number where you have to store your belongings. Also, you will receive a sauna “costume” and towers. Now it comes the part that all the foreigners are afraid of: get naked and going to the shared showers.
Well, in fact, this part is not mandatory. If you do not want to take after the shower a bath (which is gender-segregated) you can skip this part and go to the jjimjil (heat) room. This area is composed of heated salt and charcoal rooms, ice room, sleeping quarters, massage chairs, restaurants, game and exercise rooms, TVs, and even karaoke rooms.
Aside from the shared shower, another culture shock could be the love Koreans have for getting their skin exfoliated by somebody else. In the shower area, there is a middle-aged lady who`s in charge of exfoliating the bodies of the customers. As you might know already, Koreans care a lot about their appearance and especially about their skin and that is why they get their skin exfoliated at least once a week. After that, many Korean women buy a sheet mask and apply it in while watching TV.
However, each Korean sauna has its own particularities and facilities. Even though the style might differ, all put the stress on the traditional Korean medicine. They operate 24 hours a day and the busiest time is around dinner.
Why you should not miss Korean saunas?
“You are not really friends with someone unless you have bathed together naked in a Korean sauna.”
This Korean expression is indeed true for their culture. Somehow Korean saunas are the reflection of the Korean society: when a mother and a daughter go together to the sauna the younger must respect the hierarchy and scrub the elderly’s back. Also, you can find many types of Korean traditional foods which show us their love and respect for the food.
And the most important aspect you could learn is that Korea is still a community-like country. People are not afraid of being naked and talk to each other. Also, there are many toiletries shared and so on. In fact, we could say that Korean sauna is a little Korean universe where you might feel awkward but also welcomed.
Even though you are an expat or a tourist, going to a Korean sauna is a unique and authentic experience. Especially if you are on a budget, this is a great alternative to spend a good time with friends getting away from the noisy daily life. Sitting in front of the TV while eating smoked eggs with sweet rice punch is one of the most representative Korean situations that you could encounter in a sauna.
The culture of sauna is spread all around the world, however, what makes Korean sauna special are the materials they use in the steam rooms. And, each room is specialized to treat different health problems from stress to blood circulation.
So, are Korean saunas on your bucket list?