Question by : Question about Russian banyas?
So I’m basically writing a blog about Russia and in one of my posts I’m explaining what a Russian banya is. But I feel like it’s lacking something. Maybe a funny story or anecdote…
Here’s what I have:
“So… does any one you know what a Russian Banya is? Perhaps I should first start by explaining what the word Banya means. It is what we would call a bathhouse or a sauna in the Western world. Yes…a simple sauna. However, in Russia, the Banya tradition is quite peculiar and is a crucial cultural aspect of country life. It is usually a wooden structure, somewhere in the village, involving steam, high heat, cold, and energizing beating with birch tree leaves and branches. Moreover, there are many positive health effects one can observe after spending some time in the Banya; the blood supply to the skin, muscles, and joints are improved, the body’s metabolism increases, toxins are eliminated, and circulation improves. The ritual of visiting the Banya is mainly for fun, especially in winter, when many Russians go bathing in the snow or in the nearest frozen lake or river…what’s better then go and relax in the Banya after freezing oneself in the cold Russian lakes? I bet my readers will think this is crazy, but hey, it’s part of a tradition that has been going on for centuries.
Many informal business meetings may take place in the relaxed atmosphere of the banya. Once my father told me a story, that he was invited to a “business” meeting somewhere outside of Moscow. When they came, it was a bunch of guys just sitting back in the banya…eating and drinking vodka. I really don’t think they had a very productive evening in terms of business talk. ”
Ideas? Is there something else on banyas that I’m forgetting?
Maybe some history behind it?
Answer by Wave2012
1 – banya in countryside is not for fun – people take bath there. That is why your idea “my readers will think this is crazy” is at least impolite. Many people visit spa resorts, Middle-Eastern hammam, Finnish sauna etc… and this is normal. But when Russians take bath it is crazy.
2 – it is VERY rare thing to swim in “frozen lake or river”. Just because it is VERY dangerous. And have you ever tried to make a hole in 1 meter thick ice?
3 – banya and “simple sauna” as you say are DIFFERENT things – banya has extremely high humidity in comparison with dry air of sauna. It has different effects on body.
4 – of course, vodka. Why wouldn’t you mention that it is EXTREMELY dangerous to drink in banya and only stupid people do it? Or then Russians don’t look so crazy?
Answer by Slava T
I just would like to add to your story that I am sure that your father did have a productive business talk in banya. Do you know why? It’s because of difference between Russian and Western business culture. If you think that this “difference” is all about drinking vodka you are wrong. One of crucial components of doing any business is trust. This banya gathering was a test for whether a person could be trusted or not. It was a test of one’s personal qualities, character, psychological traits etc. Usually it’s a little bit of extreme but it works fine for us. LOL
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