From the frozen far north of Europe, Finland has a few surprising claims to fame. The Scandinavian nation is the official home of Father Christmas, was recently voted the happiest country on earth and is currently locked in a bitter feud with Canada over who has the largest number of lakes in the world. Long winter months spent huddled in various furry garments have also led the Finns to obsess over another, slightly more niche, pass time. Finland is the undisputed capital of the sauna.
Finnish culture and saunas have a long and complex history. It’s estimated that there are currently over two million of them in a country with a population of just over five million people. It is often said that more important decisions get made in saunas than in boardrooms. The Finnish parliament has its own spa in order to help MPs relax after tense exchanges, and former President Urho Kekkonen conducted diplomatic negotiations with the Soviet Union from his private sauna during the Cold War. Given the country’s obsession with saunaing, it should hardly come as a shock to learn that they’ve even introduced it to their fast food.
First opening in 2016, a Helsinki Burger King branch decided to turn their franchise into the ultimate American/Scandinavian cultural mash-up. Under the watchful eye of expert sauna-maker Teuvo Loman, the restaurant fitted a specially constructed Burger King branded sauna and spa, to give Finnish diners all the amenities that they could ever need. The facilities feature a 15-person steam room, shower room, locker room, and media centre with TV and gaming facilities. Clearly, the home of The Whopper is no longer just a place to hurriedly wolf down a very average sandwich.
As if the added extras weren’t enough to make you extra jealous of this laid back approach to fast food, the sauna is staffed by a crack team of highly trained servers, ready to take your order and deliver it to you as you relax. This can be anything from the regular Burger King menu, meaning that you can potentially enjoy the sweatiest cheeseburger of your life while wrapped in a branded Burger King loin cloth. Though we might all fear the meat sweats, this experience may give some perspective.
Despite the excitement of potential steamy sandwich delivery, Burger King’s latest feature goes somewhat against accepted Finnish sauna etiquette. Traditionally, the sauna is a place for Fins to relax away from the stressors of the outside world. This means no clothes, no shame and no food. Bringing a greasy burger into this hallowed space might undermine the more therapeutic benefits of a session. We can’t imagine that it would do much good for the food either.
For all the potential flaws in the plan, the new fast food spa seems to be proving a success. Loman’s work was recently recognised with a New Concepts in Food Service Award by Euromonitor, who hailed the room as a “powerful example of localisation”. If you too feel the itch for a spot of burger-based physiotherapy, the room can be yours for a mere 250 Euros for three hours. If, however, you want your Whopper sweat-free, you’re best off sticking to the Drive-Thru.