The Fascinating Ways People Bathe Around the World

BathingHabitsOfTheWorld_editIt may come as quite a shock to the average Westerner that it is perfectly normal to strip down, wash your body with a bucket and faucet, then bathe in a communal hot tub as part of a typical bath routine. This is not the custom for some bizarre foreign country. This is the traditional washing regime for the international and prosperous nation of Japan.

Here’s are some of the other ways people bathe around the world.


Being a country with lots of volcanic activity, Japan has a plethora of natural hot springs. Some onsen have been in use for over 3,000 years. Onsen in Japan are separated by sexes and it is appropriate for you to wash using soap before entering the hot baths.

If you have a tattoo, check that the onsen will allow you in. Tattoos were once extremely taboo and only associated with the yakuza, or Japanese mafia. If you’re all good to go, skip the swimsuit and jump right in.


Similar to Japan, jimjilbang in Korea are 24/7 communal bathhouses with separate areas for men and women. They feature many different commodities, like food service, a seawater bath, salt room, different temperature saunas, baths, and a swimming pool. You can even use a scrubbing mitt with milk and water to moisturize the skin and promote circulation.


The banya, or bathhouse, in Russia was used by all classes. It was sometimes the only place for working class people to wash up while the wealthy would pay to use their own private banyas. Visiting was seen as a spiritual experience and reserved for Sundays, which holds true even today. Other features are cold plunge pools and hot steam rooms with benches of varying heights.


Traced back to Roman baths, the Turkish hammam is split into three areas – a hot steam room, a warm room for bathing, and a cool room for resting. Hammams are separated by sex and many use a keşe for exfoliation. In Turkey, bathing once played a major role in celebrations, like weddings and births.


Sauna literally means “hot steam bath” in Finnish and nearly all Finns will take a sauna at least once a week. Traditional Finnish saunas were heated using a wood stove without a chimney, so the sauna would be smoky. These are considered the best kind of saunas.

Don’t forget to shower before entering and take the chance to jump into the snow or a cold lake after spending time in the sauna – it increases circulation.

North America

Strangely enough, Americans were sold the idea of a daily cleaning ritual back in the 1920’s. Companies advertised regular soap use for hand washing and daily mouthwash. What was known as “toilet soap” was a milder form of the laundry detergent used for garments. Listerine, a popular brand of mouthwash, was advertised as being useful for everything from cuts to dandruff. People didn’t take to the idea right away.

However, today, Americans shower more than the Chinese, British, and Japanese. But, people in Colombia and Brazil shower even more frequently, sometimes multiple times a day. While women shower on average more than men in most countries, the opposite is true for Sweden. And in Mexico, they use more shampoo than any other country!

Infographic provided by Soakology.

Post by Barbara Lee.

Barbara is a world traveler who is passionate about sustainable food systems, responsible consumerism, and holistic living. Her professional background and interests include writing, cooking, non-profit work, and eco-conservation.