Germans and Nakedness

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Concierge.com columnist Mark Schatzker recently visited a German spa and brought with him the Puritanical attitude that plagues most North Americans. His detached observations on the naked Germans are not unlike impressions of watching fish in an aquarium.
Next to the sauna is the steam room. The door is fogged and I can't see inside. I open it and step in. A man is seated right next to the door, naked, his knees wide, exposing a bouquet of genitalia. He stares at me and says nothing. A squat naked woman sits next to him, sweating. I sit on the opposite bench, the fabric of my red bathing suit sandwiched between my body and the tile bench.
Imagine this scene from the viewpoint of the Germans, who see this odd American with his genital phobia sitting and sweating in his little red bathing suit, saying nothing and taking mental notes.

A reader who is from the U. S. and is half European nails the problem with this writer in a reply.
Mr. Schatzker obviously feels that a naked human body is by definition sexual, by definition something a little provocative. Northern Europeans simply do not see it that way. They do not consider a human body to be something to be consumed, like “an elaborate dish”. They are in the sauna to relax, and frankly could not care less what they or anybody else looks like. And that sort of relaxation, in Northern Europe, is not about loud conversation. The fact of being naked around others is not a prurient experience to be enjoyed per se. If there was tension, and I am sure there was, it was due to the look on Schatzker’s face.
I just don't understand why anyone would go into a German sauna wearing a little bathing suit when everybody else is unashamedly naked. The lack of normal and healthy social nudity in the American culture is disturbing, and this writer is a prime example of someone with a serious case of gymnophobia.

An article from last year in Spiegel Online International explains the German attitude towards uptight Americans.
Forget about trying to wear a swimsuit in a sauna. First of all, you'll be the only one with any sort of clothing at all. Secondly, you'll be immediately pegged as a prudish Anglo-American. No one stares, no one tries to make you feel awkward, but everyone in the room somehow knows to address you in English. Though there is also a decent chance that the sauna authorities will come around, pour water on the broiling sauna rocks, and demand in a brisk impersonal voice, "Take off your clothes, please, no clothes allowed!" Jawohl!
American nudists have to sneak around just to find someplace to swim naked, something that should be as natural as breathing. The last bastion of normal nudity, the YMCA, went textile some time ago. If one has enough money, there are nude cruises and plenty of high-end resorts, but for the average person, nudity is something you do when you shower or when you have sex. And even then, we have opaque shower curtains to hide our bodies, and sex takes place under the covers with the lights out.

All Americans with a nudist/naturist mindset all welcome the day when someone says to us "Take off your clothes, please, no clothes allowed!" No shirt, no pants, no problem.




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