Americans are seen as terribly prudish and even rude when they visit a German sauna and aren’t aware of the proper dress code. In Germany, the appropriate dress is actually no dress at all – rather they favor using it in the same clothing nature gave you. Yes, they use the sauna in the buff.
The Germans have long been fans of saunas. In fact, they are often the most popular feature of any German health club. They are aware of the many advantages of soothing away your cares in a hot, steamy room. They love sweating out toxins, relaxing their aching muscles and improving their circulation, much like Americans do.
The big difference is that in Germany, they don’t see the sense of wearing a bathing suit or towel when you’re trying to sweat out toxins. They much prefer to lounge around naked.
You might think that this penchant for naked lounging would mean they have different saunas for men and women, or at least separate, family saunas so the kiddies wouldn’t be exposed to naked strangers, but you’d be wrong. Germans are very blasé about nudity and find nothing wrong with people of all ages, sexes and body types using the sauna together.
If you’ve ever been to a sauna in Germany, you know that the individuals in the sauna with you don’t spend their time checking each other out or worrying about how their own bodies, flabby or otherwise, measure up against others.
Because it’s so common for everyone to get naked in the sauna, nudity isn’t titillating or risqué. It’s a simple fact of life and is largely ignored as a non-issue when you’re in the sauna.
One of the most surprising things you’ll find in a German sauna is families lounging together in a sauna. Many Americans are shocked by this at first – should your children really see Mom and Dad in the nude? The difference is in cultural perception.
Germans don’t tend to sexualize every type of nudity like many Americans do. To Germans, saunas are about comfort and good health, so it seems natural to them that families would enjoy relaxing together in the steamy heat.
The suggestion that this is inappropriate would probably garner either a chuckle or a disbelieving stare. Some Germans might be shocked that Americans would put a sexual spin on something so innocent and enjoyable.
If you visit Germany, try using the sauna the way Germans and many others feel it is meant to be used – in the nude, or not at all. You’ll probably be surprised at how quickly you adapt to the atmosphere and you’ll quickly realize that being naked in a German sauna can be completely non-sexual.