European Nudity: Locals Show it all in These Top Culture Shock Experiences

© Dwayne Berg’s Culture Shock Entry

In Europe, awkward nudity is an oxymoron. There’s nothing unusual about bathing topless, or spying through your hotel window to find people walking around naked in their cramped city apartments (although what are you doing spying?) The following stories go beyond the bare-topped at la plage – although we’ve put one in for good measure.

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Now onto the stories. We’re not completely surprised that many of the best came from travelers to Germany. Like Dwayne Berg and his wife were just trying to get to their hotel. And there’s some guy on a bicycle…

My wife and I arrived at Frankfurt Flughafn, cleared immigration and customs, caught the ICE to Frankfurt Sudbahnhof and asked directions for Gretheweg Street. We adjusted our backpacks, found Gretheweg, and preceded up the hill toward our hotel, am Berg (no relation). I was walking faster than my wife so I wanted to check to make sure she was okay. I turned around.

 Whoa! What is that! I asked my wife to turn around. She exclaimed in Vietnamese (very seldom does that anymore) “Troi Dat Oi” “Oh MYyY God!” The gentleman behind her was walking his bicycle up the hill, caught up with her, they exchanged pleasantries, and he got on his bicycle and pedaled past me up the hill – naked. We had not seen such a scene here in small town America but it proved to be truly inspirational for it obliterated all inhibitions that we may have had about trying the spa at Fredereichsbad in Baden-Baden.

At a health club in the former East Germany, you simply had to follow the rules. Theresa Anzur of California thought a spa would be a relaxing respite…but, err, however…

© Theresa Anzur’s Culture Shock Entry

My culture shock experience happened in a hotel health club in the former East Germany. I was traveling on a fellowship program and after a day of hearing about politics and the economy our group decided to relax in the spa. As a mixed group of American men and women, not wanting too much information about our professional colleagues, we put on our bathing suits. A male health club attendant approached one of the men in our group and ordered us all to strip down, saying, “You MUST be nude.” He went on to explain that wearing bathing suits in the spa or hot tub was bad for our health. The men in our group graciously agreed to leave, and the ladies happily stripped down to enjoy the spa, German style. No complaints from the attendant.

Prostitution is legal in many places, but little did Sandra Jemison of New York know that near nudity was also not forbidden.

I realize that Europe is less inhibited sexually than the United States, but I was not ready for the legality and openness of prostitution in Germany. I stayed in a very nice hotel next to a Police station in Hannover, Germany, last August. About two blocks from my hotel is the city’s main “red light” district. We frequently saw women around our hotel after dark, but didn’t expect to see nearly nude women of ALL ages walking the streets.

 A friend who ventured further toward the district saw one woman wearing just a big ribbon and bow!! There were also gray-haired women of the night soliciting. I am not sure where they carried their business licenses, but we were told they had to carry them at all times. Our hotel was next to a very nice mall about 4 four blocks from the main square and rail station. This cultural difference is certainly different from what is seen on the streets of my hometown!

Back in Frankfurt, Christene Main of Colorado, whose teenagers were shocked in their Frankfurt hotel.

© Christene Main’s Culture Shock Entry

Staying at hotel in Frankfurt with my 2 children ages 13 and 14. They decided they wanted to go swimming at the inside pool so I said they could go by themselves since it was just downstairs. They had been gone only a few minute when they came running back up to the room yelling Momma you won’t believe it!!  They had gone into the changing room of the pool and there were both men and women in there in various stages of undress including completely naked. They couldn’t believe their eyes and had to come up and tell me. I laughed because I had seen it before but had forgot to prepare them for it. They thought it was really cool.

The spas in Austria aren’t much different than in Germany, as Kenneth Sayers of Florida found out when he tried to take a soak wearing his trunks.

While staying at an Austrian time-share inn, we decided to go down to their Spa to relax in their Jacuzzi. Being typical Americans, we put on our swimsuits and a robe, and went downstairs to the Spa. It seemed nice, so we removed our robes and hung them on pegs provided and followed the signs for the Jacuzzi. As we entered the area, we saw that there were a few men, women and two teenagers in the Jacuzzi already. Suddenly, one of the teenagers got out. We were surprised that he was naked, as he started saying “Nein”, “Verboten” and pointed to two signs. One showed a triangle, and the other showed a triangle with 2 circles above it. Both signs had large black “X”s drawn on it.

Our culture shock was that we discovered that in Europe, Spas are for both men and women, and NO ONE wears a bathing suit.

When in (insert place), do as the locals do. Theresa Attalla of Ohio wanted to release her inhibitions and take off her top on a European beach. Everyone needs a goal, right? What she came away with was more than a notch in her bucket list belt.

© Theresa Attalla’s Culture Shock Entry

I did a scavenger hunt during my trip to Europe to keep my friends involved in my trip back in America. One of my main tasks was to get naked on nude beach in France. I have never done anything like this, but I decided to be brave and just do it. Since I wasn’t going to any beaches in France, I decided that Barcelona would have to do. One of the girls from my hostel and I went topless at the beach. I have to say it was extremely liberating doing something like this in a foreign country. We have so much censorship in America, whether it be what’s on tv, radio, or even how we act in public. I feel there is a certain image Americans hold despite not wanting to, especially the physical image that the media tells women they should have. My excursion to the “nude” section of the beach was extremely freeing. It was inspiring to see so many people open and free about their bodies. I’d do it in a heartbeat if it was accepted all over American beaches, and if I lived near one.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Avatar Mark Henne says:

    I spent a year studying at a university in Germany, and during term break, joined a group of students, all German, for a two-week long skiing trip in Switzerland. After skiing hard each day, all of us would meet at a café on the mountain for “Bier und Kuchen,” then ski to our chalet to clean up for dinner. The chalet had one shower room with multiple showerheads for everyone, regardless of gender, to shower together. Not a big deal. It didn’t take long for us to become close friends. The saunas at the university gymnasium were also coed – no one thought of wrapping a towel around him or herself.

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