Recently on a skiing trip in Austria, I was relaxing in the hotel spa cozily wrapped in a bathrobe with book in hand, when a man walked in, disrobed completely, and treaded through the icy cold wading pond. Then, in his full nakedness, he made his way to the cold pool to take a dip.
Next, a middle-aged couple came in and did the same thing. I pretended not to notice them from behind my book, but I was curious about their confidence to fully strip in front of strangers.
Back in the USA people do not bathe naked together publicly. There are separate changing areas and bathrooms for both genders. Most spas require a bathing suit for sanitary reasons. This seems to be the standard attitude towards nudity in the US.
Why are Europeans more relaxed about nudity?
Europeans are far more open and relaxed about nudity and sexuality in general compared to Americans. It is normal to have mixed gender-changing areas in public pools and nude beaches are commonplace around Europe. I think the main problem is that Americans associate nudity with sex, whereas Europeans don’t.
The acceptance of nudity depends on the norms of each society and family. I think it is a common mistake to equate nudism with sex.
What if I am embarrassed?
But what do I do if I’m not 100% comfortable hanging out in the buff with strangers let alone friends and colleagues in the hotel sauna? Do I turn back and check in at the local Holiday Inn? Or do I close my eyes and pretend not to see anyone?
It’s an awkward feeling to be sure. I consider myself open-minded to many lifestyles, yet I don’t fully embrace letting myself all hang out with strangers in a spa. But I am getting used to it.
How would I handle the indiscretion?
For Christmas, I treated my husband to a couple’s aromatherapy bath and massage at a public pool. There is a wonderful array of Jacuzzis and hot and wet saunas where swimsuits are not allowed. We donned bathrobes to cover up and keep warm. Many people were comfortable walking around in the buff. My husband, without abashment, striped off his robe and stepped into the whirlpool.
He said that sometimes he runs into acquaintances and co-workers there. I was not too thrilled to run into anyone I know sporting nothing but my birthday suit. The thought made me blush. I decided to go with the flow and open myself up to the experience. I felt safe being with my husband in any case.
What is holding me back?
Am I too modest? Do I fear that people will notice that I am still struggling to lose the extra weight I gained last year? Or that they will see that the cellulite removal cream I’ve been using for years doesn’t work? Can it be an inhibition from my upbringing which mixed cultural with religious principles? I suspect it is all of the above.
Does anyone really care if I am nude?
No. What I’ve realized is that most people are more concerned with their own relaxation to even bother looking at me.
Why do customs differ regarding nudity?
I don’t come from a culture where it is shameful or forbidden for a woman to wear a bikini in public. Nor would I lose my honor by going bare into the hot tub. The acceptance of public nudity depends on the morals and principles of each society.
Attitudes could even differ from geographical locations within a culture. In East Germany, for example, there are historically plenty of designated nude family camping areas that are freely accepted while predominately Catholic Bavaria is more conservative in nature.
Our norms and mores are taught to us, so if you grew up without a stigma around nudity, then nudity is the norm. It is no different than how a more modest culture, the Middle East for example, might perceive Americans at the beach. They would doubtless question why would we westerners expose so much skin.
What do I want for my children?
Being raised in Europe, my kids are getting a lesson that our bodies are not to be hidden or viewed as sex objects. It is an attitude that I want them to embrace and carry over to the next generation.
Over to you. What is your opinion on this topic? Please leave a comment below. I’d like to hear your thoughts.