When I moved to Berlin in the cold, gray winter some years back, one of the first things my German boyfriend suggested we do was go to a sauna. What he failed to mention, however, was how, in the Vaterland, it’s normal to sauna buck naked.
Donning a bathing suit -- or even a towel -- is not only a major faux pas; in some local spas, it’s even verboten. And although it was awkward and uncomfortable at first, I now think that going into a public sauna naked is a relaxing, culturally interesting experience that everyone in Berlin should try at least once. Here’s what you need to know:
The (bare) nuts and bolts
First off, being naked in public in Germany is no big deal. It was definitely a culture shock for me at first, but since then, I’ve seen enough nudists sunbathing in parks, and guys in Berghain wearing only sneakers and tube socks, that I must say -- in Berlin, you can’t survive as a prude for very long. In Germany, Freikörperkultur (FKK), or as we know it, nudism, is a national treasure, kind of like beer and lederhosen. Letting it all hang out isn’t sexual, and it certainly is nothing to be ashamed of. And when it comes to saunas, the German logic is that being naked is healthier. Clothes or towels can block toxins and bacteria from leaving the body, not to mention make you overheat.