Why My First Visit to a German Sauna Will Be My Last One

This post may include affiliate links, including Amazon Associate links. I may earn money if you click on one at no extra cost to you.

My first visit to a German sauna, will likely also be my last.

friends meeting in a German sauna

J.P. (my then German fiance, now husband) loves the sauna and kept persuading me to go with him.

Knowing that not only is everyone nude – not wearing towels as pictured above, but that bathing suits are not allowed (for health reasons, of all reasons)   I needed some convincing.   Knowing how competitive I am, he resorted to challenging me  “Are you too chicken?”

Bathing suits are not allowed (for sanitary reasons).  I needed some convincing.   Knowing how competitive I am, he resorted to challenging me  “Are you too chicken?”   Eventually, I gave in; I hate being a “chicken.”

Besides, I don’t have a sauna at home like this one for two people. Or even a portable one for one person where nudity isn’t an issue. It was time to experience a sauna in Germany.

But I did it on my terms – in our small hotel in Dresden, over 500km from Stuttgart, where my chances of running into anyone we knew would be extremely low.

many people find saunas very relaxing

The Actual German Sauna Experience

When we entered the sauna, there was only one other woman there.  I was extremely relieved that we would have our space.

J.P. had been chiding me with stories about how sometimes the sauna is so packed that you’re sitting skin to skin next to sweaty strangers on either side.  The idea repulsed me.

I like my personal space when I’m fully clothed, let alone when I’m completely naked.

Although the idea is to relax and unwind, I kept my eye suspiciously on the door at all times. Ready to make a quick exit at first sight of any character I deemed unsavoury. Basically anyone of the opposite sex.

In fairness to the German sauna experience, it’s not creepy as I am making it out to be.  I just feel extremely uncomfortable being naked in the presence of strangers.

It was for the same reason  Why I Was Scared to Have Surgery in a German Hospital.  I’m also Socially Awkward in Germany with my clothes on.  I guess even more so when I’m buck naked.

But despite being naked, there is nothing sexual about saunas in Germany.  Staring is not acceptable behaviour and will result in a public tongue-lashing. So I’ve heard.

outdoor sauna

Germans Vs. North Americans on Being Naked

Germans are much more comfortable with being naked than many of us are who come from North America.  On several occasions, J.P. has asked me if I want to go to the sauna with him and his friends.  Let me think about that for a moment….Do I want to see his friends naked?  No.

Do I want them to see me naked? Definitely not – the thought is utterly mortifying.  When I asked J.P. whether it would bother him if his friends saw me naked, he responded with a rather confused “Why would it?”

This surprised me because most men I know in North America do not want their friends seeing their significant other naked. It’s one of the shocks I’ve had as an expat in Germany.

Being naked in Germany is not a big deal. While I appreciate and admire many German’s abilities to feel comfortable with their bodies regardless of their shape (not all Germans have hard beach bodies), it’s not something I see myself embracing anytime soon.

people of all ages enjoy the benefits of saunas

Rules for the German Sauna

The other interesting thing, although perhaps not surprising thing about German saunas are all the rules.  Many Germans believe that you need to stay in the sauna at least 15 minutes to get all the health benefits a sauna offers.

When I started feeling faint after 5 minutes, J.P. insisted I couldn’t leave for another 10 minutes.  I lasted another 2 minutes and then left – health benefits or not; I didn’t think fainting was very healthy.

It’s common for Germans to spend several hours at a sauna. Alternating between the sauna, then cooling off. You can choose between jumping in a cold pool, going outside if it’s cold outside, or taking a cold shower. Then you relax before entering the sauna again.  I’ve forgotten how long it is exactly. But it’s one of the many of German sauna rules. There are a lot of them.

German saunas are often co-ed

If you ever want to get into an interesting discussion, ask someone from Finland, who love their saunas even more than the Germans,  what they think about all the rules of a German sauna.  Hint – not so much.

Do this in the presence of a German. They’ll then explain to the Finn why each of the rules is necessary. Meanwhile, the Finn rebuffs each of the explanations.  It’s some of the finest entertainment I’ve had while in Germany. And it’s educational!

I’m glad that I’ve experienced a German sauna, but I’m not sad that my first visit will likely be my last visit (never say never).  Even with a bathing suit on, I don’t enjoy saunas.

After a few minutes, I feel like I’m going to faint. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by not going.  “Nicht fΓΌr mich (not for me). But having said that, a lot of people do enjoy going to the sauna and find it incredibly relaxing.

If you’re a prude like me, check out my Shy Girl’s Guide to the German Sauna for tips to make your nude sauna visit more comfortable.

UPDATE:  It took me two years after this experience, but I have gone again. Several times in fact.  While I still don’t love it, the right sauna can be very relaxing! And I’m a huge fan of wellness hotels, where alongside a sauna, offer treatments like massages.

Have you been to a sauna in Germany?

friends enjoying a sauna together

Enjoyed this content? Please share:

91 thoughts on “Why My First Visit to a German Sauna Will Be My Last One”

  1. I’m still laughing Laurel whilst typing this comment. Yes, I have been to a German sauna and I hate it too. I really, really do not want to see strange men’s bits and pieces, drenched in sweat to boot but I would have enjoyed the German/Finnish discussion about the sauna benefits.

  2. @Inka – Thanks Inka, glad I could make you laugh and interesting to hear that as a German, you don’t like the German sauna either.

    • Hi Laurel,
      Hehe…a Canadian girl in German still clinging to her cultural values!! No bad thing but you may be interested in my experience. The attitudes to Germans in England is unfairly negative especially in our tabloid newspapers. The Second World War is always brought up, and claim that Germans are unfriendly people. So, as a keen cyclist I decided to cycle the length of Germany in 2008 as a personal challenge and to experience the “real” Germany away from tourist centres. It took me approx. two weeks. I flew to Hamburg and got the train to Flensberg to begin my decent to Friedrichshaften (near lake Constance). To summerise it was a great trip and I couldn’t believe the fantastic cycle infrastructure which meant I didn’t have to cycle on roads for most of the journey. My only complain was German food as I don’t like pork!! Anyhow, I sustained a knee injury because of the pressure I was putting on the joint with the weight of my luggage. So I went to a spa to get a massage and swim to ease the pain. I didn’t realise their were sections of no swim wear but as you were able to take a towel in I sat strategically. My heart raced at first but beause everyone was so relaxed I questioned why I needed to be so nervous! Its true that when everyone is naked its as though they are wearing clothes! (i.e. its not at all sexy), a body is just a body and your real naked self is your inner soul. Women have the same bits as women, and men as men. The worse thing in a themal Spa are the attendants who wear clothes which is very unsettling and unfair once you are in the common area. I think nudity in the right context under the correct conditions is a health atmosphere to encourage. I have been to an all male sauna but I was more self-conscious because I didn’t want to be checked out by gay men or compared with other men. However, I’m glad I went and my knee markedly improved! After each day of hard cycling, a sauna and steam room was the perfect tonic! Although, the temperature is far too hot at times!

      With the regard to improving your german the best thing is to enjoy the learning process and don’t force yourself as it will come naturally when you are ready. As you like walking and visiting castles listen to your language CDs when walking (to relax your mind) and watch a German films. German has many good actors/actresses.

  3. Ha ha ha! I’ve heard about these saunas and am not quite sure I would be so comfortable either.

    I went to the baths in Budapest and felt uncomfortable just seeing so many men wearing speedos. I couldn’t imagine being skin-to-skin with other naked strangers! :O

  4. @Cheryl – Oh yes, Speedos are very much alive in Germany too, but I’ll take the Speedo over the alternative any day and I don’t want to be skin-skin with people I do know, let alone strangers πŸ™‚

  5. @Jamie – I’m pretty sure NOT taking pictures is also one of the rules in a German sauna. I got this photo offline and I believe it’s from a sauna in Finland where they don’t have so many rules πŸ™‚

  6. I’ve been to a one as a teenager with my mom and didn’t like it one bit. I like saunas – especially after working out. And I don’t really feel faint if I make sure that I ate and drank enough water that day. But I hated the nakedness of everybody. I guess I don’t mind it in same-sex saunas because… well, who cares? What do I have that other girls don’t. But mixed saunas? No thanks! ESPECIALLY with friends from both sexes. How awkward would that be?! On the other hand, I really don’t like going to a sauna wearing a bathing suit, because it feels yucky with the heat. So… I guess I’m stuck with only-girls-allowed saunas which is totally fine by fine. Especially considering how rarely I go anyways.

  7. @Sabrina – Thanks so much for your comment, I love hearing the German perspective and so far we’re 0/2 for saunas from the German ladies. I think I would find the women’s only sauna easier to deal with, but still wouldn’t be completely comfortable with it.

  8. This made me chuckle. It’s a long time since I was in Germany, so I can’t remember if I ever went to a sauna there, but I do remember going to one in what was Yugoslavia, which was frequented mostly by Germans. My then-fiancΓ© and I went down in swimsuits, aware that probably Germans would be naked, but reluctant to unclothe any further (and my bikini was minuscule in those days!). Turned out to be only one, older German gentleman there, who lectured us on the benefits of nudity but we declined; until he left then we slipped out of the suits. My fiancΓ©, as he was yanking off his swimsuit, said, “I’ll give him five minutes, and then he’ll be back.” And he was! Something about leaving something or other, but my fiancΓ© reckoned that despite the spiel he wanted to see me in the buff.

    I used to go topless without a thought, and I know that even that is frowned on in the US (a friend was once told to cover up her two-year old around a hotel pool!!), but I wouldn’t have gone the whole hog. For one thing, there are beaches here where nudism is permitted, but all that talk about it being natural isn’t always true. Friends have been accosted there on several occasions. I wouldn’t have a problem if it was a totally private environment, and the folk genuinely were naturalists, but I baulk at places where anyone is allowed in.

  9. Ewww!! I don’t know if I could do that. That’s a whole lot of naked people! How funny that everyone was down to pose for a picture!

  10. That looks horrible. The “idea” of being around a bunch of naked guys (and one woman) might be titillating, but the reality of it looks to be a totally different thing. πŸ™‚ Red, sweaty people. Ick.

  11. I have never been to a sauna in Germany (I’m usually there in the warm months) but I went to a hammam (Turkish bath/spa) in Turkey. All the ‘attendants’ were funny old Turkish men with pedophile mustaches! It was funny. I didn’t mind being naked because they obviously didn’t care and they asked me before exposing certain parts of my body to massage. It was a funny experience, but I felt sooooo good and relaxed after. πŸ™‚

  12. Laurel, I haven’t done a sauna but I think I would. This is based on my experience on a nude beach near Salema, Portugal. I wrote about my experiences there and they were similar to yours.

    It’s very different for those of us here in North America to be OK with the nudity. It is uncomfortable. It took me a couple of hours on that beach before I decided to go “all in.” You are right that it is not sexual at all. Quite honestly, I was more embarrassed about being as white as I was (it was a beach after all) rather than the nude aspect. I think being nude just made me that much more aware of how white I was.

    I think I do agree with your attitude about others seeing a significant other nude. I totally understand J.P.’s attitude and I have no issues doing it myself. However, as a woman, I am not sure that I would want others seeing me especially if I was there with the S.O.

    • and I have no issues doing it myself. However, as a woman, I am not sure that I would want others seeing me especially if I was there with the S.O.
      ??? your picture is of a man???

  13. I am in total agreement with you. The spas and saunas really intimidate me and that is probably why I haven’t gone. Ok not probably but definitely! I really don’t want to sit around naked in a public place with anyone. EEEW

    For some reason I do think men in general have less inhibitions with their nudity. I don’t know that my husband would have an issue sitting around with a bunch of naked men in a sauna. He might be uncomfortable if it was coed though.

    I’ll pass on the sauna thank you!

  14. If you make it down to Baden-Baden I recommend the Freidrichsbad (a 17 course spa experience) or the more tame (and adjacent) Caracalla, where you can relax in many spring-fed pools of hot and cold water.

  15. When I first arrived in Germany, I too was initially skeptical of the whole sauna experience, but I have to say that now I really look forward to going to the sauna in the winter time — it’s something that helps me beat the winter blues!

    My boyfriend and I usually go in the evenings, and I find it very relaxing. The actual amount of time you spend naked and sweating is minimal — the majority of time is spent lounging, reading, and grabbing a bite to eat at the cafe. Without the distractions of TV or internet, it’s pure heaven!

    And for the nakedness, yeah, well, you’re naked. I can’t say I’d want to run into my colleagues at the sauna or anything, but I’ve generally come around to the idea that the human body is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s been a very positive lesson for me in terms of being comfortable with my body, imperfections and all.

    But I would have to disagree with your fiancee about being too strict about the 15-minutes! I definitely had to work my way up to staying in the sauna for that long — there was no way I would have been able to stay in that long right from the start. Our first sauna visit, I only stayed in for 5-minutes at a time, and maybe only did it once or twice. The next visit, it was a little longer and a little more frequent. And so on…

  16. @Laurel: If you can convince yourself to get over those North American hangups about nudity, you should really try one of the larger saunas: They are more like amusement parks than the small saunas you find in hotels. It’s a totally different experience.

    Bad Cannstatt might be a good place to start: They’re part of the Stuttgart Baderbetriebe and they have women-only days on Mondays and Thursdays.

  17. Being an American-German, or a German-American depending on the situation, reading the various comments is interesting, and not unexpected from many Americans. However the comment from Mandi sums it up nicely, and she seems to have discovered the real benefit of Saunen. It’s not about each individual’s body, or looking at other’s bodies, or getting coincidentally touched by someone. In fact, if your reason for not going to a Sauna is that you “don’t want to see others naked” you’ve missed the point. Why are you looking at others?
    As Mandi said, going to a Sauna, especially one with various types of saunas, is a wonderfully relaxing day. It’s a mini holiday when my wife (German) and i go. We spend the day trying the various Saunas, relaxing in between reading, dozing and daydreaming, have lunch and then later dinner. We arrive home completely relaxed.
    So, forget about looking at others in saunas, or that others could (if they really wanted to) look at you. Make it your relaxing experience.

    • Thank you for clarifying the nude experience! WHY would anyone care about wether someone was looking at you unless A. u are looking at others and B. Your mind is focused on being naked instead of just RELAXING AND ENJOYING THE EXPERIENCE! I went to a German pool and found it repulsive but then found out that that was the AMERICAN side;
      there was a little sign that said something about a sauna and so i paid and went in. WOW, there were all the Germans having a blast naked and free and not caring one single bit about f”oohhhh im naked” .. so what; just get naked and grow out of it; yes after being indoctrinated by america that the body is shamful it takes a little getting used to! Ok, so get over the shame and get used to it and start enjoying something other civilizations have been enjoying for centuries! Ahh the live in Europe and enjoy their FREEDOM!

  18. This post makes me laugh and feel nervous about moving to Germany.

    That being said, I loooooved my Turkish bath experience. I went to one in Istanbul and had a fantastic time. It wasn’t mixed, which helped my courage. I saw women come in with no shame about their bodies (I assumed Europeans) and younger women who would come in with underwear/bra or bikini combos (I assumed Americans). You don’t have to sit skin to skin with anybody, and I saw even the “covered” ones get used to it all. All the women doing the washes/massages were older Turkish women who had obviously seen everything, so they weren’t phased by much. That also made me feel better. However, I did go alone, and am more nervous about an upcoming trip with women I know.

  19. How funny that don’t allow bathing suits for health reasons! I think I might go to a German sauna for the experience, not that I’d feel very comfortable. Good for you giving it a try, Laurel!

  20. Haha! Great post! I have been to German and Finnish saunas and have found the main differences were that Finnish saunas were more quiet and had no rules. What an entertaining read!

  21. I have actually run into people I know at the sauna — one of which was my dentist which made my next appointment a little awkward but not unbearable. He’s also quite young and was there with his wife so it wasn’t a huge deal.

    Going to saunas in Germany has never been a bit issue to me. I guess I was a little intimidated at first about what to expect but there is nothing sexual about it. And although there do tend to be some men that are rather unappealing to look at (who sometimes have the wrong ideas about the purpose of the sauna) I have never encountered anyone who acted inappropriately.

    I guess it’s a self-awareness issue in some regard. I’m very comfortable with my body and go topless at beaches when it’s appropriate so being nude in a sauna is no big deal to me. And Mandi is totally right that it’s not all about hopping in and out of saunas (I never join the Aufguss btw when the sauna is packed with people — I would definitely not appreciate sweat from others on me) — but when you can lay out on your towel in the sauna and just relax (one that isn’t too incredibly hot), it’s very enjoyable.

  22. i would definitely go! but you know, i’ll also spend time at clothing optional places with hundreds of strangers, so…. πŸ˜‰ it’s great that you tried it and there’s no shame in the fact that it isn’t for you! glad you shared your experience so we’d know what they’re all about πŸ™‚

  23. It skeeves me out a bit, but I feel better in the men’s/coed sauna (there is no men-only one at our gym; just women-only) when my wife is in there with me. A couple friends went in there with us once and that was an even stronger exercise in not-staring…as in, not-even-looking-around-randomly. There’s nothing revolting about them, of course — just being in the buff with your buds was new turf for me/us (and I haven’t done it since).

    Years later, when she mentioned her navel piercing and I said “oh wow, I didn’t know you had one of those!”, she said “you didn’t see it in the sauna?” My response was “Neck-and-higher only!”

    So that was a pretty good sign that the visual exercise had been a success. πŸ˜‰

    I typically do the 10-15 minutes session, until I can’t stand the hot air in my lungs anymore, then shock the system with the cold waterfall, wrap on a towel or robe, and enjoy a good (or sleepy) book (or nap) for as long as I feel like it. The Ruheraum at our gym is my favorite part of the whole deal.

  24. I went to a sauna in Finland. While I love the smell of wood inside, I can say I’m a huge fan of dry heat. I like hammams betters. or a full body massage actually.

    Being European, I’m not very shy about my body and I was surprised to see different “taboos” in North America. Like sun-bathing topless. In France, we all did it. Like I always say, there is nothing sexual in it, heck all the women in my family do it, including my mum! (sorry mum, I know, you’re still young πŸ™‚

    On the other side, I’m doing yoga here in Canada and I always find it strange to see women walking around naked in the changing. Obviously, you have to change, but I usually do it quietly and matter-of-the-fact-ly, I don’t parade around.

  25. I went to the German sauna with my German fiance as well. I didn’t really enjoy the “sauna” part of the experience because, like you, I felt like I was going to faint, but I did love the nice warm swimming pools! I will totally go back on day, but I hope I don’t bump into anyone I know. Being naked around strangers is fine for me, but being naked around my fiance’s friends or people I work with would be too weird. Also, I actually have a couple German girl friends who have never and would never go to the sauna because they also don’t feel comfortable getting naked in front of others. So, even within Germany there are people who like it and people who don’t. Thanks for sharing your experience!!

  26. I love saunas and have only heard good things about the ones in Germany. So yes, I would go although I’m not too keen about everyone checking out my junk!

  27. I feel like there are sauna pros and cons, but the pros still come out ahead for me.

    The heat part does take a little getting used to if you’re a first-timer. I think I started with about 8 minutes and over the course of a month worked my way up to the full 15. And I find the actual sitting in the heat the least enjoyable part of the sauna process. After heating up in the sauna, you’re supposed to douse yourself in cold water (either a shower or a plunge into a cold pool), then dry off and go lounge in a warm room wrapped in towels or a robe. And the languid, squeaky-clean feeling that washes over you is indescribably wonderful.

    Most of the Germans I’ve talked to about it say you have to do the heat-up/cool-down/lay-around cycle at least 3 times in a session, if not make a day of it. I think that’s crap. You do it as many times as are comfortable. Plus, I use the sauna at my gym; after a workout, sometimes all I’m up for is one go and them home. But if you do it at all regularly, your skin looks fantastic.

    And about the nudity: I personally kind of don’t care. I’m American and we tend toward prudishness, but after seeing everyone go in and out of the sauna rooms like it’s not a big deal, it finally dawned on me: IT’S NOT. No one there was looking at me because it was nothing they hadn’t seen before and that’s not what they were there for anyway. Like Cliff said above, you keep a neck-and-up policy about the looking and it’s all peachy.

    That said, co-ed naked hangouts constitute a pretty high bar to clear for nudity-squeamish North Americans. If you belong to a gym and they have a ladies-only sauna, maybe trying that at an off-peak time would be an easier way to see if sauna is something you could get into.

  28. Oregon is the most nude-friendly place in the US I can think of, and there are natural hot springs and the like to enjoy. But there’s not a culture of comfortable nudity like Europe, and there are times you are definitely gawked at in the hot springs. The rebuff is usually handled by the small soaking group, but it can make for an awkward moment or two while things get straightened out.

    So I think it would be quite welcoming to just be able to soak in a place where that’s not the case. Thanks – you’ve convinced me, a German sauna is on the vacay list.

  29. Thanks so much for an interesting discussion and sharing your opinions and experiences. Who knew that saunas could be such a heated debate (pun intended).

    @Jeremy – Your comment about being more embarrassed about your white skin cracked me up πŸ™‚

    @Debbie – I agree men definitely seem to have less inhibitions about their body than females do. And as has been mentioned in the comments, even some German women don’t like going naked in the saunas.

    @Linda – Thanks so much for sharing your story. I guess that’s a compliment, that he wanted to see you in the buff so bad that he came back πŸ™‚

    @racy-rick – Thanks for the recommendation. A “17 course spa experience” has definitely tweaked my interest and I don’t know anyone in Baden Baden, so likely wouldn’t run into anyone I knew πŸ™‚

    @Mandi – Thanks so much for sharing your story and kudos to you for getting over the nudity part of it and actually enjoying the sauna.

    @Chris – Thanks for the recommendation.

    @Tiffany – Oh no, I would be mortified running into someone I knew, especially someone like a dentist. It sounds like you handled it extremely well. It’s great to see Americans getting over their nudity issues. I need to work on it some more.

    @Robin – Well the next time you’re with your fiancee and you meet a Finn, you know what topic to bring up :). I’ve tried on 3 occasions with different Germans/Finns and have always been entertained.

    @ Lorna – Kudos to you for being so open.

    @Cliff – I counted 4 women in the sauna as well. You’re story had me laughing and yes I’d say you did an excellent job of just looking from the head up if you didn’t even notice a navel ring πŸ™‚

    @Sarah – I agree that saying you need to at least 3 cycles and staying in the sauna for a certain length of time is crap too, but when I argue with my German fiance I get told all the “German rules” of why this is all necessary. Perhaps I should try going with my Finnish friends, they don’t seem to have nearly as many rules, except to enjoy it. Good to know that going to the sauna on a regular basis is good for your skin and kudos to you for being comfortable naked.

  30. lol… We go to the sauna quite often, especially in winter time. But there are different kind of standards and I prefer the saunas where you pay a bit more and have a nice surrounding. These are usually also bigger and not so packed, as I also don’t like to sit next to a sweaty person… πŸ˜‰

    I remember once being in a hotel sauna & woman was lying there with there towel around herself… Guess where she was from… USA. I found it very strange to sit in a hot sauna & wearing a towel!

  31. I absolutely love the sauna! But I do go to the women’s only one here in Germany. My first sauna experience was in Finland. I loved how everyone has a sauna there no matter how rich or poor. We stayed in an old schoolhouse and when we arrived our host said very matter-of-factly “and there is a sauna outside”.. we, three British students who had never even considered stepping foot in a sauna, were very excited about this outhouse traditional sauna phenomenon. We actually had a lot of trouble getting a fire going and getting it hot enough. We were told about the bundles of plants they use to hit themselves on the back whilst in the sauna, they were kind enough to make us a bundle each. But we thought that the bundles were already inside the sauna…only after we used them did we find the fresh new (unsweaty) bundles outside. We didn’t go in naked though, but it seemed a bit pointless wearing anything once it all gets soaked through.

    @Zhu The smell is amazing.

  32. Been to a finnish sauna in Detroit – men and women separate – very large room with elevations for sitting – bathing suit was allowed – but when a 80 or 90 year old woman came in naked – I decided it was foolish of me to be concerned – off with the bathing suit – then when you are done – shower and lay outside inside an enclosure for sun bathing was very freeing

  33. Yikes, that experience definitely is not for me either. It’s great that everyone is so respectful and finds it so natural. Coming from the US, though, I find the concept hard to wrap my mind around. I love all kind of cultural experiences, but you are braver than I in this department πŸ™‚

  34. Well they certainly look like a friendly bunch of people, but I’d rather hang out with them somewhere where all our clothes are on lol. Maybe it’s just because I’m American and being naked outside one’s home is frowned upon, but I don’t think I’d be too comfortable with the idea. I would be surprised if my husband would even consider it an acceptable situation lol. If he did, I might consider it, at least one time. Who knows? Could turn out to be a great relaxing experience. The only time I’ve been in saunas in the States have been in hotels where we most definitely wore our swimsuits, and I usually don’t feel all that well after a few minutes anyhow. So I’m probably not missing out on much from that aspect. I prefer a hot tub.

  35. I’ve been to the sauna in Germany many times, some large, some small, and they are always nude. In fact, some sauna landscapes are like a Disneyland of Sauna, and they are always nude, and never creepy or weird. Go, relax, have a sweat and maybe a beer, enjoy.

  36. This is so true! I go to a military exercise every year in the fall with 40 dif countries in Grafenwoehr and the Finns ALWAYS bring a whole sauna system. It’s invite only and you have to follow the very specific process. Europeans take the sauna experience to the extreme. I suppose it’s fun, once you get use to it!

  37. Lived in Germany for years after moving from the US. It is a little different to get use to – but becomes no big deal after a few visits. The Germans are not hung up on nudity like the Americans. The public pools are surrounded by large park areas and it is not uncommon to see people changing right at their blanket….The children do it at an early age – so it is something they are brought up to expect.

  38. I completely agree where you’re coming from! I’ve had some really pleasant bath experiences but never in Europe. My last was a visit to the Scandinavian baths in Montreal, which is a must visit!

    • As an Indian r I ok with the concept of mixed saunas…
      I live in India and visit Germany often n tried out Das leuze and bad cannstatt minelbad at Kursal…both in Stuttgart. Was a nice experience and had no issues with nudity, it’s been liberating to share community showers with men and women….

      What has bn ur experience at Canada? No nudity I suppose?

      Wld you go to a mixed sauna?

      Raj , india

      • @Raj – Glad to hear that it was a nice experience for you. No nudity in Canada, which is perhaps why I find the nudity such a big change. I think our attitudes towards nudity are largely influenced by the culture we’ve grown up in.

  39. Pingback: An Expat's Account Of Getting Naked At A German Spa. | cherylhoward.com
    • It’s weird how foreigners always talk about the “health benefits” of a sauna when we Finns (who more or less invented the modern sauna and at least named it) never really mention them. Saunas are for bathing because you can feel it if you haven’t been in a sauna for a month or two (showering is not enough), and of course they are relaxing which IS good for you. But that’s it,

      Finns just like it because it makes you feel good and its a nice way to spend an evening with your friends. No one cares about any health benefits and none of the Finnish studies have found very big ones, either. Though I guess there used to be those, too, when the rest of the Western world didn’t bathe regularly at least once a week and the Finns did. And saunas were effective against lice that spread among the soldiers during the war, too.

  40. I have been to saunas, though not in Germany. You really shouldn’t wear a bathing suit – you can use a towel for modesty but you don’t want lycra sticking to you! But the ones I’ve been to have mostly been single sex. I have no desire to sweat it out with strange men either, though I’m fine with partial nudity in front of other women. It’s just like getting changed at the pool.

  41. Yeah,those funny Americans again…First of all for all those who wander at our European speedos-well,we wonder at these big shorts all the Americans are wearing at the beach-what after getting wet are the most uncomfortable thing to wear I can imagine…Especially thinking I love beoing nude everywhere,epsecially on the beach and in the sauna,where is hot and some stupid little wet piece of cloth is really bothering me,as Ive got to used of not wearing it for many years and feel very unnatural this funny custom to wear clothes where unnesesary.As for the reasons beside the simply practical ones-the social ones.Well its all social conditioning,nothing more.Human body is sacred and beautiful and there is nothing dirty or ugly about (of course if its not fat and out of shape-but it doesnn really make a difference if you see an old fat German man with or without bathing suit-its the same ugliness πŸ™‚ I rather have really a problem with the funny American customs-its OK to see violence,blood and porn on the media from all sides,but its not OK to see somebodys simple innocent naked butt! Isnt it funny? So being a Bulgarian,who has lived for 15 years in Czech Republic(and working as a masseur professionally:),I can tell you a lots about saunas… Czech sauna is pretty much like German,probably with less rules.. Czechs also dont have problem with nudity and get naked very quickly and without any special bothering:) What I found really great,as I naturally always have been this way,even before in Bulgaria,what is a bit more conservative in this relation…. So we use to go very often during the cold months to sauna in Prague with my Czech wife,and she enjoyed it exactly as much as me,as well as the nudist beaches in the summer…The saunas have never been packed like this described in Germany…Except probably one indian one we organized in Northern Czech in the forrest in a teepee,where everybody was butt naked (mixed sex) and so packed inside skin to skin in the dark I could hardly breath.But it was awesome experience!
    Funny,but we almost got fine with my wife on a beach in Washington State just after 911 for being naked-we dont even understand how the rangers got the signal,as we were pretty much alone on an empty beach few hundred meters in each direction,not bothering anyone… I guess some crazy American bible belt grandma got scandalized from seeing us naked from few hundred meters away …or something… Its a crazy country over there… I would not give away the Central and Northern European sauna and beach culture for anything! Thats my thoughts about it.Have a nice sauna! I am in Stuttgart right now and cant wait to try the German saunas!

    • @Galimir – Yeah, the cultural differences are interesting. I’m Canadian and find public nudity a bit off, but you’re right, I’m so used to seeing the violence on TV that it doesn’t bother me in the least.

      I didn’t realize that the Czech Republic was so open to nudity. Very interesting observations, thank you for sharing.

      • Yep,one year in Stuttgart is behind me and lots of naked hours too πŸ™‚ First I tryed the FKK section of the public swimming pool Unterturkheim,what was great and much less stuffed with millions of ppl than the textile section,who go there in the summer,attracted from the good facilities and the cheap price – 4.10 EUR per day! But now the sun is a bit dissapearing and I tryed Leuze Minerallbad-very cool spa,with lots of different saunas,pools with mineral water (where you can even drink from the pipe filling the pool-bubbly water coming from underground downtown Stuttgart!) and outdoor area. The evening hours one can swim naked even in some of the pools,what is cool! The aromatic infusions by the tough guys coming to the sauna and swirling those wet towls towards the naked croud waves of hellish hot vapour0first time I didnt know what to expect and how long it will take so at certain moment thought I would pass out from the heat,if it keeps going like this for much longer (under the approving groans of the old sauna addicts “ja ja..gut!”..).But after the delivery outside it feels really like a reborn-I cant cool down for quite a while after this heatshock-one needs to take a cold shower,wiping with artificial snow,evaporating a bit in the outdoor area (on a terrace looking towards the river Neckar) and jumping probably to the cold pool! Very cool place for a comparatively cheap price – 10EUR/3h,15 EUR/whole day(you can definitely spent many hours around the area,there are nice quite rooms where one can even get a nap and keep going.Definitely recommended,even though I find the atmosphere in the German sauna a bit more uptight than the Czech,more tensed and strict in term of rules like the obligatory towl under you on the wooden benches in the sauna (got yelled at pretty rudely by some old man the first time,when I didnt have a towl and sat straight onthe bench like I got used from Czech)…

      • Oh and one more thingy.I actully find the German ppl,both men and women,for some of the most assexual ppl Ive seen,much more than the Czechs,who are sometimes throwing pretty cheese sexual looks (Im noticing mostly the women of course! πŸ™‚ ) both on the nude beach or in sauna. So I really dont see any reason for worries of this kind in Germany.I as a man actually enjoy some eye contact or looks with unknown women in such situations(not that I am looking for it,or other things,but its just pleasant) and I even find it a bit boring in Germany,where looks like the women-even not only in saunas and alike but even on the street act like they dont care about anybody else then themselves or the eventual company with what they might be alking and talking… Its a bit hard to explain,but one of the things I absolutely loved in Czech Republic was that as a man one feels all the time “noticed” or “recognized” by women,who are very open for contact with unknown men and easy to access to,what is not like that even in my native Bulgaria,where much more eye contact is going on between ppl on the street,but the women are kind of nosy and harder to approach… In few cases in fact I was approached (being a handsome young man πŸ™‚ ) by some women directly on the nudist beach in Czech…I thought was dreaming,when I saw in one of these cases this beautiful young blondish Czech lady,bending over me with her naked breast in my face,asking me if I mind having a beer with her brunette friend over there (waving to me) in the nude caffee on the beach ! The 2 turned out to be extremely horny,and after the beer,they were all over me on their spot and almost drugged me with force in the nearby trees to fuck them πŸ™‚ Unfortunately back then I wasnt speaking good Czech,was still pretty unexperienced with women and was following a wrong strategy,not sure what exactly to do..and last but not least,I honestly got a bit scared,because of the unusuality of the situation-back in Bulgaria men go after women,not the other way round,so I guess I was pretty confused and unsecure of what to expect from the 2 charming Czech amazons πŸ™‚ I had few other cases,but not so direct.. So yeah,Czech girls are pretty hot and sexual sometimes… you can see how one can get bored easily in Germany πŸ™‚

      • Oh and the most important.I work now as a masseur in an FKK night club (like a brothell),so every day Im simply surrounded by around 40 young naked girls,trying to seduce me all the time (as pretty much the only normal good liking guy around,in difference of the old fat beer bellied German men,who come as their sex clients) and the normal German sauna is for me like a nice little innocent daisy pond of tranquility,where you can relax from the sexuality and the lust πŸ™‚ hehehe πŸ™‚

    • Hi, can you please tell me what saunas in Czech are mixed ones that enforce nudity? My wife and I much prefer the German/Benelux style of naked saunas and now base our winter holidays on places with such saunas. However, we can’t find any such saunas in Czech through internet research

  42. As an American who travels in Germany frequently, I’ve always wanted to try Sauna or a Spa/Therme, but have been really uncomfortable about the nudity. I am no Adonis and packing quite a few extra pounds…so there is the element of just being uncomfortable with my physique as well as being nude in front of other people. Nudity is totally sexualized in the US (and other Anglo-based cultures) and we are shamed by it in general, but I finally gave it a shot a few weeks ago.

    I was totally daunted by the fact that the sauna area was just out there in the open on the way to the public pool. A steam sauna cabin, a dry sauna cabin, and two shower stalls seperating them (with a clear glass divider between showers). You are on full display to anyone in the saunas or walking by as you disrobe, shower, etc. Luckily, I was the only one there to start with, shucked down, showered, dried off, and hit the steam sauna. Feeling totally exposed and utterly vulnerable, I sat hunched on the middle bench and slowly, slowly relaxed. Then…it happened…a nude German couple of 40 or so came in and sat on the top bench…the woman bumping her naked rump into me accidentally. After a little panic, I relaxed and got used to it.

    After a couple heat up/cool down rounds (cool down in the hotel pool…in a bathing suit) and seeing a lot of other naked people in various states of age and physique, I was over it.

    I was travelling for a month in Germany and returned to the hotel each weekend where I found a 3 hour session with mulitple runs in the dry and steam saunas with relaxation in between was fantastically relaxing and I look forward to doing it again and will definitely try one of the big Spa/Therme water park places with my wife or alone.

    Yeah, it was weird, nerve racking at first, and very odd for an American, but I got over it quick and realized that nobody was judging or looking…and if they were, so what, I’ll never see ’em again. I can tell you that laying flat out naked on the top bench of the sauna with yer junk hanging out, having a conversation with a naked 70yr old lady (and her husband) who is looking up the length of you to see your face is pretty odd. lol. In those 3 weekends, I think more people saw my naked butt than had previously seen it ever…and I’m talking doctors, nurses, and all those relatives who changed my diapers, lol. Its no biggie when you get used to it.

    Am I ready to go to a German nudist summer camp or go naked sauna-ing with my coworkers (like the Finns)? Hells no…..but a few strangers in hotel sauna, sure.

    • @Dan – I’m impressed for building up the courage, it’s not easy when you didn’t grow up with nudity. Glad to hear that it was an overall good experience. Thanks for sharing.

  43. My husband and I enjoying German saunas every year. We have been to many thermens all over Germany. So far our favorite are Carolus Thermen in Aachen and Rupertus Therme in Bad-Reichenhall, Bavaria. As for being naked in sauna, nobody really cares. Germans are going to sauna for health benefits and relaxation, not for looking at the others bodies. Too bad we don’t have the sauna culture in Canada.

  44. Cool Post. I live in Germany and feel bad if I miss my weekly Sauna day. In fact, it’s healthy. But never stay longer inside then you feel comfortable. The rules are not fixed. You can go in, out, relax, shower, sweat or cool down in any order you like it. After a while you will find your personal style. Don’t be afraid of the others. They are just naked humans.

    • @Crischo – Good advice, thank you. I’ve gone a few more times since and enjoy it a bit more when I stay for shorter periods of time, but I think I’ve realized I’m not a sauna person.

      • I totally agree with crischo. The rule of 15 minutes use only like recommendation. But sauna should be comfortable. I personally start with 8 minutes in dry finish sauna, cool down in pool. Second round I usually go for longer time. But it should be still comfortable. If you feel any problems, or its just too much for you – just leave a sauna and cool down your body.

    • @Matt – Fully acknoledge that I’m uptight about the nudity thing. Although could also point out that Germans are uptight about other things. I think it’s a cultural thing.

  45. My boyfriend is german and he once mentioned me about “mixed saunas” and had a controversial conversation about it. I am from Mexico so for me was shocking that this was even possible!! IsnΒ΄t human nature to be turned on just my watching naked bodies?? I think Germans donΒ΄t mind being naked because most of them have nice bodies..or good shaped. I personally even feel uncomfortable by being with naked girls. I guess in my country is just not acceptable and we were never raised to see each other naked as normal. Even if its your brother or sister. I wouldn’t like strangers to see me naked! At the end, guys are guys. I think for girls this kind of saunas are not comfortable at all. Definitely in Mexico this could never exist hahahha, but i guess europeans have more descipline regarding following rules..

  46. I quite feel for you. I went into a changing room in South Korea and had a huge shock when the towels were way too small to cover anyone’s modesty, even mine (I am EXTREMELY short. EXTREMELY.) So I just ran really fast hoping to reach the speed of light and all anyone would see is nothing (and I wouldn’t see anything either)

    It bugs me that people out there do go nude. While I’m quite liberal at the IDEA of public nudity, the actual thing just provokes extreme discomfort on my part.

  47. Many saunas in hotels have a notice outside specifying the rules. Usually there is a bit about ‘Textil Frei’ meaning no clothes. I was in one such in the Black Forest when a young woman of large size came in wearing a one-piece. I reminded her of the rule. She just said, ‘Oh’, stepped outside, peeled of her swimsuit and walked back in naked.

    The other factor to bear in mind – which is reinforced for me each week when I go to my nude swimming club in the UK – is that naked people are far, far less judgemental about body shape than people wearing clothes.

    I know folks have all sorts of cultural hang ups but when you come down to it, a breast is part of the body just like a shoulder, a penis is not that different from a thumb. There is no logic in covering up bits of the body with flimsy bits of material.

  48. I saw you mentioned how you mentioned your German husband didn’t care if random people and/or people you knew were seeing you naked. I guess it is just a huge culture thing. I have a German girlfriend who always talks about how awesome the spas are. She lives in the US with me but is going to visit Germany soon. I still makes me cringe thinking about her going ( because I know she will while she is visiting ). I don’t understand how they say its not sexual. If you see an attractive person naked, there is a sexual aspect to that. She thinks I am weird to think the way I do but knows thats how Americans are. I still wish she would humor me and go to the only female ones. I don’t see how its that big of a deal to not go to the spa with your male friends. I keep trying to be okay with it. Do you have any advice?

    • @Michael – It definitely is a cultural thing and even after living in Germany for 5 years, I would still rather that my friends didn’t see my husband naked, but to many Germans it’s completely natural and I think it would be difficult to convince your girlfriend otherwise. It would be great if the two of you were able to go together, so that you could see for yourself what it’s like.

  49. My wife and I have just returned from a holiday in northern Italy, the hotel had a fantastic wellness suite of saunas and hammam. We are british and in our early sixties and have never been in a sauna in our life, we ventured down and the doors had notices saying no clothing to be worn in the sauna area. I asked my wife if she was comfortable with this, her reply was nobody would know us and she could keep a towel tightly wrapped around her self. In the communal changing area there were a number of naked bodies but all facing the wall, most then held a towel to their chest as they made their way to the sauna. The showers were for one at a time with tiled walls so complete privacy. Once inside some displayed the whole of their bodies, others kept themselves wrapped tightly in a towel and others at different stages in between. My wife was tightly wrapped for the first session, there were egg timers to give an idea of the time you were in there, after the first session of about 15 mins we showered and relaxed on recliners for about 20 mins and then showered and back in again for another 15 minute session. this was repeated again with the relaxation increasing to about 30 minutes. We both enjoyed ourselves and felt totally relaxed, neither of us felt that any one “looked” at us or we at them, it just felt totally natural. The second night was a repeat of the first but we also did the hammam, the steam was so thick no one would know if there was any one else in there so the nakedness was no problem, even my wife just relaxed totally uncovered. At the end of the third night we could do the whole thing naked, shower, walk to the sauna, gently cook, shower, rub our bodies with ice and go into the cold plunge pool.
    The whole point is that the whole process is about relaxing, it is not sexual in any way. No one looks and judges you, there were young, middle aged and others older than ourselves all having a relaxing end to a days sightseeing. y wife has gone fro some one who never wears low cut tops to enjoying a healthy sauna, so much so that she wants to go to more when we are on holiday again. Would we go with friends, work colleagues or family? no way but in front of strangers yes we would.
    As for those who cannot understand the why naked, it seems quite simple, you shower to go in with a clean body, you then sit on a towel to protect the wooden benches from your sweat, then you shower yourself clean and sweat free. Why would you want to wear swim wear? Wrap a towel around yourself and if and when your confidence rises uncover more of your body. In our experience no one took the slightest notice, except for a few couples who came in in one piece swimsuits, they normally left after one visit.
    Those who believe that all bacteria are killed off at high temperatures (ours was 85c) they are miss leading themselves, first of all that temperature is at the highest point in the sauna, it is a lot cooler lower down. Secondly that is an air temperature, if our bodies reached that level our skin would be burnt ant we would soon die. The latent heat of evaporation helps to cool us to a level where bacteria thrive, far better to have them on a towel on a hot wash than a swim suit on a 40 degree wash.

  50. Oh my god so many people are confused when it comes to nudity. It should be a normal part of our life. Violence and oppression is wrong, not nudity.
    On Facebook I can post any kind of violence, it is o.k. An image with naked breasts is deleted immediately, even if they are just painted. (Ridiculous)
    If someone feels naked uncomfortable, then do not go in the German sauna. It is that simple.

    • @Harry – Agreed, but it really is a cultural thing and what you’re used to. I’m glad I went to the German sauna, and have been a few times since, but for me I don’t think it will ever be “natural”, even though I completely get your point.

  51. My wife and I always go to a sauna when in Germany or Austria, being naked just feels natural and not at all sexual. I wouldn’t describe myself as a naturist but have always wondered why we choose cover up certain parts of our bodies. Swimming and sunbathing to me seems better naked. Of course there are plenty who don’t feel comfortable but please allow those who do to partake. I don’t believe it is exibishonist, just accept bodies for what they are and maybe they will do the same for you, and you might discover something liberating.

  52. I guess for a prude North American girl a german Sauna must be strange, also Italians or Spanish will look at you in shock. First things first, yes there are rules to German saunas, but the first rule is, you can break them. You needen’t stay in a Sauna for 15 mins. You can walk out whenever you like. Now other rules, are good. You must always keep a large – so called – Sauna towel – under your body, your body must not ever touch the wood. This makes sense, as you would not want to get in contact with a wet sweat patch someone else left. Otherwise, finnish Saunas aren’t too different from German ones (and this is from several Finish friends). Also why would you want to wear a bathing suite and sweat into them? That sounds gross at best or even worse, after visiting the Sauna you might want to take a swim in those seaty trunks? Yuck! Overall it’s a culture thing. I prefer the German sauna to US or Italian/Spanish regulations. The Finish way is the way a Sauna is meant to be, naked, natural. This doesn’t mean you have to sit there with your legs wide open. In fact be natural.

  53. My wife and I are from NY and visited Germany for the first time. We went to a total of 5 different SPAs all co Ed nude. Some were very crowded but all were about 50/50 men women.

    We found being nude was much more conmfortable and logical when going from saunas to pools to steam rooms and hammams. Wish it was like that in America but you have to be a mature society with integrity. We observed no gawking and the Germans were just so relaxed and respectful


Leave a comment