I’ll admit it. I’m a prude when it comes to being naked! That might be fine in Canada where I’m from, but in Germany where I now live? It’s a little bit odd!
My German husband first introduced me to the naked German sauna, when I was visiting him from Canada. You can read all about that terrifying experience here.
Clothing optional, swimsuits are not allowed for hygienic reasons – don’t ask me to explain that one! I swore it would be my last visit to a German sauna. And it was. For a couple of years at least.
When we were invited on a skiing trip that would inevitably involve seeing 15 of his male friends and their wives naked, I bailed. I mean, hello, how awkward would that be?
Not so much for my husband as it turns out. Do you want your guy friends to see me naked? I asked my husband in disbelief. He just shrugged his shoulders. Why not? It’s just nature. It was one of the many shocks I experienced as an expat in Germany.
It took me two years to recover from my initial sauna experience before I decided to give it another try. And yes I fully admit I’m a prude.
I’ll be honest. I’m still not a big fan of saunas in general and tend to feel faint after a few minutes.
But I have discovered some tips that can help the German sauna experience a bit easier for shy girls like myself if you aren’t lucky enough to have a sauna at home like this one for two people. Or this portable one for one person where nudity isn’t an issue. I’ve even come to find the “textile-free” areas of spas…gasp….not totally horrible. Albeit it not totally comfortable either.
I’m still much more of a fan of wellness hotels which offer saunas and in addition lounging areas, swimming pools, and beauty treatments.
Tip #1: Choose a Sauna Far From Home
Or at least a couple of hundred kilometres. That way you’re far less likely to run into anyone you know.
Europe’s largest thermal bathing complex, Therme Erding is located near Munich where I live. I do not doubt that it’s spectacular. And I know that there are areas where you can wear clothes, but most of the areas require you to be naked.
My American friend and her husband were there in one of the naked areas and who did they run into? Her husband’s boss and his wife! It was understandably awkward for her. She said even her German husband didn’t know how to react!
By going farther away, you’re less likely to run into people that you know. And while I won’t go to a sauna at home, I usually choose a wellness hotel within a 2-hour drive. Otherwise getting stuck in traffic disintegrates the relaxation effect.
Tip #2: Visit the Sauna at Off-Peak Hours
The Mineral bath is part of the “textile-free” sauna area at the Aqua Dome in Austria. Even with my prudishness, I found it heavenly!
Go at off hours when it’s less likely to be busy. You can ask the spa if you’re not sure.
If you’re staying at a hotel near a ski hill, you can probably bet that the sauna is going to be busy in the evening when the skiers are relaxing their sore muscles. But perhaps it’s not so busy in the afternoon or first thing in the morning.
By going at off-peak hours, you also reduce your chances of sitting skin-skin beside a sweaty stranger in a sauna – which for me, is the complete opposite of relaxation!
Tip #3: Take Some Time for Personal Grooming
The sauna is not a sexual experience. Yes everyone looks at everyone else, but it’s not sexual. You don’t have to have the body of a model.
You’ll see all shapes and sizes and some jiggly bits. But the one thing that most people are? Well-groomed, especially the ladies. I was surprised to see that almost every woman, regardless of her age, paid attention to her grooming situation. And let’s just leave it at that.
And let’s just leave it at that.
Tip 4: Go When the Sauna Has a Women Only Day
Some of the larger saunas have sections exclusively for women. The smaller ones will likely have a day of the week or one day of the month where only women are allowed. This is a gentle introduction to your first German sauna if you’re nervous.
This is a gentle introduction to your first German sauna if you’re nervous.
Tip 5: Don’t Go the German Sauna With Friends of the Opposite Sex
Much to my chagrin, many of my friends have seen my husband naked! Let me explain. After playing badminton, he often goes to the sauna before grabbing a bite to eat. A few of the ladies in our badminton group go as well, so voila, everyone becomes more intimately familiar with each other.
A few of the ladies in our badminton group go as well, so voila, everyone becomes more intimately familiar with each other.
Needless to say, that’s waaaaaay too much familiarity for me. Instead, I head straight to the restaurant and order a glass of wine.
It’s become a running joke now where every week he asks me whether I’ll be joining him in the sauna, knowing full well that I won’t.
Tip 6: All Saunas Are Not Equal
I LOVED the “Suspended Peace” room, also in the “textile-free” part of the Aqua Dome.
Some, like the one at my badminton club, are small. So, if there are more than 3 or 4 people, there’s a good chance you’ll be in contact with another sweaty body!
Others are pure heaven. My favourite of all time is the Aqua Dome located in the Ötzal region of Austria.
The spa area is HUGE! You could spend several days exploring it. While there are clothing required areas, like the incredible levitating pools, the majority of the areas require nudity.
This is not as much of a problem as you might think. Many of the rooms are dimly lit (as shown in the two above photos). And the saunas are large enough that everyone has his/her space.
Or if you’ve decided that you’re not that shy after all, you could swim lengths – in the naked pool :).
Also check out these wellness hotels in Germany which in addition to having sauna areas, also have wellness areas.
Follow these tips, and you may find yourself actually relaxing and even enjoying the German sauna experience…even as a shy girl, who may just emerge not quite so shy!