I got naked with a room full of Germans. Here's what it taught me.
You read the title correctly.
I took my clothes off with a room full of naked Germans.
In fact, I did it many times. And I would do it again.
(And for the record, there were actually hundreds of naked Germans so ‘a room full of Germans’ doesn’t quite explain it)! 😂
Here’s what happened.
Last year, my husband Les called to say he needed to move to Berlin for work and asked me to join him. Fast forward two entire weeks, and we were living in Germany.
Caption: A photo of my husband Les and I in Amsterdam during our year living in Berlin
A couple of months in to our new German life, Les suggested we go to a sauna.
Great idea! I love saunas and I was so excited.
My excitement turned to disbelief when I found out that in Germany you have to be completely naked to go into a sauna.
You see, Germans take saunas very seriously. This means you can’t wear any clothes, not even a thong.
What’s more… In Germany, spas and saunas are also unisex.
That’s right. In European saunas, you take off ALL your clothes with people of all ages and all genders.
I was shocked.
“But won’t everyone look at me?” I asked my new Germans friends.
“Actually, it’s very normal here. For my 18th birthday party, all my friends came over, boys and girls, and we had a sauna”, explained one of my friends. (Meanwhile, my face: 😲)
Another German friend explained that she often ‘does sauna’ with her parents, siblings, aunts and uncles.
I was now sufficiently shocked and curious. I did lots of research, which helped me feel more comfortable.
Yet deep down, the biggest concern I had about going to a sauna was my body.
Was my body good enough to be seen naked?
Would people think I’m gross?
What if people stared at me, my cellulite or soft stomach?
Would I feel uncomfortable being surrounded by hundreds of naked people?
Thankfully, my curiosity and bravery were ultimately stronger than my insecurities.
I went to a German sauna, took off all my clothes and walked into a room filled with other naked men and women.
Here’s what I learned from taking my clothes off in a room full of naked Germans:
You don’t need to be ashamed of your body
As I looked around the naked bodies around me, I realised that no one gave a crap. They didn’t care what I looked like and didn’t care what I thought of them either.
I’d never seen people being so comfortable in their skin (literally)!
Looking at the bodies, it was clear that no ones body was perfect. There was cellulite, and soft bits, and saggy moments and it was all just fine.
I know Instagram and media tricks you into thinking everyone has these perfect bodies but it’s all photoshop and face tune and lighting and fake.
All bodies are weird. And that’s OK.
You were not born hating your body
If you were stranded on a deserted island, you wouldn’t hate your body.
You’ve been taught by your culture that your body is bad and never good enough, not matter how much you work at it.
That’s why when you lose weight, the goal posts keep moving.
In Western Countries like Australia, UK, USA, NZ, SA and Canada, we are taught that we need to cover up and fix ourselves.
Whereas, Europeans have a stronger culture of being proud or accepting of their bodies. They are generally more comfortable being nude.
From a young age, they go to places like a sauna with their family (yes, there were kids at the sauna) and see other naked people.
To them, the naked body is neutral. Not good or bad - it just is.
Your body is not the problem. Our culture is the problem.
When you live in a world that tells you that there is something intrinsically embarrassing or shameful or wrong about your natural body - then you will grow to hate it.
When the culture you live in accepts you, you can more easily accept yourself.
I’ve never been more confident than when I lived in the insanely open-minded city that is Berlin. It’s a refreshingly accepting place.
Simply being naked is not sexual
I was brought up thinking I needed to be attractive to other people to be acceptable.
Yet, that’s really messed up when you think about it.
I love this quote from Bryan Karazsia, an associate professor of psychology and an expert on body image issues:
“Historically, women have been sexually objectified… When someone says, ‘I’d like to tap that’ — that’s objectification. That reduces a woman from a dynamic, complicated human to a mere object.”
Hating your body is incredibly unhealthy
Who has time to do great things when all you can think about is your weight?
Think about it: You always take better care of things you love. Hating your body is crap for your mental and physical health.
Hating your bodies means you do incredibly unhealthy things like put yourself on a restrictive diet, drink a laxative tea or abuse drugs to lose weight and ‘look’ healthier. WTF?!
Body shame stops you from going on dates or wearing a swimsuit in front of people or taking photos with our friends.
Body hate prevents you from going to the doctor for a pap smear or prostate exam or just a general check up because you’re afraid of being shamed.
Accepting your body makes you healthier because you look after your body because you care about it, not because you think it’s broken.
Getting naked with hundreds of people was liberating for me.
While you might not be able to go a naked sauna right now, you can work on improving your body image wherever you are in the world… clothed or not.
In case it helps - Here are 15 things that helped me stop hating my body.
The thing is: You don’t even need to love your body!
Just start with no longer hating it.
Start with no longer talking badly about it. And while you’re at it, try to stop talking badly about other peoples bodies, too. (This realllllyyy helps. Pinky promise).
I want to live in a world (not just a country) where we are taught that our bodies are just fine. And where we know that it’s not worth giving up 95% of your life to weigh 5% less.
Want to help me change the culture?
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P.s. If you want a sauna experience in Berlin, I loved Verbali or Liquidrom!