Most British people are ridiculous prudes. While we are happy to have topless 19 year olds in our daily newspapers, we would go through hell and back to prevent having to expose our own bodies in public.
When my family came to visit Japan for the first time, the first hotel they stayed at was this traditional hotel, with tatami mats and gender-segregated communal washrooms. My mum and sisters weren’t happy with this, and while one was in the wash/shower room, the others would stand guard by the door, and then switch when they were finished, so they could ensure only one person would be in there at a time – they wouldn’t even get naked in front of each other.
One thing you need to do in Japan if you ever go is to an onsen, or public bath. Onsens are usually outside, and then there are public baths which are indoors and are often equally as awesome.
I was always afraid of going to one of these public naked parties, because the thought of me being naked and white and fleshy in front of loads of skinny perky Japanese ladies scared me so very much. But my friend Ashley managed to persuade me (I can’t remember how…) and I entered the world of nakedness.
The thing with these baths is that the only thing to hide your modesty are these tiny hand towels, and when your modesty is quite sizable as mine is, these towels don’t often cut it. So I couldn’t exactly do the very British way of getting undressed and walking about using the towel to hide behind. Eventually, after a few trips to our local (and awesome) public baths, I got used to it. People didn’t stare at our naked bodies (to our knowledge), and the only awkward moment we had there was when this grandma was taking her 5 year old grandson to the baths and told him to go talk to us in English… because forcing your 5 year old grandson to speak English to two naked foreigners isn’t going to scar him for life.
And then I came to Germany.
I’d known about how German people like to get naked public before coming here… a friend of mine used to speak fondly about the public baths, and also on holiday you always find that group of German tourists who are on the beach playing catch with nothing but a thong on (though that’s mainly the men). But joining a gym here brought nakedness onto a while new level. Again, in gyms in England it’s fairly normal for people to be fairly cautious when they are getting changed and so on. You should look into your locker and focus on getting changed and even when talking to someone you should not look at them. In my German gym, naked is king. These women are not ashamed of their bodies at all, and stand fully starkers right there while talking to each other. The Japanese people from work who are also at my gym are fairly into this too, and don’t try to cover up much… so I have open nakedness AND nakedness of colleagues to deal with.
Is it normal to be naked in public where you are from? How do you feel about public nakedness? Let me know in the comments!