08 December, 2009

Culture shock to the nth degree...

The weather has been gray and crappy lately, so the women in my Aikido group decided we should all go to the sauna together.

"You know everyone's going to be naked there, right?" asked B, horrified, when I got home.

It's true, ze Germans have a much lower threshold for getting naked than we Americans. I've been to the sauna on several occasions with other friends, but it was always during Frauentag, when only women are allowed in, which doesn't bother me at all.

This time, however, we went to the Mineraltherme in Böblingen, and it was gemischtes Sauna-- open to both men and women.

I'd heard stories from friends before, but still wasn't quite emotionally prepared to parade around in my birthday suit with a couple hundred strangers. And it would have been fine if they were all minding their own business, but I saw several men who were quite obviously there as spectators.

At one point we entered a sauna and were faced with 30 naked people squeezed elbow to elbow on benches arranged in stadium seating. I sat at the only free space at the bottom next to the stairs, and every couple of moments someone passed by and I was eye to eye with an unknown manly appendage as it passed by me on the way up to the upper rows.

It was very, very weird.

After visiting several different saunas the Aikido ladies and I sat in front of a fireplace and had a coffee. I was finally getting used to the general atmosphere and was feeling relatively relaxed.

We finished our coffee and went to go take a shower and get dressed and go home. I followed G into the locker room, relieved to have finished the ordeal without bursting out in inappropriate laughter, and smiling about the blow-by-blow description I was going to give M as soon as I got home.

We took off our bathrobes and entered the shower area, and were suddenly confronted by the sight of 4 burly, naked men who looked up and smiled in greeting as we came in...

8 comments:

Lisa said...

I wish I was in Baden Baden with you - I think I would have enjoyed it much, much more. Total indiscriminate nakedness for an entire weekend. Alas I spied no puerile glances from male bathers. Maybe it was just you!

Lisa said...

hahahahahha - how funny - the authentication word for posting my comment just now was "dirti" AHahahahhhahaha

Goofball said...

just think that the others are just as vulnerable and exposed as you are

C N Heidelberg said...

Sauna actually makes me kind of ill (I guess I'm a pansy in the heat) and sometimes I'm really glad I have that excuse not to go....

Jen said...

Yeah, it was a bit of a challenge for me, too, but I think I was lucky in that when we went it was a Monday afternoon and the place wasn't as crowded. But then maybe I was so jetlagged (I just got to Germany a few weeks ago) that I didn't notice!

Lisa said...

Oh I'm gonna have something to say here, no worries. :) I just rushed off yesterday to rant about it before I forgot. Memory isn't so good in my old age. *lol* Loved this, and so true!!

Africakid said...

I went to Baden Baden with my sister, but we didn't last in the sauna very long. Too different from my upbringing! That Frauentag, I could handle.

Definitely one of the parts of German culture that's quite a contrast to America!

R. Duckie said...

I had the same shock in a German sauna before - only nobody warned me. All of a sudden I was face to - er- face with a naked old man who was running down the stairs and I actually screamed out loud!