Naked Bodies & Smuggling Swimsuits into European Spas

Full disclosure: I started writing about pelvic floor physiotherapy and all of a sudden I went off on a tangent about nudity in some countries in Europe. I decided this topic deserved to be it’s own full blog post. Initially I was writing a paragraph about how, in our society, no one talks openly about the physical realities of giving birth vaginally. While it’s improving somewhat, talking about vagina health is almost taboo. On this mini writing rant I was reminded of a conference I attended in Heidelberg, Germany. Cutest little town ever! But, that’s beside the point. My friend and I had quite the experience at the hotel spa that really opened my eyes to how weird we are about the naked human body in our society. Especially women’s bodies.

How can they say “no bathing suits”!!! Was this legal? Was I in some kind of brothel? Nope, just a family friendly hotel spa in a super cute town in Germany. Fuck. 

Most of the spas in Europe, that I’ve been to, have a rule about bathing suits. And it’s not the rule you’re probably thinking it is. No, they don’t require that you wear a bathing suit. Quite the opposite actually. They forbid bathing suits!! The first time I saw this on the big “spa etiquette” board, I think I stared at it for 5-10 minutes. Like, this had to be wrong. How can they say “no bathing suits”!!! Was this legal? Was I in some kind of brothel? Nope, just a family friendly hotel spa in a super cute town in Germany.

This no bathing suit rule wasn’t going to stop my friend and I from enjoying the spa. We live for spas and this place had a nice pool, saunas, and steam rooms. So, what did we do? We tried to hide the fact that we had our bathing suits on by taking our straps down from around our neck and wrapping the towel around us. To everyone else it looked like we were naked under our towels. Never did I ever think I would be trying to smuggle a bathing suit into a spa. A co-ed spa nonetheless. We tried to go into the sauna and steam room when we knew they were empty. Because I’m so mature, I knew if someone walked in there buck naked, I would die. Like, die from laughter. We were sitting in the sauna, minding our business, when a young couple came in. They were probably in their late 20’s. Initially I thought we were safe because they had their towels wrapped around them, they were a young couple, we were two young girls, surely they would feel uncomfortable being naked in front of us. Nope, I was wrong. They were not uncomfortable at all! Seconds after they sat down in the sauna, off came the towels. And, there they were. Buck naked. I think my heart shrivelled up and fell out my butt. We just sat there silent for a few minutes and quietly walked out. We couldn’t leave too quickly or else we’d seem weird. We waited an appropriate amount of time so it seemed like we were totally cool with the naked stuff, and we exited like mature adults. As soon as we turned the corner we died.

…the naked people in Germany aren’t the f*cked up ones.


I remember later that day having a big discussion with my friend (who also likes to over-analyze everything) about the fact that the naked people in Germany aren’t the f*cked up ones. WE ARE!! We sexualize bodies so much in our culture that I couldn’t even handle a couple hours at a co-ed spa. It was so odd for me. I lived in Italy for 3 months in 2015 and that experience in Germany was one of many that made me realize that many Europeans have it right when it comes to how they feel about naked bodies. You might think this little spa in Heidelberg was a random one-off thing. No. Other experiences included a spa in Milan (at a hotel in the airport) where I ignored the no bathing suit rule. So there I was with two elderly naked men, just chillin’ in the steam room. And then there was a family spa in Switzerland where I didn’t even go into the sauna and steam room area when I noticed the no bathing suit sign.I didn’t want to go in alone and there was no way in hell my husband was going to come with me. I did some reading on other blogs about the topic of naked spas in Europe and they refer to North Americans as having “Sauna Anxiety”. That makes me chuckle because I can relate.

Babies drink milk from their mother’s boobs. GET OVER IT!

Yes, maybe we see our parents naked when we’re a little kid, or, we bathe with our siblings for a couple years. But, at some point it becomes not okay to see someone naked. I’m not sure when this change occurs. My son is still young (14 months old), but I wonder at what age I’ll start to feel uncomfortable being naked in front of him. I know that time will come. But why? Meanwhile, in Germany, families are taking naked saunas together and living their best life. What is it about our culture/society that leads to the human body being so sexualized? Or, what is it that teaches us to be so uncomfortable with nudity?

Are you uncomfortable when a mom is breastfeeding their baby in public. Why do you think that is? Really think about it. I would bet money it’s because you’ve been brainwashed to believe that boobs = sex. Newsflash, a woman’s breasts exist so she can feed her babies. You know how dogs and cows and a million other animals drink milk from their moms. Well, samesies for humans!

Yes, that’s me breastfeeding. That’s what boobs are for.

XOXO Renee Reina

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  • Mimi
    November 25, 2019

    Yes we have so many hangups about our bodies in their natural form. Blame that on society which says we need to cover up in public. But then we have people complaining when someone wears a burqini for their own modesty even though it looks like a one piece scuba diving suit! Go figure!
    I say whatever floats your boat – wear nothing or wear it all. If you feel comfortable go for it. Whatever…….

  • Caroline
    November 25, 2019

    I love this article! I’m surprised you didn’t talk about going topless in st maarten!

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Naked Bodies & Smuggling Swimsuits into European Spas