Only in Europe would you see an acquaintance or new friend naked before you get their number. I have been taking a swim technique and training class through the university and have met more wonderful people there in one lesson than I have everywhere else combined. Maybe it is because you can talk during class, there are fewer people, or we have a common interest outside of the classroom, but I think it has to do with nudity.
Europe is known for it’s nude beaches, for its public co-ed saunas, and for its comparatively lax laws on nudity on TV. After my first swim class, I followed the other women into the showers, just as I would back home. Passing through the door, I literally flinched in shock when I walked right into a dozen naked women. I didn’t know how to react at first, but taking the opportunity to embrace my love of little clothing (let’s be honest, it’s no secret anymore,) I instantly was overcome with a feeling of community, wholeness and good energy that the environment created. After showering, we trickled back to the locker room, chatting about school, class, and life.
I left my first swim class (and all the others since then) with a sense of belonging, community, and raw friendship; combined with exercise endorphin-high, I was ecstatic. But what was it about this seemingly simple experience that spoke so strongly to me? I have decided it is the different outlook that these German women have towards bathing, nudity, and the communal groundings that make it what it is. I have always felt Americans have something against nudity and that it’s wrong. Young women, teens, college students don’t normally strip down in front of each other, mothers and daughters normally don’t even change together. What is there to hide? It brings society, body image, stigma, and much more into question, making it even harder to answer. I don’t have an answer, but I would like to point out that, as weird as it seems, seeing someone naked before you know their name, have their number or are Facebook friends is more important/ uplifting/ better than most Americans probably think.