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Meet the Germans

Where to get naked in Germany

In Germany, stripping down to your birthday suit is a popular pastime for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. For the Meet the Germans series, DW's Kate Müser explains where clothes are optional.

While Germany may have a reputation for being more tight-laced than neighbors like France or Italy, it's also famous for making clothing optional - oddly enough, given average annual temperatures hovering at around 13 degrees Celcius (in the mid-50s Fahrenheit).

Here are a few places you can get naked or see other people getting naked in Germany without being ashamed - and without getting arrested.

Nude sports clubs

Germany has long been famous for its so-called "Freikörperkultur" (FKK), or Free Body Culture. Despite the obvious advantages of clothes - in particular, warmth and protection from rain and sleet - the tradition has persisted over the decades.

Though sports have been associated with nakedness for millennia (think Ancient Greece), communal public stripping came into practice in Germany in the late 19th century. Clothing styles were becoming less restrictive as women undid their corsets and men tossed aside their multi-piece suits.

Naked hikers in Germany (picture-alliance/ZB/M. Bein)

Going nude is often associated with nature in Germany

While the FKK movement was squelched by the Nazis, it was rejuvenated in both East and West Germany after World War II, flourishing the most in the East.

The movement has been associated not only with experiencing oneness with nature, but also with physical fitness and freedom of movement. In 1963, the official German Nudity Association, the Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur, joined the German Olympic Sports Confederation, which gave the nude movement an even closer connection to sports.

Although it has been struggling to draw new members in recent years, the German Nudity Association currently tallies some 40,000 members of all ages. They get together in clubs across the country to participate in all kinds of sports, from hiking (see above) and boules to volleyball and swimming - all without clothes.

Mixed-gender saunas

Spending a relaxed day at the spa is a favorite pastime in Germany, where sunshine is rare and even spring and summer temperatures can disappoint. Besides large indoor pools, the saunas and steam rooms are among the biggest spa attractions. The majority of them are open to both genders.

According to the German Sauna Association in 2016, around 30 million people in Germany - 17 million men and 13 million women - visit Germany's 2,300 public saunas fairly regularly.

Man and woman in the sauna, Copyright: Fotolia/Robert Kneschke

Many but not all saunas in Germany are co-ed - but people don't usually stare and smile at each other this way

While swimsuits are required at the pool, saunas are textile-free zones and most Germans don't seem to have any problem stripping down. In many cases, they are also open to all genders.

Here's a survival tip if the mixed-gender bit makes you uneasy: Leave your glasses on (they'll fog up in no time) and never, ever get talked into a trip to the sauna with co-workers or in-laws.

Your own yard or balcony

In your own house or apartment, you're allowed to run around with as many or as few pieces of clothing on as you like. But what about your backyard? In theory, you're allowed to sunbathe naked in your garden or on your balcony in Germany, but you should try to time it so that your neighbors aren't home.

While your landlord cannot kick you out of your place for lounging in your birthday suit, your neighbors could file a complaint.

However, according to a law passed in Germany in 2006, you're allowed to set up a barrier so your neighbors can't see you - as long as it fits in with the style of the house. It's probably easier to just throw on some shorts.

FKK beach in Germany (picture-alliance/dpa)

Avoid those pesky tan lines

Nude beaches

When the FKK trend began over a century ago, natural medicine was coming into vogue. Those suffering from common ailments like rheumatism or bronchitis would visit the beaches on Germany's northern coast to let the salt air do its wonders - and sunbathing in the nude was also thought to bring added health benefits, not to mention the perfect tan.

Germany's first official FKK beach was opened in 1920 on the island of Sylt, which is located at the border between Germany and Denmark. Borkum, Norderney and Amrum - islands off Germany's northwestern coast - have designated FKK beaches. And the Baltic Sea islands of Usedom and Rügen, which formerly belonged to East Germany, are also known for their nude beaches.

Textile-free beaches - or sections on beaches - are marked with a sign, so before you strip and lounge, make sure you're in the right place. While Germans tend to be unfazed by random nakedness and you will likely not be confronted with disturbed shrieks, nude sunbathing is only permitted in designated areas.

FKK-Strand sign indicating a nude beach, Copyright: sabelfoto13 - Fotolia.com

Watch for these signs before stripping (FKK-Strand = nude beach)

Nude parks

While the northern German coast may be dotted with islands, the vast majority of Germans don't have direct access to a beach. That doesn't stop them from enjoying the benefits of clothes-free sunbathing in the comfort of a nearby park.

Careful, though - FKK parks are also designated with corresponding signs. The English Garden in Munich and the Tiergarten in Berlin are two of the most famous parks in Germany with nude areas. On sunny summer days, hundreds of people - clothed or not - spread out on the grassy expanses to soak up the rare rays.

On prime-time television

While explicitly erotic scenes à la Hugh Hefner's magazines are forbidden on prime-time television due to youth protection laws, simple nudity is not.

If you spy a female breast (yes, including nipple) on a reality show like "Jungle Camp" or even in a mainstream crime show like "Tatort," relax. It's not a newsworthy nipple gate - it must be an essential part of the storyline.

Pornography, by the way, is forbidden on German television, though soft porn may be broadcast between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Getting naked is just one of Germans' many passions. For more things Germans are enthusiastic about, click through the gallery below. This article is part of DW's Meet the Germans series. For more on German language and culture, visit dw.com/meetthegermans

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