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  • Serious nudity: Welcome to the phenomenon of indoor FKK

WTF Berlin

Serious nudity: Welcome to the phenomenon of indoor FKK

Jacinta Nandi visits indoor FKK and discovers that - while it seems liberating - Germans are as strict about nudism as they are everything else.

Germans: serious, even in the buff. Photo: Natasha Klimenko

“I think Laura is a very disturbed person,” my German friend Lena says to me of a mutual friend.

Laura is an American and perfectly nice, if slightly boring, and I am actually trying to bitch less about other women at the moment for, you know, general feminism/sisterhood reasons. So for once, instead of jumping into a nice juicy gossip, I sigh, breathe deeply and ask neutrally, “Oh, what makes you say that?”

Not everyone is as relaxed about nakedness as you Germans.

Lena hasn’t decided to bitch less about other women at the moment, obviously. She answers breathlessly, “Well, we went to the lake together once last year. And she wouldn’t let her daughter get naked. She was making these really weird comments about how paedophiles might be hiding in the bushes taking photos. And how she didn’t want the other kids looking at her, either. Like, how old is her kid? Three? Four? It’s so disturbing!”

“Oh!” I say airily. “You know, Lena, not everyone is as relaxed about nakedness as you Germans.”

Lena looks at me in surprise. “But don’t you think that’s totally – prüde?” she asks.

“Well, nobody’s more prudish than the Brits,” I say evenly. “We even keep our bikinis on in women-only saunas!”

“If we were in the States, they’d be calling Child Protective Services now!”

Lena looks at me disdainfully. “Yeah, but at the same time, you British people let it all hang out. Forty-year-old, 50-year-old, 60-year-old women, really fat women too, when they go to the disco or the pub, you can see almost everything – except your actual bits!”

I laugh. “That’s true,” I say. “Although you’re being a bit sexist only mentioning the women; last time I was back, there were loads of topless old-age male pensioners in the NatWest bank. I felt so German!”

But Brits aren’t the only ones with a reputation. I remember picking my kid up from Hort (afternoon Kita) on a very hot summer’s day, where he and his friends were in a long line in the playground, all completely nudie-rudie, covered in mud. The male Horterzieher (educator) was hosing them down. As I waited patiently for the naked mud-washing to stop, an American dad said to me cheerfully: “If we were in the States, they’d be calling Child Protective Services now!”

But the thing is, is it really true to say the Germans are relaxed about nudity? In a way, the Germans aren’t relaxed about nakedness at all. We associate nudity and nudism with freedom and liberty, but German nudism is actually as strict as everything else in this country.

You see, when I arrived in Germany (back in the prehistoric age), I would often go to FKK (Freiekörperkultur, or free body culture) beaches, lakes and parks to hang out naked with my friends. I found it a bit embarrassing. But I just thought that was something you had to do in Germany, like eating Kartoffelsalat or going to register at the Meldeamt when you moved house. But it wasn’t until I met Lena that I was introduced to the phenomenon of indoor FKK. 

A few years ago, Lena phoned me up and said, “Would you like to go to a really great swimming pool with really warm, salty water and an outside part which is heated and wonderful, and there’s a Sprudel thing which spins you around – it’s just brilliant.”

I answered immediately. “More than anything else in the world!”

“There’s just one teeny-tiny teensy-weensy insignificant little detail,” Lena said.


“It’s nothing really. You’re so integrated, you’re practically German. If you were an American, it would be a problem, but you’re basically German, aren’t you, Jacinta?”

“Yes,” I agreed.

“You have to be naked,” she said.

“You have to be naked?” I shrieked.

“But that won’t be a problem for you, will it, Jacinta? You’re relaxed about that kind of thing!”

“YOU are supposed to be naked – but your feet are not.”

Well, when she put it like that, I couldn’t possibly say no. This was what converted me to the FKK-Therme experience. Thermen are indoor thermal pools, with super healthy, super salty water – and the best ones have an obligatory nakedness policy. And I love it, I really do: the hot, salty water, the disgusting Pommes, the bad Sekt, and above all, the Sprudel!

Bathing without having to change in and out of sopping wet briefs is such a liberating experience – although the sensation of your boobs swimming away from you in opposite directions can sometimes feel a bit too liberating. And it’s easy to look away from the old men’s dicks, I think. First of all, I am short-sighted anyway, and second of all, most of the old men have old saggy stomachs which hang down, covering up their willies – kind of like an apron of modesty.

The first time Lena took me to the Therme, I got in trouble for not wearing flip-flops – known as Badelatschen.

“You need Badelatschen!” The Bademeister – the lifeguard – barked at me and my little boy, wandering barefoot into the pool area.

“But we’re supposed to be naked?!” I answered.

“Yes,” he said. “YOU are supposed to be naked – but your feet are not.”

You see, the Germans are not relaxed about nudity. They take it very, very seriously.

  • Jacinta Nandi has been living in Berlin since 2000. Her first book in English, WTF Berlin, can be found at shoptyr.de or any good bookshop.