European Coed Spas

“One Butt, Two Butts…Old Butts, New Butts”

“I just drop it???,” I whispered as I clutched my towel around my naked self.

(Smile) “Yeessss,” he whispered back as he nonchalantly spread his across the cedar bench.

The last time I voluntarily bared an intimate part of my body in front of strange men was 21 years ago on the French Polynesian island of Moorea. I was 24 years old—and, smart enough to know that I would get more stares if I was the only one with covered boobs. I can still remember how good it felt to toss aside the American way.

Fast forward 21 years and here I was standing in one of many European coed spas — a German one, to be specific — getting ready to bare it all in front of five strangers, only one of which was female.

This is such a colossal cultural difference between Americans and Europeans. I suspect it’s all about those who preceded us.

The descendants of present-day Germans wore animal skins and danced around blazing bonfires in heightened states of inebriation. Quite different from the bulk of our American descendants who were buttoned up to the Adam’s apple while they preached hellfire and damnation.

Whatever the reason, today’s Europeans are far less hung up on body image and sexuality—which explains the Speedo and topless beaches—while Americans have retained a prudishness that still has them undressing behind tightly latched doors.

So here I was inside one of the many European coed spas willing my American fingers to un-clench my towel while four men of various ages stared at cedar.

I do find it hard to believe that biology stops functioning in a tiny 110º F steamy cedar-lined room. We’re human. And, humans are sexual beings. And, we’re curious. Even though I, too, focused intently on cedar, I can tell you that most German men are not circumcised. This was definitely one of those moments that I had empathy for men. I was so grateful I didn’t have to be concerned about any uncontrollable biological reflex that would definitely put a damper on my relaxation.

Rinse off, plop on the chaise lounge with a book, repeat. That was our routine for a couple hours. By the time I walked through that cedar door the second time, my fingers were as relaxed as the rest of my body.

Out of all my experiences in Germany over the past 17 months, I do believe this is the one I’m going to miss the most—not just because European coed spas are incredibly freeing and thoroughly relaxing, but because it’s a sign of how far I’ve come from my very own prudish days.

I’d have to think long and hard of a better German winter-time activity to do with my guy (in public).

2018-08-31T06:10:46+00:00February 29th, 2012|Categories: Favorites, Tips + Culture|Tags: |10 Comments

About the Author:

A recovered surburbanite, mom of two and partner of one who found herself while wandering the world. Currently based in San Diego—heading to Panamá in 2020.


  1. Dr James Stratford February 29, 2012 at 8:05 am - Reply

    Nice piece. I didn’t experience this in Germany but I did go to one of the beautiful old baths in Syria. It really like something out of a beautiful painting. It wasn’t mixed but I did have a very funny experience when a tour group was shown into the hall where I was being pummelled, oiled and scrapped down by a distant relation of Andre the Giant. 😉

    • Janet D. February 29, 2012 at 8:12 am - Reply

      Thank you 🙂 I just snuck a peek at your About page and I’m intrigued…I look forward to some more empowerment (this time with my clothes on 😉 ).

  2. travelingmad February 29, 2012 at 8:52 am - Reply

    Nice post. I have never been nude in a sauna before. I’d be willing to give it a try. Sounds liberating indeed.
    I plan to make a trip to Germany myself, near Frankfurt. Maybe I’ll look for one of these places so I can return home relaxed and ready for the rest of the semester.

    • Janet D. February 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm - Reply

      Definitely do it! It was basically a (much nicer) 24 Hour Fitness…pay the guest fee and enjoy some liberation! Bon voyage…

  3. Dawn Applegate Woods February 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Great article Janet! i can smell the cedar steaming now…

    • Janet D. February 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm - Reply

      🙂 One of the best smells on Earth…

  4. Sarah Somewhere March 2, 2012 at 1:07 am - Reply

    I loved this! I felt similar at a hammam in Turkey, and that was female only!!! The male thing definitely would have freaked me out, but good on your for overcoming your culturally-imposed (which you explained really well) inhibitions 🙂

    • Janet D. March 2, 2012 at 3:24 am - Reply

      Thanks, Sarah! Such seemingly simple experiences can be quite life changing…one of the reasons I as so passionate about travel.

  5. Fareed July 10, 2013 at 7:51 am - Reply

    Really enjoyed your essay Janet. Looking forward to seeing more. You are truly an awesome writer.

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