I cannot make this stuff up…
Ok, first a lesson on European spa etiquette, especially in the Germanic countries. You sit with your clothes off in the sauna. There are no exceptions. It is absolutely sacrosanct.
The fastest way to anger a German is to enter a sauna with your bathing suit on. Most Germans will give you a dirty look even if you enter wrapped in a towel, though always ensure that you are sitting or laying on a towel and place a towel beneath your feet, so as not to drip sweat on the wood.
Saunas in much of Europe are co-ed. And yes, they are filled with naked people. There is nothing sexual about them. They are medicinal.
I remember the first time, almost a decade ago, that I took the “brave step” of actually disrobing and sitting in a sauna naked with perfect strangers for the first time. You don’t look around, you don’t talk beyond a salutary greeting, you don’t stare, you just put in your 15 minutes and get out.
So here’s what happened in the spa of the Park Hyatt Vienna. I was lying down in the sauna, alone and naked. Suddenly, a 7-8 year old kid ran in wearing his swimming trunks, took one look at me, and ran out. Then he ran in and out again several more times, never staying for more than a few seconds.
Great, I thought…horseplay in the sauna. And he was letting cold air in.
But then the boy dragged his father into the sauna, pointed to me, and said, “See, the man has no clothes!”
His father glared at me and angrily exclaimed:
You need to cover up! There are children here! Are you some sort of pervert?
I was speechless for a moment. Did he not see this sign on the door?
Ah, my great opportunity for education. Now I could explain to this man about German spa etiquette. But before I could even do so, the man and his son just walked out. I did not see them again.
In case you’re wondering, the boy and his father appeared to be Americans. The father had no regional dialect, but certainly sounded American.
I have to chuckle at this story. It’s a cultural thing, I know. We Americans don’t like nudity. But come on, the warning was on the door! If your instinct is to abhor the thought of sitting in a sauna with your clothes off, ask yourself why.
> Read More: Park Hyatt Vienna Review (Ambassador Suite)
If you think about it from an American prospective it definitely does seem odd to sit naked in a sauna. That being said he obviously should have seen the sign on the door…
Btw love the work Mathew. Keep the articles coming!
One of the things I like most about many parts of Europe is the way they view nudity/the body. I think it’s a much healthier approach. More or less, you have a body just like everyone else has, and there’s nothing sinful about it.
“We Americans don’t like nudity….”
We don’t? 😉
Moshe, I wonder where you live. I’ve lived in several states and now live in DC metro. At most gyms I have been to, it’s not uncommon to get in the sauna/steam naked when it’s not co-ed, even when children are present. What’s the big deal?
let’s assume he’s Canadian 🙂
Americans get enough bad press
Nope. He’s all yours.
#teamCananda They are starting to get a lot of bad press. And they have the longest border in the world next to the US, apparently with little or no security. Wait till the President finds out that it is easier to fly to Canada, no visa required, and then walk across in nice weather with some border crossing stations not even manned at night instead of trying to cross the southern border with high security and chances that you will die crossing the desert. And lets not even talk about the mess they have with the Saudis.
Actually, the majority of people crossing the border into Canada travel via The USA because it is easier to get a US VISA – for example from Nigeria.
“Wait till the President finds out that it is easier to fly to Canada, no visa required”
Um, for whom, exactly? Canada only offers a handful of countries visa-free access that the US does not, otherwise, there isn’t much difference.
If someone was trying to emigrate to the US but could afford to fly to Canada…then chances are they’d probably just stay in Canada.
Honestly I do not understand why it says Clothing “Optional” as it really is not optional in most European countries. Likely due to it being a Hyatt maybe? I likely would have reacted the same way you did and for me the bigger question is if there is no minimum age requirement for the spa use at the hotel since children normally are not even allowed in the areas.
It says clothing optional on the door. It doesn’t matter what nationality one is: if you’re an adult and can’t read the basic instruction/warning, then you’re stupid. Probably a Trump voter.
You were accused of being a pervert by an idiot. Always consider the source.
Seek treatment for your TDS, Billy boy.
Bill, yes, Trump voter without a doubt!
I think it’s hilarious on so many levels. Let’s start with the fact that a proper sauna (kept at 90 degrees centigrade or more) is no place at all for a child and I can only assume there were signs up all over the area pointing out children should not be allowed – it’s a dangerous environment just from the heat and the radiators/heated stones. So this guy decides it’s a place to let his 7-year-old run wild?
Aside from that I find the German sauna and spa culture amazing, and relaxing. Once you get used to the nudity it becomes nothing at all and you wonder why in North America we are so fixated and hung up on such a minor thing.
*should have said “Germanic” spa culture or more generally Northern European
My real concern/question is this: what language did this gentleman try to chide you in? Would be hilarious (or sad?) if he did that in English, in a country whose mother tongue is not English, and expect people to feel !@# (I mean, I don’t know “shame” from “proud” in German, so I guess a German would not either from English).
He just spoke English…maybe he thought I was German or Austrian when I did not respond immediately.
I’d say most guests at a Hyatt have the education to understand basic english.
My reply would be some nice bavarian swear words though
@Kerry…certain cultures get hung up on the nudity thing because that is the way they are brought up. I was born in Germany and grew up in the US and I never got the US “shameful” or “sexual” approach to nudity. In
Europe the spa example above is one of many including women going topless at the beach or pool. No one looks twice in most of Europe but in the US if you see someone topless in Miami or a place that sort of allows it…it becomes a big deal. Breast feeding is another example…In Europe the most naturally thing EVER and in the US people get in an uproar about it all the time saying women should hide it and cover up. I do think a lot of it in the US is religious based….sorry but that is my opinion!
You were not accused of anything, but the boy’s father is a complete and utter imbecile …
Let’s hope Dad never travels to Japan…
Matthew why is it that Germans find it offensive when you come into a sauna in your bathing suite? I can understand putting a towel under your feet etc as a cleanliness issue but why the insistence on being nude?
I’m just trying to understand.
It’s not hygienic. Also, culturally, most northern Europeans — the Japanese, too — don’t have a problem with nudity like Americans and many others do, so it’s an affront to local culture to “cover up,” as if nudity is something warranting shame.
Just few decades ago, you normally swam naked in the US. Not sure what changed.
@121Pilot: They consider it unsanitary and unhealthy.
You have to chuckle at what likely happened behind the scene. This angry man must have marched to the reception or security to demand action. Imagine his face when they told him he was wrong.
My thoughts exactly!
But why “optional” on the door sign if the prevailing culture (even expectation) is for you to be fully nude?
Probably because it is an American chain.
Staring for 15 mins? Ha! At the Hyatt Regency Mainz two Japanese salesman got me into a talk for roughly 15-20 mins – I had to stop them and exite the Sauna before I collapse 😉
IME if there is a notice on the door of a spa area in Northern Europe is says ‘Textile Free Area’ leaving no one in any doubt. Certainly in Germany where mixed is the norm there are often further notices stating that bathing wear is forbidden. In other countries it’s more common to have single sex saunas but nudity is still the norm.
I went for a shower in Stockholm Airport recently and was slightly surprised but not phased to find the showers were single sex but communal but then certainly for men, communal showers in gyms and such places are still normal.
Murican acting like chinese tourist… hahaha
So when will you be publishing your upcoming hotel schedule? 😉
And if you were actually a pedo, you would have stuck out like a sore thumb!
Well, or stuck up like a sore thumb.
I’m sorry but who brings a child to a Sauna? Why is nobody discussing this? Or was the Sauna attached to a Pool?
The age limit – usually from six to fourteen or six to sixteeen when guided by a person in personal relationship to the kid or not under sixteen at all – ist adjusted to the assumption of youngsters activities , disturbindg the silent relax atmosphere of those elder. (Austrian observation)
We took our two boys along once a week,when they were two and four !
It’s so odd/curious – I’m Euro-American (of Euro origin, grew up there, moved to the States at 17). I am absolutely fine with nudity and think nothing of disrobing in front of others or being in a mixed sauna/shower etc. We’ve gone to Bad Kleinkirchheim since I was 5 and enjoyed the all-nude-mandatory sauna/spa as a family (mom, dad, younger sister; group later grew to include family friends with 2 girls older than myself and a boy my age); I still go whenever I can (and still with the same family-friend ‘boy’, now a grown man – I basically consider him a brother). No problems at all.
Unless I’m around Americans. Somehow it feels weird to be naked around Americans, my close friends excluded (guess they are used to my euro-ways and it’s a non-issue; others, on the other hand… I do try to be mindful of their discomfort with nudity or a wrong ‘message’ it may send)