Are North Americans just a little too prudish? Or do we simply lack confidence?
Public nudity, a taboo in North America, has been a hotly debated topic in Bavaria since state-wide laws prohibiting nude sunbathing expired in the fall of 2013.
So last week, Germany’s third largest city, Munich, gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to public nudity. This doesn’t mean that you can wonder through Munich in your birthday suit. Rather, the city has allowed for six designated “urban naked zones” to be created. Within the designated naked zones, you can go for a stroll, and if you are up for it, strip down to the buff and let it all hang out, safe in the knowledge that you will not be harassed or arrested. If you do venture unclad outside the zones, be warned, you are breaking the law, and you do risk arrest.
The naked zones are scattered across the city of Munich in public spaces. While there is some sense of privacy, none of the locations are fenced off or hidden in secluded out-of-the- way locations. One zone is 10 minutes from Munich’s main square, where tourists routinely gather.
It should come as no surprise that nude sunbathing would be allowed in this city, where it’s not uncommon to see people in the buff in the Munich’s Englischer Garten and in spots along the Isar River. Germany’s first nude beach was established in 1920 and in 2012, Germans were named most likely to sunbathe in the buff. Germans, you see, have been doing naked for generations.
The Atlantic Cities Journalist, Feargus O’Sullivan, sums up the country’s philosophy to nudity perfectly when he writes: “What Germany does have, nonetheless, is a strong cultural tradition that seeks to escape artifice and the pressures of city life to return to something supposedly more natural. Seen in this light, stripping off in public is the voluntary removal of a heavy mask, a return to unvarnished honesty rather than some titter-worthy peek-a-boo. Places where this is allowed to happen are spaces of truce, where there is a generally observed agreement that people will spare each other physical scrutiny and appraisal.”
Perhaps we, North Americans, need to remove some (or all) of the associations we have with a naked body, and simply relax and be comfortable.