This isn’t where I parked my car- the GTG’s guide for beginner Nudists (or public bathers)

Welcome globetrotters, continuing with our theme of keeping luggage to a ‘bare’ minimum. Bathing is both necessary for personal hygene and a social occasion in many parts of the word which you are likely to encounter on your travels. This week we explore the nuances of public bathing around the world and how to best fit in with the locals if we’re feeling like giving it a try.

The Roman Baths (Thermae) of Bath, England. Th...

The Roman Baths (Thermae) of Bath, England. This is a 6 segment panorama taken by myself with a Canon 5D and 24-105mm f/4L IS lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • The most important thing to remember is that the protocol can vary vastly from place to place so to avoid ending up in the same position as some of my unlucky Japanese friends who bared all to surprised bathers at a European hot spring, check your dress code (or lack thereof) first.
  • For first timers, if possible, go with someone who you are familiar with and can trust to show you the ropes, this should help you to feel more relaxed and comfortable while also reducing your risk of drawing any negative attention or upsetting the regulars.
  • On arrival suss out what people do with their gear while they bathe. In many places, lockers are available and the keys are often attached to a plastic wristband, making them water-friendly and ensuring no one has the added bonus of looking cool.
  • The main secret overall is of course to pay attention to and follow (where appropriate) what others are doing to avoid any extra attention, increasing your sence of self consciousness.
  • When visiting a Sentou (public bath house) or onsen (hot spring) in Japan, be sure to wash and rinse yourself thoroughly in the designated areas provided before proceeding to the baths. If you’re not sure which way to go then (discreetly) follow the people who have just arrived. There will usually be a handshower, some soap and a plastic stool provided so the starting point should be fairly easy to recognise.
  • Some bath houses will have a variety of baths with different salt or mineral mixtures, if you have sensitive skin it may be a good idea to check this out before plunging in, also in some places it may be good manners to rinse between these baths as not to mix solutions.
  • On a similar note, it may be poor form to let any soap, shampoo, body wash, or any other bathroom cosmetics make their way into the communal baths so follow the examples you see around you and more importantly the ones you don’t.
  • In these situations, signage is just as important as on your major roads and while there may or may not be any fines involved, it certainly pays to adhere to their guidance.
  • On the subject of nudist beaches, a wise person would beware of their valubles (both bodily and material), and maybe do a quick check on the legal situation (a prison stint could really delay a trip and you may have some flights to re-schedule).
  • It many places it is customary to go quickly from the hottest bath to a cool plunge pool or even for a roll in the snow outdoors, the idea is that this is great for your skin and circulation but for those who like one moderate adjustment at a time, feel free to try it the second time around.

All in all, social (and often nude) bathing is a part of many cultures around the world. Anything from being invited to join your host family in a home bath to mixing with your 9-5 crowd at the local bath house on their day(s) off is yet another way to get involved in the places you visit and experience their cultures. Remember to do it respectfully and that while it may be a new experience for you, the rest of the people, not so much. Perverse gawking will single you out as a novice and is pretty much not nice in general so stay cool, relax and enjoy! Until next week.

Roten-buro (outdoor onsen) on Nakanoshima in N...

Roten-buro (outdoor onsen) on Nakanoshima in Nachikatsuura, Wakayama Prefecture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)