On German Spa Saunas: 1

There are two or three questions that frequently come up in discussing German and Austrian saunas with Brits. Who goes? What happens? And what is the norm in nether region hair styles? Brits seem generally not inclined to ask about details other than hair.

So, in answer to who goes, the majority of attendees seem to be straight couples, followed by single men, followed by pairs of apparent friends – most often women, followed by gay couples, followed by a variety of family and friend groups, and finally single women – who are rare. The gender balances seem to range from 10-90%, to 50-50% F-M, with most public town saunas averaging 30-40% F. This has apparently been fairly stable for the last twenty or so years.

Age structure balance is more variable, and seems to be determined mostly by the time/day of attendance, as I think you might expect. But there are generally more 25-55 year olds in public German saunas, perhaps due to the cost of entry. Some very small Austrian saunas I have visited however have been nearly all over 65s. Under 12 are not generally allowed in. Actually, it is quite rare to see anyone under 18 or so. But the overall age structure is very variable. I don’t know if age structures have changed over time.

And hairstyles? In 1994 almost all attendees had an entirely natural look. But by 2015, around half are close to hair free. I was not too surprised at this for women, but I was surprised that about the same fraction of the men are also hairless – most of whom seemed likely to be heterosexual.

How do the men do it? Surely a testicle wax would be unbearable? Regular shaving does not sound fun either. Do they use laser hair reduction? Perhaps I should ask someone next time?

Another question that Brits tend to ask is, does anyone stare at you? Ahem. Well. In my case I would say it is usually more a quick sideways gawp. Some things are difficult to avoid seeing! But the answer is not that much. Less than you might think. Germans on the whole are pleasantly relaxed about bodies and nudity. However, it does vary a bit from place to place. For this reason I would be unlikely to go to a sauna on my own.

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