On Nakedness

Europe has it’s own set of rules when it comes to nudity, and I find myself in a bit of a conundrum when trying to explain this to my kids.  I am all for modesty.  I am also all for my kids growing up without a sense of shame about their own or other people’s bodies.  We’re relaxed about it at home, but haven’t had to tackle the subject of public nudity yet.
At this point in my life I am absolutely beyond being shocked.  Nursing school and a rather unfortunate encounter with a fully naked man riding a moped has cured me of that.  There was also the topless grandma playing badminton on the beach directly in front of me, and the Marine posing near the water’s edge wearing nothing but a wristwatch.  Yes, I have seen much and, dare I say, entirely too much on the part of the Marine.

However, my kids…my sweet, innocent, know no shame yet kids, have not been privy to any of this.   Until “Badi” season.  The local swimbad has given them their first experience living in a culture that does not immediately equate nudity with sexuality.  Women go topless, men change their swim trunks in the open, kids strip down and dry off on the grass.  It’s a tricky thing to explain, and I find myself with few words and frequent shoulder shrugs.  Because really, what can one tell a kid when the sixty year old flashing his backside is simply trying to change quickly and head home for dinner?  Or when the kid on the next blanket over gets his swim trunks in a bunch and takes them off in frustration?

It’s strange and freeing and a bit uncomfortable all at the same time, and so I am left to ponder explaining without shaming.  Yes, a conundrum indeed.



  • I do not envy you this conundrum. I wish I had some advice to offer. I’ll be interested to see what other say… It is kinda funny to consider…

  • deb

    Yeah, I am all about covering up for the most part. It’s cultural, and everyone has different limits or boundaries.

    not a fan of nudity. only in infants. but that’s just me.
    I think your children will benefit in a sense, but it doesn’t mean I would encourage or join in 🙂

  • We’ve seen some of that when visiting family in Belgium. Our family members are pretty well covered, but strangers on the beaches…not so much.

    Summer must be the most difficult time of year for the reasons you just described, though friends in Belgium have told me they struggle year ’round with the ads in Europe being a challenge in this area, as well.

  • Suz

    God gave us our bodies and,though I am not a fan of public nudity, I have come to accept my body, flaws and all.

    What you are describing is far from sexual. A sixty year old man (yuch), and young child, a topless grandma (TMI).

    In the USA, we are brought up to believe that nudity is a part of intimacy. But to Eurpeans, it’s just a part of life. That makes us uncomfortable.

    I think your kids will learn to ignore it (and so will you.) What others do is their business and what you do is yours.

    Keep your eyes averted and carry on!