Sauna culture in France

The shame of the Grande Nation. Those who expect freedom of movement in the saunas of France are mistaken. Nothing works here without swimwear. And it should additionally be high necked. So the ladies please in a swimsuit and the men choose a not too skimpy swimsuit. Where does that come from?
Why don't the French go to the sauna naked?
© saunazeit

Why don’t the French go naked in the sauna?

France, a country often known for its art, fashion and revolutionary thinking, nevertheless has deeply conservative roots in some aspects of its culture. These can largely be traced back to the country’s historical ties to the Catholic Church. Since the early Middle Ages, when Christianity took root in France, the church has played a central role in shaping moral codes and social norms.

This profound influence has persisted over the centuries, although the formal influence of the church on the state has been limited by laws such as the 1905 law separating church and state. In many cultural aspects, such as attitudes toward nudity, the conservative values of the church have left a long-lasting impression.

Sauna culture and social norms

While many European countries, especially in the north, are open to nudity in the sauna, France has maintained a more reserved attitude. This reticence toward nudity is due not only to religious beliefs, but also to general cultural attitudes toward privacy and restraint in public spaces. Visiting the sauna in swimwear is often seen as a sign of respect and consideration for other sauna-goers.

Mixed sauna culture as a sign of modernity

Despite their conservative attitude toward nudity, the French have taken a progressive stance on another aspect of sauna culture: mixed sauna sessions. This practice shows that French culture is able to combine traditional values with modern views. Mixed saunas stand in contrast to many other countries, where separate saunas for men and women are common. It symbolizes the recognition of equality and community in a relaxed environment, while maintaining integrity and respect for the individual.

Sauna import wave in France

Organized sweating does not have a particularly distinctive tradition in France. The first saunas came to the Seine and Loire rivers as imports. At first, it was the Romans who brought their steam baths. They quickly spread throughout the provinces. What happened to the famous Gallic village has not been handed down. The second great wave of sauna imports came from the Orient. Here, the French themselves were the conquerors. They brought the hammam with them from North Africa. When Orientalism spread across the country around the 19th century, Oriental steam baths also became a trend in the big cities.

French sauna culture

The influences of this period continue to have an impact to this day. If you ask about the French sauna culture, you will come across more of a steam bath culture. Here, the French do not like it particularly warm. Around 60 degrees (140 °F) is sufficient. An exotic, usually oriental, scent is obligatory in any case. It is nebulized in the rather small chambers. When taking a sauna, the French are primarily interested in one thing: relaxation. They want to let their soul dangle. But it doesn’t have to be particularly quiet. Quiet conversations are tolerated in the steam bath. After sweating, steam bathers cool off in the shower. Each to his or her own. If it is a mixed shower, the rule is: please leave your swimwear on. Anything else would draw disrespectful looks.

Just do not sauna naked

However, French sauna culture is undergoing a change. Since the beginning of this millennium, the first large adventure pools have been built, especially in Alsace. It was probably German tourists who brought this idea to the Grande Nation. Here, operators are also setting up classic saunas. But as with a lot of French charm. Sauna manners do not change even in these large bathing temples. The architects have built in many small corners where privacy is maintained. And, of course, bathers are required to sweat only clothed. No matter how close the sauna is to the German border.

The role of celebrities in sauna culture

Celebrities often have a major influence on trends and cultural developments in France. This is also true for sauna culture. When well-known celebrities in the country began sharing their experiences in the steam room or sauna, sauna culture gained popularity. Some use this platform to highlight the benefits of saunas for health, beauty and overall well-being. Still, many French celebrities adhere to cultural norms and prefer to sauna in swimwear.

Health benefits of the sauna

Although the cultural aspect of saunas is paramount in France, the health benefits should not be neglected. Regular sauna sessions strengthen the immune system, promote blood circulation and even lower stress levels. Many French people therefore also see the sauna as a place of healing and relaxation. The soothing effect of the hot steam, combined with aromatic oils, contributes to relaxation and offers a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

French sauna etiquette

As in many cultures, there are unwritten rules for visiting the sauna in France. It’s not just about what you wear, but also how you behave in the sauna. Respecting the privacy of others, avoiding loud conversations, and using towels are just a few of the things that should be considered in French sauna etiquette. Those who follow these norms are sure to have a pleasant sauna experience.

Influence of sauna trends from abroad

German tourists are not the only ones influencing sauna culture in France. With globalization and increased tourism, other sauna traditions have also taken hold, such as the Finnish sauna or the Russian banya. These various influences have contributed to a more diverse sauna culture in France. Thus, it is not uncommon to find a mix of different sauna traditions in modern French saunas.

The future of sauna culture in France

Although sauna culture in France remains deeply rooted in tradition, there are signs that things may be changing. The younger generation, who travel a lot and experience more international influences, may be open to other sauna traditions. Over time, the norms and expectations of saunas in France may evolve and modernize.


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