Sauna culture in Germany

If you judge it by the number of visitors, the real sauna world champions are the Germans. In this country, 30 million Germans regularly go to the sauna to sweat.
© piovesempre/

Sauna culture and the clothing issue in Germany

Sauna culture in Germany is highly valued in this country. Germans are serious about taking a sauna. Traditionally, the focus for them is on health – and not so much on well-being. That’s why people sweat it out in traditional saunas. And they are quite liberal about it. In the sauna, everyone, regardless of gender, enjoys the warmth in natural nudity. Together they relax on the wooden benches.

Whereby here restrictively is said, some baths have women’s bathing times or separated areas. Even outside the actual sauna, naked skin is the trump card. Most small baths have a fixed circle of regular visitors. And there it can happen that someone does his gymnastics naked. However, strangers are welcome to join the circles – as long as they follow the rules.

Everything by the book, please!

The first commandment is: no sweat on wood. This somewhat rude request is emblazoned on many a sauna entrance door. In addition, the following applies: Silence reigns in front of the sauna stove. The first hint of a conversation is immediately nipped in the bud with an insistent »Pscht«. Otherwise, there is not much to observe for newcomers. The pool operators do post signs informing their guests that sunbeds may not be reserved with towels. But there are hardly any consequences of such requests.

The sauna competition

The saunas in cold Germany are usually very warm. The thermometer should already show 90 degrees (194 °F) – otherwise the whole thing is useless. A regular infusion is part of good sauna culture. It is not uncommon for a competition to break out between German men. Who can take more heat? So the male visitors compete for the seats in the upper rows. Whoever gets one has to endure what’s coming. Standing up during the infusion is considered highly impolite in German sauna mores. After all, this massively disturbs the other sauna guests. They have to clear the way for the dissident, the door is opened briefly – and the good heat can escape. Insolence.

Wide range from all cultural backgrounds

The traditional German sauna is all about simplicity and authenticity. Whether electric or wood-burning, the essence is sweating. During the infusions, the focus is on the scent, with true sauna lovers appreciating the aromatic smell of pine needles. After an extensive sweat session, many are drawn to the bar. While in the south a cool Weizen is preferred, the northerners like to reach for a tart Pils. With alcohol, of course – after all, the sauna session was healthy enough.

Bathing temples and sauna landscapes

But times are changing in the land of poets and thinkers. The sauna is no longer reserved for its die-hard fans. The broad masses appreciate the hot rooms as a wellness experience. Since the end of the 1990s, more and more bathing temples with stately sauna landscapes have sprouted from the ground.

Sauna culture in Germany has not changed

They are no longer tied to a particular sauna culture. Rather, operators here combine the best of all cultures. Visitors will find Roman steam baths, Oriental hammams, Andalusian fincas and Alpine hay saunas. As modern as all this may seem, sauna customs have not changed. The rule still applies: access only without bathing clothes. Normally, the baths are used equally by both sexes. However, all large bathing temples also have saunas for women only. And, of course, the slogan “No sweat on wood” can still be read everywhere. As rude as that sounds, it makes sense. After all, it’s all about hygiene.

World champion in sauna infusion

The infusions in modern adventure pools have also changed dramatically. Operators want to offer their guests real experiences. As a result, more and more exotic scents are being used and wagging techniques have become immensely refined. First and foremost, visitors should feel good. Of course, there are also the infusions for the really tough ones – here the temperature sometimes rises to over 100 degrees. In the meantime, the Germans even organize a world championship in infusion making. The participants come mainly from Germany and show all their creativity. What counts here is the interplay of scent and show.


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