Germans seem to love escaping the biting winter months in the baking heat of a wooden cabin. They're so crazy about the whole concept that they even have a nationwide competition for the best sauna attendant (which mysteriously involves people getting dressed up as native Americans and devils.)
Anyone who has paid a visit to the Roman-style baths in Berlin’s Neukölln or the Müller’sches Volksbad in Munich can testify to the invigorating qualities of staggering out of a sultry steam room and jumping into a pool of freezing cold water.
And who wouldn’t enjoy having hot air whipped into their face by a gruff Berlin bath attendant vigorously swinging a towel round his head?
The one thing holding many foreigners (or at least Anglo-Saxons) back, though, is the uncomfortable question of taking your kit off in public. It comes about as naturally to us as drinking non-alcoholic beer (which is the best thing to do after the sauna, if you were wondering).
But a survey released by YouGov in February shows that Germans aren’t all so comfortable with getting sweaty in the buff either.
Just over half of Germans (56 percent) think that saunas should have rules insisting that you get undressed before you get in the cabin. But a quarter of respondents still felt this was not appropriate.
Men were much more likely to demand nudity than women, with 65 percent of males essentially saying “yes, I want to get my little man out in the steam room”.
Less than half of women (48 percent), meanwhile, insisted that nakedness was necessary, with 31 percent preferring to be allowed to cover up.
The survey also revealed just how popular a trip to the sauna is among the people of the Bundesrepublik.
Two-thirds have made a trip to the sauna at least once. But of those who have never gone, one in five admitted that they are too ashamed to get nude in front of other people.
Among those who do go to the sauna, 63 percent said they do it for relaxation. A little under half (46 percent) said they go for health reasons, while one in every four said they do it because it’s fun.