Swedes are a lot more laid-back about nudity than Americans. It starts from childhood. It’s perfectly normal for little kids to run around naked at the lake in the summer, which I find cute but tend to find myself concerned about their sun exposure.
At school, since age five, Little Girl has taken group showers once a week after gym with the other little girls. Personally, I think this is kind of weird—it’s not like they get sweaty—but I imagine the idea is to get them accustomed to being undressed around and showering with each other so it won’t be as big a deal in middle school. (I suspect it is still potentially a big deal, but what do I know?) You know, I bet it’s also a way to make sure all the children get bathed at least weekly; that would be a typical Swedish institutional thought.
Grown-ups are naked in front of each other, too. In the ladies’ locker room people saunter about, no towels in sight. Once, while I was helping Little Girl get into her bathing suit for swim class, a totally naked person started talking to me. It turns out I knew her, but since I generally make it a point not to take a good look at naked people around me in the locker room, I hadn’t noticed. And that lady just stood there, chatting, nude, like she didn’t care at all that I was seeing her without her clothes. Which I guess she didn’t!
You are also supposed to be naked in the saunas. They even have a sign, “For everyone’s comfort, please do not wear your bathing suit.” I don’t know about you, but if comfort is what we are after, I would in fact prefer a bathing suit. I’ve been on pool/sauna outings with friends, and just cannot bring myself to sit around naked with them. So, I wrap up in my towel, which obviously just calls even more attention to me than if I were naked like everybody else. And I know nobody actually cares what I look like naked, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
Since everybody is so comfortable with nudity, at public beaches there are no changing rooms. Instead, Swedish people are skilled at simultaneously having a towel wrapped around them and changing in and out of their bathing suits. Well, I say skilled, but some people are definitely better than others. I have seen assorted bits of people exposed during the process. And of course it doesn’t matter. They’re just body parts; everybody’s got them. But I still prefer to wear my wet bathing suit home, instead, and change there. There’s only so much acclimating a person can do.