A Dane Abroad: Call this a ‘naked’ civil service!

"Nice try guys. This is a girls-only zone." (Photo: iStock) "Nice try guys. This is a girls-only zone." (Photo: iStock)
January 23rd, 2016 7:00 pm| by Kirsten Louise Pedersen
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I was reminded of the relaxed attitude to nudity in Denmark following a recent trip to the local pool.

Naked truth
Changing rooms are communal spaces where people often take time to have a chat in the nude as if it is nothing. I saw this carefree attitude further demonstrated whilst watching a Danish comedy – as Nikolaj Lie Kaas’s bare butt raced happily across the screen.

I can recall countless pool trips as a child getting changed amongst dozens of women walking around starkers having casual conversations. I grew up with this being normal. Today I am grateful for experiencing this as I become aware of the taboo that exists regarding nudity in many other countries and cultures.

Feeling relaxed and ‘normal’ when naked in same-sex company is surely a healthy thing. It fosters healthy relationships – with one’s own body and those of others’. It creates a feeling of connectedness and demystifies taboos. And somehow conversations tend to be more honest when you’re naked.

Free porn for all
At the more extreme end of Danish liberalism, back in the 1980s and 90s, German soft-core porn channels were part of our standard television and watchable for all from about 11 pm. On the rare occasion that the subject of ‘porn’ has come up during my time abroad, chins have dropped to floors as I have regaled them with the Danish Broadcasting standards of my youth.

In the ‘90s in Denmark people went topless on the beach all the time. This I have never witnessed anywhere outside of Europe. I experienced this liberated attitude making people more comfortable with themselves – and it made breasts appear more like the regular body parts that they actually
are.

No escaping diversity
We came into this world naked. We’re naked under our clothes. So how can nudity be such a taboo? In an age that idolises perfection, I wonder if we are at risk of losing touch with what is natural. Since when has a woman breast-feeding her child in the view of others become a shameful activity?

Something as basic as being exposed to physical diversity early in life, I believe, may have a positive knock-on effect to other areas of our general perception – such as how we view other differences between people, which has never been more relevant than today.

Chewing over meatloaf
Working as a physiotherapist has only confirmed my existing beliefs that people and their bodies (and minds and spirits) come in many wonderful versions. I do think it’s a good thing that soft porn is no longer available on mainstream TV in Denmark. But our world is at risk of over-filtering and over-modifying nudity in a sad bid to make it more ‘attractive’. This creates only an unhealthy fixation on what should simply be remarkably ordinary.

Accordingly I continue to quietly rejoice when I get my gear off at the pool and my butt-naked locker room neighbour strikes up casual chat about meatloaf recipes.

Kirsten Louise Pedersen


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Kirsten was born and raised in Denmark, but jumped ship in her early 20s to spend the next 12 years living abroad, mostly in New Zealand with a short stint in Hong Kong. A physiotherapist, acupuncturist and yoga lover, Kirsten has returned ‘home’ with a suitcase full of goodies from beyond the boundary fence