European Beach Etiquette

bag and hat on beach

[BlueOrange Studio] / [iStock] / Thinkstock

Europeans have a slightly different approach to a day out on the beach. This approach generally involves a fair amount of nudity and a more laissez-faire attitude toward public display of speedos, thongs, and other scraps of shiny fabric wound tightly around the body. There is nothing wrong with this, but if you’re not accustomed to it, a day out on a French or German beach can be an awkward encounter. If you’re not sure whether to bare all or what to do if you ditch the clothes, answer the following questions to see where you fit in.

Question 1: Are you under the age of six?
Yes. Promptly remove all clothing and spend the day running around the beach and building sand castles with nothing on but sunscreen.
No. Continue to question two.

Question 2: Are you at a nude beach?
Yes. Continue to question three.
No. Continue to question three.

Question 3: Did you want to be at a nude beach?
Yes. Congratulations. You have found the nude beach. Ditch your clothes and spend the day frolicking in the waves with nothing but your birthday suit. While you’re at it, don’t forget to put the sunscreen on (seriously you guys) and follow these simple guidelines: 1) Don’t stare. Period. 2) Do not approach people on the beach while they are hanging out on their towels. Especially if you are a boy wanting to approach a girl. 3) Leave the camera at home.
No. Well. This is awkward. Do an about face, eyes averted, and duck into the nearest hotel to ask if they can recommend any clothing-friendly beaches nearby. And then skip to question five.

Question 4: Are you with friends?
Yes. Make sure you’re all in agreement about hanging out in the buff and if your friends are particularly mischievous, keep a close eye on your clothes. Walking back naked to the hotel is probably not in anyone’s best interest.
No. Read this post on keeping your stuff safe while swimming.

Question 5: Are you of the male persuasion?
Yes. Continue to question six.
No. Skip to question seven.

Question 6:
Do you own a speedo?
Yes. You are good to go.
No. You should probably get one. Oh, alright, you don’t have to, but the long, baggy shorts so typical of U.S. men’s beachwear will have you standing out like…well, an American.

Question 7: Are you at a topless beach?
Yes. You are good to let it all hang out. No staring though. It’s impolite.
No. Stow the girls in a bathing suit or bikini top.
I don’t know. Look around and scope out the scene. While topless sunbathing is not a big deal in Europe, it’s probably best to check around you and see what everyone else is doing before you throw caution and clothing to the wind.

By Nikki Hodgson