Nieuws - 26 september 2013

The Naked Truth

I come from the east where modesty is appreciated and public nudity is frowned upon. In fact it is considered a shameful act and even a crime.

Since I embarked on my journey here in the Netherlands, I have come to understand that the Dutch are the most confident people I have ever seen. There are no stereotypes of having to look a certain way and everybody is confident and comfortable in their own skin. However, little did I know that it goes further and that the Dutch don’t mind being naked in front of a stranger. It shocked me when an old man flashed his entire body while changing into swimming trunks in front of me.  I felt guilty for looking and for just being there.

I was in disbelief that this had just happened to me. Then I noticed that it was a communal changing room so there weren’t any real cubicles to give you a private changing space. My wife has told me the same story about when she was done working out at the gym. The showers there don’t even have a curtain so you just shower there naked with the others, who are also naked. Then you simply put on your underwear and act like everything is normal. From then on, I have noticed similar incidences in different settings, like at the beach and at a spa. I know now how openness is conceived around here. It encompasses both physical and mental openness. Although I’m not a fan of it, changes of scenery are always welcome!

Naim Mohamad, Malaysian PhD student at the Laboratory of Microbiology.