Friday, January 12, 2007

The naked truth: Naturism in Iceland

My name is Nanna Árnadóttir
and I’m a sprightly Icelandic lass with a black sense of humor and a list of mild neurosis as long as Woody Allen’s. I live in London where I am finishing my final year of journalism at Kingston University.

I will soon become the editor of my University newspaper and in the past I have been published in the UK’s Independent and F1 Racing Magazine. Today, I’m covering for Krista, but as of next

week I’ll be contributing to Daily Life every Saturday.

The other night I watched Confetti, the rather unsuccessful but lovable mockumentary on three couples competing to have the most creative wedding ceremony. One of the couples wanted to have a naturist wedding. In other words, a nude wedding.

It should, at this point, be noted that I am not trying to be controversial and the spontaneous question “I wonder if there are nudists in Iceland?” was an innocent one. My father laughed when I asked if he had heard of nudists in Iceland “Nudists? In Iceland? They’d have to be


Bonkers or no, there is in fact a naturist community in Iceland. They have coincidentally also just published an English version of their website: Naturists however, are not nudists. Although both terms refer to being naked and both nudists and naturists promote a bare all lifestyle there are subtle differences between the two.

Nudism centers on simply being naked and is a title linked to Americans where as naturism is more of a European expression. Naturists believe that they are getting in touch with nature and removing the social barriers that come with clothing. That is to say you don’t have to worry about how ‘now’ your clothes are, what label you are wearing or if you fit in.

On their web page the Naturists of Iceland say that “there are ideal conditions for naturist activities in Iceland” and that like everywhere else in the world you can practice it at home so long as you raise the temperature a bit.

It is also suggested that you book a swimming pool out of hours so that you can enjoy a wee dip au natural, or rent a summerhouse with a hot tub so that you can enjoy hikes and bright summer nights disrobed and unabashed.

Naturism should be enjoyed, the site outlines, but “you must of course show consideration for other people who may be present. The purpose is not to shock others.”

It made me wonder, how shocked I would be if, while walking along some nature trail a group of threadbare people came walking my way? It all depends on what sort of person you are of course, but I don’t think I would be too alarmed.

You see all sorts of uncommon things in Iceland. Once when I was a child on summer break I saw a sheep that had been sacrificed in an Ásatrú (Norse Paganism) ceremony. It was gruesome for me to see its rotting corpse, though my mamma (Icelandic word for mum) said it was perfectly natural and part of our heritage. Personally I feel I would be more scandalized if a saw a sacrificed sheep again than a group of unclothed hikers. But then, that’s me.

After a few hours research into the world of Icelandic naturism, my pabbi (Icelandic word for dad) looked at me inquisitively and asked half joking and half not “does this life style appeal to you?” The answer: not so much, but that doesn’t mean the naturist terminology doesn’t.

Some quirky ‘naturisms’ include canuding which refers to canoeing in the nude. Clothist, is the nick name for everyone who is not a social nudist. Being naked at home post shower or on a Sunday morning is all well and good but you don’t qualify as a proper naturist until you are unclad publicly or with other people in a social setting.

As an Icelander I can easily say that I am not surprised there are naturists in Iceland. We are like a jumble of different inclinations and principles both naughty and idyllic coexisting on a 103,000 square kilometer rock. As a clothist I would conclude that as long as no one is getting hurt, who cares?


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