In Denmark it is mandatory to sluice down naked before entering a swimming pool, and they take the rules very seriously. Judging from the streams of women relaxing in the nude, they are so body confident that they jump at any opportunity to take their clothes off anyway.
The women in Nordic-noir dramas are usually attractive, overtly sexual and self-confident, and Saga Norén, the Swedish detective in the Danish police procedural The Bridge will whip off her T-shirt in front of her hard-bitten colleagues without a second thought.
The Danes have even officially been dubbed the most shameless nation in the world, based on research by the University of Zurich. And, after two years of living here, I’ve finally been inspired to learn to love my body the Scandinavian way.
Danish body confidence begins in January. In Denmark nobody bothers to deprive themselves in the cold dark of winter. Last year, my ‘dry January’ met with baffled looks from my Danish friends as they helped themselves to the pastries their country is famous for.
Fretting about the way they look or obsessing over staying in shape isn’t something my slender Scandi friends indulge in because, fittingly for residents of the happiest nation in the world, most of them feel fine just the way they are.
This nonchalant approach spans the ages – if the group of septuagenarian Danes I see plunging naked into the icy sea on my local beach just north of Copenhagen all year around are anything to go by. When I eventually catch up with one on dry land and ask her how she plucks up the courage to bare all, she seems surprised by the stupidity of my question.
‘Have you ever tried to wear a wet swimsuit when the temperature is below five degrees Celsius?’ she asks me. ‘You would not want to!’ The study by the University of Zurich (which seems to have made Danish nudity something of a specialist subject) suggests that Danes are conditioned not to feel shame: a mere 1.62 per cent of the population suffers from gelotophobia, or fear of ridicule, the lowest figure of the any country surveyed.
Of course, Britain topped the gelotophobia charts, with a staggering 13 per cent. Put simply, Danish children don’t grow up paralysed by the fear of being laughed at the way that we do. While I spent my school career avoiding the showers after PE, in Denmark friends tell me they were made to shower together after every class, with no separate cubicles.