Nudism in France: only for the rich, foreigners

14th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

GRAYAN-ET-L'HOPITAL, France, Aug 14, 2006 (AFP) - It started some 100 years ago with the promotion of proper conditions for the preservation of health, but nudism as practiced on France's Atlantic coast has since turned into a multi-million-euro business.

GRAYAN-ET-L'HOPITAL, France, Aug 14, 2006 (AFP) - It started some 100 years ago with the promotion of proper conditions for the preservation of health, but nudism as practiced on France's Atlantic coast has since turned into a multi-million-euro business.

"You got to use your brain before you drop your clothes" in public, says Jean-Michel Lorefice of Euronat, a 300-hectar resort at Grayan-et-l'Hopital in the south-western Gironde region where a number of major European nudist camps are located, among them also La Jenny and Montalivet.

"It needs a certain cultural and social level" as well as values such as "tolerance, the respect of others and of the environment," he argues.

Nearly half of Euronat guests are foreigners according to Lorefice whose resort is not unlike a small town with its camping ground, bungalows and cottages — some of them sold for more than EUR 150,000 euros — a center for thalassotherapy and dozens of shops.

Up to 10,000 nudists holiday at Euronat in peak season.

Northern Europeans' "behavior is different as nudism is part of their culture; they don't look at nudity the way we do," says Lorefice.

The Dutch and Germans, who were part of the nudist avant-garde, are well represented on French beaches.

"At the start nudists were protesters, pioneers who rejected modern life, but today the revolution is behind us and clients want television, central heating and satellite TV," said Lorefice. "Some people even buy a cottage for their retirement days."

Dany, a university professor in her fifties who has been part of the nudist crowd for as long as she can remember, enjoys "the freedom that exists nowhere else", meaning those others who prefer small attire to staying in the buff.

But she agrees with Lorefice that nudism "is for the rich" because a sojourn at a nudist camp is expensive.

"What once was a thing for hardliners has rather become something for the general public," notably fitness-oriented people, she said.

At the start of the 20th century when nudism began to develop it was mainly practiced by "hygienists who increased the standing of sports and nature, and humanists who preached 'beauty, fairness and truthfulness'", said Paul Rethore, vice president of the French Federation of Naturism FFN.

They were well-off people opposed to an artificial industrial way of life, but nowadays people from all walks of life are joining the movement, he added.

Dany however can see no such development, with the moneyed classes definitely well-represented at nudist camps. "You can see it immediately, even if they're stark naked," she insists.

That would explain the annual turnover of EUR 250 million of an industry that employs 3,000 people, with 1.5 million followers, mainly made up of managers (61 percent) and the self-employed, and their families.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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