While Italians, Spaniards, Brits and Germans were unperturbed about the idea of women taking their tops off on the beach, Swedes were far less at ease with the practice, according to a survey of 3,000 people by flight website Skyscanner.
Ninety-nine percent of Germans were in favour of topless female sunbathing, but only 84 percent of Swedes agreed, and a mere 67 percent of Swedish women thought it was acceptable to let it all hang out at the beach.
The findings paint a picture of a much more prudish Sweden than the one portrayed in Ingmar Bergman films like Summer with Monika, where innocent naked frolics upset moral guardians abroad.
Now, even traditionally prudish Americans are more relaxed about stripping off on the beach than people from Bergman’s homeland, according to the survey.
Overall, 96 percent of men and 87 percent of women thought it was acceptable for women to take their tops off on the beach. 98 percent of respondents thought it was alright for men to take their tops off on the beach, although only 18 percent thought it was acceptable in a shop.
“We Swedes think we’ve got a very liberal and relaxed attitude to nudity, but it turns out that many other countries are more positive to topless sunbathing than we are,” said Kristin Andersson, manager of Skyscanner Scandinavia.
“Regardless of our own attitudes, the important thing is to respect those around us and to be aware of local customs and cultures, so that we don’t cause outrage or upset anyone,” she said.
Sweden has in recent years been the home to activists pushing for increased acceptance of topless sunbathing and swimming. The network Bara Bröst (meaning both “Just Breasts” and “Bare Breasts”) argued that women should be allowed to take off their bikini tops at public swimming baths. The network got international attention for a number of bare-breasted demonstrations at Swedish swimming baths.