I’ve decided to put my personal life and experiences aside for a while, and concentrate on the cultural differences a little more. This, because yesterday I went to a public swimming pool for the first time since I’m back in Finland, and I was surprised and amused about many things.
I used to go swimming in Finland about 10 years ago, when I was still in high school and it was part of the mandatory sport-classes… And last years in Paris, I used to go swimming with a friend, in public French pools.
I remember the first time I went to a swimming pool in Paris, I was almost shocked when I realized that the showers were common for men and women, and that’s why people were showering with the swimming suites. I think, each time we went to different pools with my friend, I was always complaining about that, because I felt very uncomfortable to wash myself with the swimming suite. And the most funny thing was, that sometimes even the showers were not mixed, women were still not showering naked! Of course there was always a few private cabins for those who wanted to shower naked and with some privacy, but they were not very used…
And yesterday in the Finnish public pool, in Tampere, I was sitting in one of the four saunas (yes! There is not only one sauna next to the showers, but four!), and watching true the glass door all the naked women. There were old ladies, little children, middle-aged women, students, Finnish and few foreigners, all naked with their different bodies, showering, going in and out from saunas and behaving completely normally without wearing their swimming suites, or towels…
Maybe I need to mention that in Finland they are very keen on some hygienic facts, and it’s not allowed to go to the water if you haven’t washed yourself first, without a swimming suite, and also it’s not allowed to go the sauna with the swimming suite. So that’s why also people are used to go around naked… 😉
“Wash yourself before going to the pool”
And I was trying to imagine this same behavior in French pools, but I couldn’t. French people are so prudish with some things. And I have to say that I became much more like that too when I was living there! Now, in Finland, I’ve learned again the Finnish sauna-culture and the fact that it’s totally fine to be naked in front of other people, because it’s part of the thing.
One year ago when I was in Finland for holidays, we were in a summer-house with a lot of friends, and I just couldn’t go naked to the sauna, because it was mixed, men and women together… And I hadn’t done that in years!
Of course often it depends on the context, and people don’t go ALWAYS naked, in public saunas for example, with completely random people. Anyway, now that I’ve got used to that I still pay attention how people behave naturally on those situations…
Back to public swimming-pools!
Another thing which I thought was new and interesting for me, was that everything was super clean and automatic! When we got there, we payed directly with our bus-card (public transportation pass) and took a wristband in a basket, which we showed to the same machine than the bus-cards, so that the bracelet was connected directly. And this automatic bracelet also worked as a key for the lockers, I wish I would have taken pictures about that! It was so futuristic :-D! Also the showers worked with automatic detection…. Like those paper-towel-machines in some public toilets, where you just swing your hand to get some paper.
I was very thrilled with all these details! 😀
One thing, which is odd, is that in France it’s mandatory in all public pools, to wear a swimming-hat, and in Finland it’s not.
“Caution! Wearing a swimming hat is mandatory”
And I also noticed that it was very nice to swim, because even that we were there after 5 pm, so in the worst peak-time, there wasn’t any rush on the lines, like in Paris. Sometimes in Paris, it was frustrating to swim, when we were all the time pushed from somewhere. In Finland the whole system is much more organised, and people follows all the rules… One moment there was even an announcement reminding people to not swim side by side, but in the row!
I also noticed that, like usually in Finland, people were here for really practice the sport. No-one was gossiping or chating at the border, like we used to do in Paris…. 😉