• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

How I got hot and native in a Swiss sauna

Lyssandra Sears · 26 Apr 2012, 10:56

Published: 26 Apr 2012 12:14 GMT+02:00
Updated: 26 Apr 2012 10:56 GMT+02:00

Swiss saunas can cause etiquette nightmares for immigrants from coyer cultures. But once The Local's Lyssandra Sears got the hang of it, she stopped being a prude in the nude and quickly learned a thing or two about Swiss women's grooming habits.

I’m English. We don’t really do naked. Near-naked, yes, but the full Monty? No, that’s only in films. It makes us giggle. It makes us rouge.

So when a friend suggested an outing to a sauna here in Switzerland, I confess the thought was rather startling. It was to be an outing in more ways than one. I prepared myself meticulously, as if I was about to be examined under a microscope by a million Swiss eyes. I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous.

When we got there, I wrapped myself up extremely tight in a large towel and sat there scowling at anyone who lifted their head vaguely in my direction. That is, until I realised it was just too hot for such uptight behaviour. The towel gradually began to loosen, until, with a deep breath and an attempt at nonchalance, I shrugged it off.

I have come a long way since then, and learned a great deal. Sauna etiquette, for example, dictates that there should be no talking and no looking. Both of these rules are broken, all the time. Not everyone talks, that’s true. But I’m sorry, I don’t care what anybody says, everyone looks. We all know we’re not meant to – when eyes meet across a sweaty room, heads jerk sharply away - but we do. We’re human. We’re curious. It’s natural.

And if I hadn’t looked, then I wouldn’t have realised quite how many Swiss women coiffure their muffs to within an inch of their lives. Now I’m not saying mine’s a jungle, but I did not actually realise that there is a national Swiss muff-style, which consists of nigh-complete removal. Pretty porn, I must say. Go Swiss chicks!

Recently my boyfriend and I went for a romantic spa weekend in a remote hotel that could only be reached by skidoo. Snow-covered landscapes, tranquility and isolation beckoned. The surroundings didn’t disappoint, but the sauna was… tiny.

We found ourselves squeezed in to this small hot-room of nudity, packed to the proverbial rafters with sweaty Swiss people. Sweaty, chatty Swiss people. Every so often I would see my boyfriend jerk upright, eyes wide, as his leg accidentally came into contact with the spread from a rather generously proportioned lady on the other side of him. He should be used to this, I thought, being Swiss. But even he found it hard to relax, what with all the new friendships being forged around us.

I am now what I consider to be a veteran, and although I don’t quite stalk about the place as some do, I have definitely mastered a slight condescension to those who insist on wearing bathing suits. Haven’t they heard the popular Swiss refrain about how very unhygienic it is to sweat into a material that can’t be washed properly?

My gym recently offered me a chance to try out their new sauna and I jumped at it. The spa being popular with expats, I was entirely surrounded by bathing-clothed bodies.

I remember being prudish like you, I thought to myself smugly as I lay back on my towel. I could feel the eyes on me but I didn’t care. How did they know I wasn’t Swiss? I was liberated, at one with my body.

Thoroughly relaxed, I decided afterwards that I would add access to the spa to my gym membership.

I really enjoyed myself, I told the cute account manager dealing with the paperwork. And feeling bold, I added, but it’s a shame that so many people are wearing swimsuits – it’s so unhygienic!

Cutey blinked at me for a moment, and then said: Oh, didn’t you see the signs? Our spa is a no nudity zone.

Lyssandra Sears (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

2012-05-09 04:38:11 by volvoman9
Nudity only relates to sex because we have been conditioned to believe this. So it must follow that the only way to change this thinking is to go sans clothing a lot more.
2012-04-30 21:24:15 by almostheaven
Haha! That was a great article, and an awesome example of why so many of our customers choose to install a home sauna. Most of the public saunas here in the US require a bathing suit, or at least a towel. Hope you enjoy your new gym "spa package", even if you are required to wear a bathing suit!
2012-04-30 21:23:51 by almostheaven
Haha! That was a great article, and an awesome example of why so many of our customers choose to install a home sauna. Most of the public saunas here in the US require a bathing suit, or at least a towel. Hope you enjoy your new gym "spa package", even if you are required to wear a bathing suit!
Today's headlines
Police step up security at Geneva airport after tip-off
File photo: eGuide Travel

UPDATE: Police gradually withdraw security measures put in place this morning after an unspecified threat against the building.

Swiss Post gives stamp of approval to Solar Impulse
The new stamp is available from today. Photo: Swiss Post

A new stamp commemorates the incredible journey of two Swiss pilots.

Family of four dies in Swiss motorway crash
The accident happened near Quinto in the canton of Ticino. File photo: Costas Tavernarakis

The accident happened on the A2 in Ticino.

Swiss glacier reveals body of skier missing for 53 years
Morteratsch glacier. Photo: Graubünden police

The 36-year-old German went missing in 1963.

 Federer to miss Rio, rest of season with injury
Federer is recovering from injury. Photo: AFP

Roger Federer will miss the remainder of the season, including next month's Olympic Games in Rio.

Take care around fireworks, Swiss told
Fireworks injure hundreds every year. Photo: myswitzerland.com

Fireworks caused 250 accidents last year in Switzerland – half of them on August 1st.

Missing man found dead in Obwalden forest
The man's body was found close to the wreck of his car. Photo: Obwalden police

A man reported missing in early July has been found dead close to the wreck of his car in central Switzerland.

Confirmed cases of Zika virus soar in Switzerland
The virus is on the march in Switzerland too. Photo: AFP

Switzerland has registered 28 cases of the birth-defect causing Zika virus since the start of the year.

Flooding leads to chaos in central Switzerland
The storm left a trail of devastation in Pfäffikon. Photo: Schwyz cantonal police

The fire brigade in the canton of Schwyz had a busy night dealing with flooding emergencies.

  Solar plane completes epic round-the-world trip
The journey ended in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in the UAE, completing its epic round-the-world journey.

File photo: Chase Elliott Clark
Lifestyle
Study: a fifth of Swiss spy on neighbours
Photo: Katwarn.de
National
Switzerland mulls alarm text message service
Photo: The Local
National
Study: grazing cows are worse for the environment
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Kecko
National
Terror fears trigger Swiss run on guns
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Commune d'Ayent
National
Spectacular Valais ‘bisse’ to feature on new banknote
Photo: Swiss Post
National
Swiss Post moves to accept debit cards – sometimes
Photo: Chris Marquardt
Lifestyle
Police break up dispute over late-night laundry
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Photo: Grand Tours Project
Features
Why you should get on your bike in Switzerland
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Photo: The Local
Society
Swiss village tells landlords: don’t rent homes to refugees
Photo: Rolf Krahl/Christophe G
International
Survey: world willing to pay more for ‘Swissness’
Photo: The Local
International
Chaos in Como after Swiss send back refugees
Photo: AFP/The Local
Lifestyle
Nine top celebrity hotspots in Switzerland
Photo: Graubunden police
National
World-class Swiss climber Norbert Joos dies on ‘home mountain’
Photo: Kathleen Waters
Society
Italian ‘ignored’ by Swiss schools in language wars
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Photo: Whitepod
Features
The quirkiest places to stay in Switzerland
International
Migrant busted trying to sneak into Switzerland in a suitcase
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Photo: Jonathan Kos-Read
National
Basel suffers wettest six months for 150 years
Photo: Georges Gobet/AFP
Technology
Why Swiss science could suffer badly from Brexit fallout
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Photo: Robert Valencia
International
Swiss couple in Nicaragua told to give back adopted daughter
Photo: Zurich cantonal police
National
Police hunt prisoner on the run in Zurich murder case
Photo: Christoph G
Politics
Switzerland sets out law on expelling foreign criminals
Photo: Bernacqua
Lifestyle
Drone shocks nudists at Swiss waterpark
Photo: Basel Justice and Security Dept
Lifestyle
New signs lay down law and order for Basel prostitutes
4,589
jobs available