• Switzerland's news in English
 

How I got hot and native in a Swiss sauna

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
Greece crisis
Greece 'wants tax assets hidden in Swiss banks'
Photo: Leon Neal / AFP

Greece 'wants tax assets hidden in Swiss banks'

Athens wants a tax amnesty deal for Greeks who have stashed cash in Swiss banks, in a bid to bring much-needed revenue to the debt-laden country, a Swiss newspaper reported on Sunday. READ  

Blatter won't travel until 'everything cleared up'
Sepp Blatter. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Blatter won't travel until 'everything cleared up'

Sepp Blatter, the Swiss head of Fifa, the Zurich-based world body for football mired in corruption allegations, told a German newspaper on Sunday that he won't take travel risks until the situation is "cleared up". READ  

Federer through to the last 16 of Wimbledon
Federer on his way to victory over Groth. Photo: Tim Ireland/AP

Federer through to the last 16 of Wimbledon

Seven-time champion Roger Federer defeated big-serving Australian Sam Groth to reach the Wimbledon last 16 on Saturday. READ  

Swiss cut bus and train fares as ozone spikes
Revellers throw water during a "giant water battle against the heatwave" in Lausanne. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Swiss cut bus and train fares as ozone spikes

Regional authorities in Switzerland temporarily cut bus and train fares Saturday to encourage people to leave their cars at home, as a scorching heatwave sent ozone pollution levels soaring. READ  

Solar Impulse 2 reaches Hawaii to make history
Pilots Bertrand Piccard (L) and Andre Borschberg, celebrate after Borschberg landed at Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii, on Friday. Photo: Eugene Tanner / AFP

Solar Impulse 2 reaches Hawaii to make history

The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft completed a historic flight in its quest to circle the globe without consuming a drop of fuel, touching down gracefully in Hawaii on Friday after the most arduous leg of its journey. READ  

Wimbledon 2015
Verdasco victory sends Wawrinka to fourth round
Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP

Verdasco victory sends Wawrinka to fourth round

Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka reached the fourth round of the Wimbledon tennis tournament on Friday with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win over Spain's Fernando Verdasco. READ  

Solar Impulse 2 nears Hawaii on historic flight
Borschberg in the cockpit of the solar plane. Photo: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse 2 nears Hawaii on historic flight

After more than four and a half days of flying across the Pacific and setting a record for solo flight, Switzerland’s Solar Impulse 2 airplane was set to arrive in Hawaii on Friday on its epic journey around the world. READ  

Sponsors will flee Fifa without reforms: lawyer
Photo: AFP

Sponsors will flee Fifa without reforms: lawyer

A former top Fifa official who left after criticizing its president Sepp Blatter has warned that big sponsors will start leaving world football's Zurich-based governing body unless major reforms are undertaken. READ  

Commuters stuck in trains without electricity
Photo: Kecko

Commuters stuck in trains without electricity

Heat took its toll on morning rail commuters on Geneva-Lausanne and Olten-Zurich routes on Friday as trains were blocked due to problems with overhead electrical wires. READ  

Swiss baby boom boosted by immigration
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Swiss baby boom boosted by immigration

Switzerland is bucking the trend in the rest of Europe with a rising birth rate bolstered by immigration, new federal figures show. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
National weather office extends danger alerts as heatwave takes hold
National
Most severe heatwave in Switzerland since 2003 on the way
Travel
Bogglingly expensive Geneva club sandwiches remain 'priciest in world'
Politics
Anti-immigration nationalist party remains most popular: poll
National
Greek finance minister slams Swiss over lack of tax evasion info
Business & Money
Insects proposed for sale in Swiss supermarkets next year
Sponsored Article
Geneva's revolutionary marketing education
National
'Oh God — I'm coming': noisy lovers' complaint goes public
National
Canton of Ticino threatens closing Italy border to asylum seekers
Sponsored Article
Swiss chocolate with a story: Blondel
National
Just in case: Swiss National Bank prepares for Grexit 'crisis'
National
Russian crisis fuelled by sanctions threaten 40,000 Swiss jobs: study
National
Art Basel: Art for art's sake — or to make an investment?
National
New survey ranks Zurich Europe's priciest city for expatriates
National
Quarter of residents in Switzerland 'have multiple homes'
Features
Veggie lovers and 'flexitarians' challenge Swiss meat-eating habits
National
Forest officials struggle to save Switzerland's dying ash trees
Education
Historian finds ancient Egyptian papyrus texts in Basel uni library
National
Seven large Swiss employers back 'flexible work' charter
National
Basel police rescue of ducks forces closure of A2 motorway
National
Mother and daughter die as rain storms lash central Switzerland
Sport
'Stan the man' Wawrinka: French Open triumph 'completely crazy'
Culture
Expat's Zurich 'then and now' video shows how little the city has changed
National
Phoney Geneva police officers rob tourists and UN staff
Sport
Blatter's abrupt resignation seen as a 'stunning capitulation'
Features
Cleanup crews head to ski resorts to keep Swiss mountains tidy
Culture
Interlaken museum showcases works by Picasso using Caran d'Ache pencils
National
Low interest rates give tenants right to seek rent reductions in Switzerland
Sport
Switzerland's Blatter fends off critics to win fifth term as Fifa president
National
Agricultural researchers discover why Swiss cheese has holes
Culture
Swiss filmmaker returns home to shoot 'gender-fluid' film in Ticino
Features
Severed rope recalls Matterhorn's first ascent 150 years ago
National
Top Swiss court refuses to recognize child's two gay 'fathers'
National
Woman's scoop for Ticino online news site: 'I killed my husband'
National
Four Swiss bathing areas 'unfit' for swimmers: Euro environmental body
Technology
Scientists from Zurich university find craters beneath Lake Neuchâtel
National
Prince William in Switzerland backs fight to protect endangered species
National
Swiss Federal Railways rely on sheep to 'mow' grass alongside tracks
Sport
Switzerland to host 2020 international ice hockey tourney
Business & Money
I never learned German: departing Credit Suisse CEO's regret
Sport
International tennis museum in US showcases Federer hologram
National
Inequality greater than most Swiss think: opinion poll for unions
National
Shooting in Switzerland leaves five dead in domestic drama near Zurich
National
Swiss Federal Railways tackle taboo subject of suicide in bid to cut deaths
National
German expats in Switzerland face discrimination: report
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

4,376
jobs available