• Switzerland edition
 
How I got hot and native in a Swiss sauna
Kzenon (File)

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
Fourteen-year-old Swiss whiz kid enrols at uni
Bastian Eichenberger: speaks nine languages. Photo: Sandra Meyndt/University of Freiburg

Fourteen-year-old Swiss whiz kid enrols at uni

A Swiss teenager has become the youngest university student in Germany, according to media reports in Switzerland. READ  

Electrolux to close Swiss manufacturing plant
Photo: AFP

Electrolux to close Swiss manufacturing plant

Swedish home appliances maker Electrolux plans to close its production plant in Schwanden in the canton of Glarus, eliminating 120 full-time jobs, partly because of tighter rules about Swiss-made products. READ  

Three kids hospitalized in crossing car crash
Photo: Zurich cantonal police

Three kids hospitalized in crossing car crash

Three children are in hospital, including a six-month-old infant, after a car collided with a family walking across a pedestrian crossing in Oberglatt, a municipality near the Zurich airport, police said on Monday. READ  

Quarter of workers 'stressed out': survey
Photo: AFP

Quarter of workers 'stressed out': survey

More than 40 percent of employed people in Switzerland believe they suffer from overwork, while a quarter of them say they are stressed out, according to a new survey. READ  

Canadian Ebola vaccine headed for Geneva
Geneva's university hospital. Photo: Julien Gregario

Canadian Ebola vaccine headed for Geneva

Canada will start sending more than 1,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to Switzerland this week as part of the global fight against the deadly virus, a Geneva hospital says. READ  

Swiss mountains claim four weekend victims
View of Fluebrig mountain where the passenger of a tandem paragliding pair died in a crash. Photo: Roland zh/Wikimedia Commons

Swiss mountains claim four weekend victims

Swiss mountain accidents claimed the lives of four men at the weekend, including a 61-year-old man who died from injuries suffered while flying as a passenger with a paraglider in the canton of Schwyz. READ  

Federer and Nadal seek different goals in Basel
Federer at last year's Swiss Indoors. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Federer and Nadal seek different goals in Basel

Home hero Roger Federer and ailing Rafael Nadal will be working to completely different agendas when the Swiss Indoors begins on Monday. READ  

Neckwear exhibit set to tie Swiss into knots
A wall of album covers showing singers wearing ties or bow ties is photographed during the exhibition "The Tie: men fashion power" at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Neckwear exhibit set to tie Swiss into knots

From a symbol of power to a fashion statement, ties in all their guises are on show at a new exhibition dedicated to the neckwear at the Swiss National Museum. READ  

Survey: Swiss motor boat theft on the rise
Lake Constance has experienced 82 thefts this year so far. Photo: Stephane Batigne

Survey: Swiss motor boat theft on the rise

Motor boat theft is a growing problem in Switzerland according to a new survey which puts the number of boats stolen this year to date as more than in the whole of last year. READ  

Voodoo chicken killing ruffles Geneva feathers
The chicken was decapitated and disembowelled. Photo: Karen Jackson

Voodoo chicken killing ruffles Geneva feathers

Residents of Geneva’s Petit-Saconnex district are petitioning for surveillance cameras in their local park after finding a dead chicken that appeared to have been killed in a voodoo-style sacrificial ceremony. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Expat American professor disputes 'unjust' Swiss citizenship rejection
Features
Swiss-based English expat writer lauds immigrant 'brains and brawn'
International
Our survey: Switzerland third priciest for food and drink from back home
National
Zurich market gardener sets world 'record' for heaviest pumpkin
National
Report: Switzerland's residents richer than before economic crash
Features
Geneva lab sleuths use high tech to help art world uncover fakes
National
Father of Scot missing since early September fears Swiss trauma
National
Foreign women give birth to rising share of newborns: latest figures
National
'Giant's penis' bloom in Basel uni botanical garden bigger than ever
National
Switzerland's voters reject public health insurance proposal
National
Zooming foreign immigration continues to boost Swiss population
National
Scientific study rings alarm over wellbeing of Swiss cows with bells
National
Geneva MP seeks ban on charging for tap water in restaurants
Business & Money
Switzerland's residents top world financial wealth list: Allianz report
National
Saint Maurice abbey in Valais celebrates 1,500 years of history
National
Streaming movie video service Netflix arrives in Switzerland
National
Professional Chilean base jumper dives to death in Swiss Alps
Education
ETH Zurich remains top university in Europe: QS world rankings
National
Switzerland's housing vacancy rate jumps: new federal figures
National
Swiss football club fires team masseuse over explicit sex video
National
Geneva police arrest easyJet passenger over hand luggage row
Business & Money
Latest forecasts for Swiss economic growth turn less bullish
Sport
Formula One legend Schumacher to continue treatment at Swiss home
National
Former federal planning official calls for nine Swiss cantons
Features
The Local gets the lowdown on mushroom picking in Switzerland
National
Virgin boss Richard Branson's son rescued from peak of Matterhorn
National
Swiss President Didier Burkhalter's commute turns Twitter sensation
Features
High-tech cameras give dizzy view of Eiger's north face (VIDEO)
Politics
Baden municipal council strips 'nude selfies mayor' of duties
Business & Money
Switzerland stays atop competitiveness table for sixth year
National
Federal parliament secretary agrees to step down over nude selfies
National
Swiss residents pick Swedes as ideal European soul mates: survey
National
Zurich officials call project to move prostitutes to 'sex boxes' a success
National
Swiss gays recognized as parents of child born to surrogate mother
Health
Increase in mountain bike accidents keeps Swiss hospitals busy
National
Swiss policeman belatedly honoured for saving Jews from Holocaust
National
'Suicide tourists' to Switzerland double in three years: study
National
Swiss Post SMS scheme gets stamp of approval after pilot project
Business & Money
American tax evasion crackdown hits Swiss private banks' bottom line
Politics
Woman accuses Swiss politician in nude selfies scandal of lying
National
Villagers in Graubünden valley reject hydro plant to protect vultures
Business & Money
Court rules against appellation for absinthe from Neuchâtel valley
National
Two hundred passengers rescued after landslide derails Swiss train
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

2,268
jobs available