Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The naked expat

There's nothing quite like taking all your clothes off to prove that you've fully integrated into a new culture. This recent article certainly does a good job of explaining what it means to be truly European! Here's a taste:

A few weeks ago, some friends invited me to go swimming at the Badeschiff - a barge turned indoor swimming pool and sauna in the middle Berlin's Spree River. The idea of jumping into a heated pool in the middle of the German winter was appealing to me, so I packed my beach bag and headed for the Badeschiff.

I showed up with my beach towel, Gap swimsuit, Richardson High School "Beach Team" T-shirt and flip flops ready to go for a dip.

But when we went into the locker room to change, I realized that nobody else had brought a swimsuit. No need - no swimsuits allowed on the Badeschiff.

It all reminds me far too much of my own experience when, having played squash with some work colleagues in the Netherlands, we adjourned to the sauna to relax.

A mixed sauna.

A nude mixed sauna.

Now, naturally, as a Brit I wasn't going to engage in any of this nonsense and kept the crown jewels firmly under lock and key under my towel. I soon discovered, however, that a further challenge lay ahead - straight ahead.

Let's just say that unaccustomed as I am to finding myself in a room surrounded by naked athletes of the opposite sex the temptation is, on occasion, to let the eye wander. Sadly, here my Britishness once again came to the fore. Whereas the true European is only too happy to appreciate the finer points of life and meet the gaze of their sauna companions with a winning smile, I instinctively felt this would be a gross breach of etiquette and instead fixed my gaze straight ahead. Half an hour later, my colleagues led me in a somewhat catatonic state to the cooling balm of the showers and thereafter the security of my Marks and Spencers underwear.

I've played very little squash since.


Uncle Drew said...

Sounds like he got a real rise out of the situation.

It is refreshing to be comfortable in one's skin, but this only happens when those around you are also comfortable with their body images

As an American living in Hungary, I spend a lot of time in Budapest's thermal baths where people are wonderfully carefree about showing their bodies. This can be delightful as the women, in general, are incredibly attractive, but it can also be scary when men, seemingly with elephantiasis, have on old, threadbare, Speedo swimming trunks.

Mine are not threadbare, but against the conventional Yank wisdom (it's the butt of so many jokes) I do wear a Speedo, because it's the best for real swimming

Uncle Drew
Budacast.hu - Hungary's podcast

Tyler said...

Wow, that sounds dreadful. To have the opportunity to get naked with all those people and not take it. Too bad what all that good British common sense has done to you! :)