Americans: Wash Yourselves Before Swimming - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Americans: Wash Yourselves Before Swimming

Published February 3, 2012

A columnist reports on both foreign and local reactions to the ubiquitous Icelandic pool regulation to wash six separate body parts before getting into a public pool.
As most visitors and residents alike are aware, Icelandic public swimming pools will have signs up in the showers telling people to shower naked before swimming, and to especially wash their head, armpits, genitals and feet. A good portion of Americans visiting Iceland are not accustomed to such regulations before entering a pool and, one columnist reports, this is much to the annoyance of the locals.

“What is it with Americans, and why do they refuse to wash properly before entering public pools?” a local friend asks me.
“Why do they insist on showering in their swim suits? You can’t wash properly if you shower in a bathing suit, you know.”

The author attempted to explain that Americans are modest and a bit squeemish about the human body, to which her local friend responded, “Modest Americans? Isn’t it an oxymoron?”
The writer goes on to emphasise for her presumably American audience the importance of abiding the “Shower Naked!” signs, that if you cheat by showering in your swimsuit, or if you do not thorough wash the labeled areas on the diagram, the matter will be taken very seriously by Icelanders. She notes that the washing of the genitals themselves is “a several minute cleansing ritual that most people in New York would only subject themselves to before a really, really hot date. And they wouldn’t, typically, do it in public, unless it was a gym known for “that kind of thing.'”

So, in case you are planning a trip to this stunning country, be prepared.
Before you venture out to indulge in some of the world-renown geothermal soakage in Iceland, practice the essential six-body-part scrubbing method at home.
Heck, to get into the Scandinavian nudity spirit, maybe you could even invite the neighbors to watch.

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