Let’s talk about something serious here people….
Switzerland and Sweden – do you really know the difference?
This is how the conversation goes 99% of the time when a Swiss person encounters a foreigner elsewhere in the world.
Guy : So where are you from?
Martin : Switzerland
Guy : Ahh that’s where the hot chicks are from!
Martin : No… that’s Sweden. Switzerland, you know Roger Federer, chocolate, cheese, watches…
Guy : Right! Sorry…how bout IKEA? Isn’t IKEA Swedish?
Martin : Yes it is… but I’m from Switzerland.
Guy : Yeah, yeah, right! Of course….with the capital Stockholm.
But if you are in the 99% relax, don’t sweat it. I have come to witness how our brains cannot differentiate between the two countries and pull the names out interchangeably. Even people who really would know the difference (in a parallel world) make this mistake. Switzerland and Sweden are one and the same! Except no one ever mentions Switzerland. And lately I’ve also discovered that there are more similarities between the two countries than you might be aware of.
You see, we know fantasy of the blond, blue-eyed and tanned, long- limbed creatures from the north who love getting naked in the sauna and like, everywhere else too – well it seems the Swiss are just as comfortable with their nakedity.
While the rest of the world is ogling pictures of topless Kate Moss on holiday in the south of France, some serious nudity is going on in the most unassuming of countries. We thought the Swiss were all about punctual trains, melted cheese and cheap constructible furniture, but apparently there’s more to the place.
Let me tell you people, since joining the gym a week ago, I’ve seen more bare bodies than a night at the Playboy Mansion. And then times that by seven!
The female changing rooms and sauna area is a smorgasbord of Renaissance nudes. Friends are doing it, mothers and daughters are doing it – all creatures great and small – from 18 to 80 and beyond. Is it possible that no one has hang-ups here?
While I’m not against the whole we’re-so-very-European-and-comfortable-with-our-bodies thing, there are a few I’ve come across recently who could do with learning some healthy boundaries.
Imagine my surprise as I innocently walk into the female changing room to be met by a woman bent over right at the entrance, breakfast, lunch and dinner on display, as she towels her toes thoroughly and with abandon. She could have turned 90° for a little modesty, but I guess it’s not in her constitution.
What was that about one person’s freedom ending where the other person’s begins?
There’s just not so much ‘turning away’ going on. The women are more concerned with moisturising thoroughly and abundantly, than about running into their co-workers or primary school friends. Luzern is a small town. Even I have bumped into people I know there – one of them an ex-student and another the Finance Director at the school where I work. I felt awkward because I was in my bathers and he was wearing plastic bags over his shoes as he was given a tour of the pool area. Quelle horreur!
But getting back to being naked… I’ve got nothing against nudity as I said, but usually in life we get a bit of a heads up, a PG rating and whatnot, so we know what to expect.
So it should be at the gym with some sign on the door at least – warning exhibitionists on the loose!
There was definitely some special cases of unrestraint on Monday. Imagine my surprise as I entered the sauna to a woman directly in front of the door with her knees up and open, as if she were posing for the Penthouse Christmas special. Is this really how they roll here in Sweden?
As fascinated as I am and as much as I do love being naked with strangers, the prude in me just wouldn’t bend without caring whose face I was getting in. The prude in me couldn’t carry on a conversation about how nice my friend’s toiletry bag was while we both stood there without a scrap of loincloth or a fig leaf to share between us. Does this really make me a big fat prude?
And I know what you’re wondering, but Martin insists that towels are strategically carried in the men’s change room. But I can’t confirm if this is true or not, as there seems to be a ‘what happens in Vegas’ attitude going on amongst the ladies.
Those crazy Swiss.
Ooh is it getting hot in here?
Let’s settle down a bit…
Diccon Bewes, in his book Swiss Watching, observes that there is an immoderate proportion of Swiss people wearing red shoes around the place. He sees this as an act of non-conformity – like graffiti and queue jumping. Red shoes…pu-lease. While I do love a good generalization, I have found it hard to notice many red shoes around town. Could it be though that all this leg spreading might be the act of rebellion that Brewer spoke of? After all, what’s more radical than a woman not hiding, fearing or caring, not covering up and feeling that free?
And what’s more freeing than celebrating yourself just as you are?
I used to think of the gym as a place you go to torture yourself, both physically and psychologically, but lately I’ve been getting that we-are-the-world- we-are-the-children feeling there.
By letting go of perfection, we liberate ourselves. By revealing what had been hidden, we become invulnerable to our vulnerability. By being unashamed, we become empowered.
And so it is.
Question : Would you also rather go naked than wear fur?