Cultural differences in swimming halls between Finland and Germany
I am a German exchange student from Neu-Ulm currently studying in Oulu (Finland). My friend started to go to the swimming hall here every Friday morning before the lectures start. As I heard about it I was keen to come with her and from that point on we had a fixed date to go swimming. Every Friday morning we are at the swimming hall at 6.15 am, swim for an hour and added to go to the sauna afterwards for about ten to fifteen minutes.
The first time going there I wondered where the bathing cabins are but in Finland you do not have them. There is an area with some benches to put your stuff there while you get changed and lockers to store it during the time you are swimming. Nobody minds that everyone gets changed in front of each other. Women and men have different changing areas.
In Germany you have bathing cabins to get changed you go in from one side and leave them at the other side to get to the lockers and the showers. For showering the showers are divide for women and men. Most German wear a bathing suit. Here in Finland you shower naked and use soap before entering the swimming pool. I honestly thought that it will be really strange and uncomfortable to get changed when everyone can see me but Finns do not watch you getting changed and talk about your body or how you like. It is just natural for them to do it that way and I really enjoy it. I cannot imagine to do that in Germany as people would criticizes and talk about you with their friends. For us it is very common to have divider between each shower or/and even lockable cabins for showering. After that you take your towel and other things like shower gel, shampoo, etc. and go to the pool area. In Finnish swim halls you leave all those things in the shower-room. You go out there just wearing your bathing suit and maybe swim goggles or other belongings you use during swimming.
The water in Finland has less chlorine then in Germany. I think that is due to the neat showering with soap. The pools have different divided row for either swimming, walking or water sports with an instructor. That is similar to the standards in Germany expect that I think we do not have the water walking row.
Here in Oulu I always swim in a row for one hour just for myself and can relax during that time. You do not feel like there is a competition ongoing who is the fastest swimmer or some kind of that and it is very structured with the different rows. In Germany I often think another person I do not even know wants to show how great he or she is doing her job or/and stimulates you to act different.
After you are done with swimming you go back to the showers. In Finland it usual to have saunas there – every swimming hall has saunas. So we always go there. You are only allowed to go in naked and you take towel with you. But is not used to cover your body only to sit on it. That is totally different to Germany as you either go swimming or to the sauna. Most swimming halls charge you for each activity unlike here where it is together. In Germany you wear your bathing suit in saunas. Home I did not like the idea of going to the sauna. But as it is very typical in Finland to go there so I went and I do not want to miss it anymore –it is so relaxing and enjoyable.
Next we always have a short cold shower and need some water to drink. Then we shower again this time with shower gel and shampoo. This is the same in Germany and in Finland.
For getting changed we go back to the changing area and use all the necessary cosmetics and the hairdryer. In Germany you do the same expect you get changed again in the bathing cabins again and then go out to do the cosmetics and your hair.
Now after reading my blog you should be prepared for going into swimming halls either in Germany or in Finland. I hope you enjoyed reading it and I could be a help for you.
Anna Luethi, exchange student from Neu-Ulm