Swimming culture

Swimming is something we like to do as a family, and individually.

Beardy has happy memories of paddling in the chill waters of the Channel on Winchelsea beach, building castles and flying kites.

I have a constant nostalgia for the crystal-clear, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Spending four years in Greece as a child spoiled me for anywhere else, and I vividly recall the picturesque bays fringed with pine trees, the smooth pebbles hot underfoot in the midday sun, the chirp of the cicadas, the warm sea breeze and delicious cool water.

Swimming is more prosaic these days. For the past two years, I have swum twice a week for fitness. Beardy used to do the same, but hasn’t been able to fit it in for years. As for Serious and Smiley, we took them to the pool before the age of 12 weeks and we have tried to make regular visits since. Come to think of it, Serious was born in a pool, and so would Smiley have been, if she hadn’t been in such a hurry! So one of our priorities when we moved to Belgium was to find a good local pool, and in many ways we have struck lucky. The pool is vast, not too crowded at weekends, and has a water slide to amuse Serious and Smiley.

Of course, it also affords an opportunity to observe and comment on cultural differences. For a start, swimming caps are compulsory. The children look very cute in their rather swish caps – we caved in and bought them because the rented latex ones pull their hair so. Another difference with Blighty: ‘swimming shorts and bermudas’ are forbidden. Apparently this is for reasons of a) hygiene (because men might have been wearing their bermudas all day before coming to the pool) and b) safety (because swimming shorts can conceal weapons (!) such as knives). I don’t know what class of customer they get at our local pool… Anyway, bring on the Speedos, gents!

I suppose I should be grateful. If we had moved to Austria, there would be nude swimming sessions.

I wonder what swimming culture is like in other countries?

37 responses to “Swimming culture

  1. I have always wanted to visit Greece. When I think of swim culture I automatically think of competitive swim! I would love to chill on the beaches of Greece instead, if only for a week!

    • Hello and thanks for dropping in! I see that your family is into swimming in a big way! I think we have some years to go before this is a possibility… my two can’t actually swim without armbands yet.

  2. Swimming here in San Diego is so neat. We have such wonderful places to swim like La Jolla Shores in San Diego. I hope you get a chance to come here and check out our Californian culture.

  3. Yesterday, in a little swimming pool in England, a lady decided to swim backstroke in a dangerous manner, hitting me twice. She forgot to apologise and continued to do backstroke. I would say while most swimmers I’ve come across here are sensible, but some don’t have a sense of awareness and respect to other people’s space (lane hogging, familiar?)

    Well done for Freshly Pressed! This is how I’ve come to your blog.

    • Hi Janet,
      Thanks for visiting my blog! I know what you mean about lane hogging. In the UK, you also get a lot of older swimmers who seem to see the pool as a place to chat and hang around at the end of the lane, blocking the way…
      I love your beautiful craft projects and I’m sure I’ll be visiting your blog again!
      Best wishes from Belgium.

  4. Lots of kids in the rural areas here in Cambodia swim anywhere they can to escape the heat and humidity (sometimes naked but never in speedos). I even saw one do a backflip into the moat of Angkor Wat! I was pretty jealous.

      • Yes I am Greek American. I am taking a year off from college to do several things, one of them being living and volunteering in Cambodia for two months. check out my blog for stories/photos/details. Best, Tassos

  5. In Portugal swimming overlaps the beach-going culture. It seems that from May to October, the entire country’s favorite hobby is sun and sea/river bathing. I lived in the coast for 26 years and heading off to the beach whenever the weather allowed it was almost like a natural instinct. It’s where people hang out. Like sakuratomochan put it: it’s granted. The same goes for the hundreds of river side beaches, lakes and public swimming pools scattered all over the inland regions.
    Places to swim for sport or practices are harder to find and usually crowded. Covered swimming pools are not so abundant, particularly in and around the big cities (which is odd). And the rules are strict. Plastic sandals and swimming cap are compulsory and no one gets near the pool without them. And, yes, men must wear speedos. There’s also an urban myth that most swimming pools have some sort of chlorine that turns pink in contact with pee! ;)

  6. In Queensland Australia, many homes have backyard swimming pools and our main populations are situated around the coastline We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We also have great indoor swimming pool centres used for swimming lessons, squad training and general fitness. Learning to swim at a young age is essential. Sun, Surf and Swimming is the Aussie way and swimming etiquette comes naturally in our usually laid back way.

  7. Great post. I’m doing the Aspire Channel Swim Challenge. Basically, 12 weeks to swim the length of The Channel in your local poll (phew!). I completed the 22 miles in 4 weeks and now I’m doing the return journey. Trying to build to open water swimming but I find the thought quite scary! I think that swimming is a wonderful exercise/pastime and is really relaxing. However, people who don’t know how to use the pool properly and give other folk space can really make the experience quite stressful!

      • Thank you very much!

        I’m doing as a personal challenge – I’ve never been brave enough to do anything like this. It’s also to raise money for spinal charities. The fitness thing is certainly an added bonus. :)

  8. Pingback: Swimming culture | beautifulsimplemeaningful « el chorlitejo patinegro·

  9. Having spent childhood summers on Cape Cod, I’m an ocean guy myself. Something about the ceaseless global currents makes swimming in it a spiritual and healing experience. When I dove in to the New England waters this June, I wondered if it was the same water I frolicked in last January while in Capetown, South Africa, with the teen I mentor. The ocean holds onto and shares the experience of people all around the world. I was glad to introduce my little buddy to it for the first time. Everyone has to experience the ocean!

  10. Very interesting! I can’t even remember the last time I saw a bathing cap (on a person or for sale). We did wear them as children. Many pools have “shower before entering” signs. But does anyone do that?

    • Our local pool not only has ‘shower before entering’ signs, but a shallow pool to cross (to wash feet) and special jets of water (also for feet)! My daughter seems to think the foot pool is a paddling pool, which is not ideal.

  11. In Vancouver, BC (Canada), most men wear swim shorts/trunks, and women, bikinis (for those who don’t have junk in their trunk). We have one nude beach but some still choose to wear a bathing suit there. Compared to Europe we are much more timid about our bodies!

  12. I could swim before I could walk, six months old…so I swim underwater and know I am home. It breaks my heart that I so rarely can now because chlorine is too hard on my lungs and the ocean’s too cold where I live. I enjoy living vicariously through your post though. Thanks.

  13. Pingback: Swimming culture | Aba Language Center·

  14. Reblogged this on Forgive the randomness around me. and commented:
    Swimming is not limited to being one of the famous sports all over the world. Yes, it is what most of us know of it anyway yet, it doesn’t mean that we should take it only as a sport, Swimming is much more than that.

    Swimming is a recreation. It can be a source of happiness, relaxation, family bonding, etc. The coldness of the water, the gentle touch of the water, the tingles the water gives us when we are just about to swim, and others are just some of the things that people look into when it comes to swimming.

    There are so many fun things about swimming that a lot of people have been swimming really often. It is really a fun and healthy way of living. So why not?

  15. I come from a long line of swimmers – what I loved about it, competitively speaking, is that it’s always about improving over yourself. From a recreational and fitness perspective, I honestly believe there is nothing better – the water keeps you cool and safe if your working hard, and who doesn’t like splashing, and turning, and flipping, and diving, and pretending to be sea creatures with your friends and family.

  16. A quick follow-up comment: Belgians loiter at the end of lanes and don’t care a jot that you need somewhere to turn around (whether you can do tumble turns or not), so you end up in an ungainly splashy turn and a resentful expression on your face. Also, the lanes are narrow and they’re not divided into fast and slow. This leads to some very aggressive overtaking manoeuvres. Swimming rage!

  17. Pingback: Family Swim « Mom on the Move·

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