Friday, August 11, 2006

Swimming in Scandinavia

Scandinavians love to be outdoors. This is expressed in outdoor cafes, eating in the backyard under the trees, hiking, camping, boating, swimming, and more.

Swimming opens up questions about how much of the body to expose. Different cultures have different mores, of course. In some cultures, very little of the woman's body is exposed outside her home. In others, near nudity is the norm. No one seems to care too much about men's bodies.

Scandinavians appear to be quite casual about this. When it came time to changing to swimming clothes, we observed people just simply wrapping a towel around themselves and making the change. The little people just peeled their clothes off and ran off to swim without the encumbrance of any kind of clothing. I have one memory of one little blond-haired four year old doll looking back at me as she walked along the dock wearing a happy smile, googles and nothing else.

I didn't have a big enough towel, so I just went a short ways into the bushes and affected the appropriate changes in attire. No one seems to pay any attention to these goings on, or what others are wearing or not wearing. Underwear in these settings seems to count almost as much as normal outer wear.

Scandinavia seems to have a reputation as a sex-crazed part of the world. While we have lived in the bubble of the church, for the most part, we have never really seen that. What we have seen is a society that is quite a bit more at ease about their bodies than we Americans. Of course, we Americans look like libertines to some cultures.

People often leave their shades open, even after dark, for example. No one seems to look. It just doesn't seem to be interesting, and it is probably considered rude to look. I think that's key to much of this: what we are doing or wearing is our business, and it is not polite to intrude into our personal space by staring.

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