I have a happy relationship with swimming pools, in any country I settle down. In this post I tell you my experience with the ones in Geneva.
I practice Linguistic Empathy and I expect you to do the same. Please bear with me if my English is not perfect.
Swimming is the only sport I never get tired of. You can therefore imagine how swimming pools in Geneva were on top of my search list when I first arrived here.
I also love going to the swimming pool because it represents an incredible (inter)cultural experience, especially during the first time in a new country, when we strive to grasp as many details and behavioural codes of local life as possible. It is a deep human experience because in a swimming pool we get naked (in many ways) and we create an intimacy that is not easy to find in other community situations.
I was very lucky in some countries and had a swimming pool in the garden. In Brazzaville, I spent hours in it playing with my first child, and then swimming with my huge belly when I was pregnant with my second one. In Jakarta, I only had to open the door of my room every morning, to dive in the wonderful Balinese-style swimming pool and swim happily.
A true privilege, and a very practical thing. In both cases, however, I missed the contact with people (mostly locals in the swimming pools) that go swimming. This contact has always taught me a lot. I wrote here about the swimming pools in Jerusalem. Every time I read this post again, I am overwhelmed with melancholy and tenderness (for the swimming pool in the East, of course).
When I arrived in Geneva last year, even for short periods and despite the uncertainty that surrounded my stays, I went to the nearest swimming pool in the neighbourhood where I used to live. I happily discovered that in comparison with the crazy cost of life in town, the price of a pass to the swimming pool is ridiculous: the monthly one is cheaper than a four-pin extension!
I therefore got the pass, and for some weeks I truly enjoyed the beautiful Olympic swimming pool where I could go any time I wanted to.
One thing left me perplexed from the first day, though: within the swimming pool space (after leaving the dressing rooms, to be clear), it is forbidden to introduce any sort of shoes. And by this, I also mean the classic rubber flip flops I have been wearing in swimming pools since I was two years old (and all over the world).
The first two times I went swimming, I did not see the sign showing the shoes interdiction. I entered with my wonderful pink Decathlon flip flops and I put them on the steps surround the pool because I saw no flip flops at the borders.
I won’t hide that I was a bit surprised by this, and even more so the second time. Despite being a completely different moment of the day, I saw the same thing as before: a desert of bare feet and no sign of flip flops (apart, of course, from mine).
When I finally understood – i.e., when I saw the sign – I stuck to the rule, and despite being terrified by the idea of slipping, I started moving around barefoot and (falsely) nonchalantly on the tiles.
The first thing I asked when I joined the public swimming pool of my neighbourhood in Geneva was whether flip flops are allowed inside the pool. A bit puzzled, the man answered that there is no problem in using them. So this morning, first time I swam in that swimming pool, I had them with me.
I did not pull them out, though. I did not because immediately after passing the turnstile, a panel, this time well visible and with a clear and threatening prohibition to use shoes, told me that from that moment I could forget to even possess a pair of shoes.
Like all good expats, I looked around to be inspired by what locals do. I saw NO ONE was wearing flip flops. They took off their shoes and socks and happily walked towards the dressing rooms.
Once I shyly entered them, I could again realize that flip flops are an article that is really not considered in swimming pools in Geneva. In return there is a bowl with a huge winking panel that says “anti fungal”. When I opened the tap (of course I wanted a nice anti fungal shower to my feet, given the situation!), the violent spur lasted the time to prepare, eat and digest a fondue.
So I tell myself: why not allowing people to take their flip flops from home and use them in the dressing room and around the swimming pool? They certainly don’t dive with them!
Sure, to be honest in this swimming pool they aren’t forbidden, but hot having seen the shadow of a flip flop on the feet of my fellow swimmers makes me think that flip flops in the swimming pools in Geneva are not well seen. I am still too fresh a guest to challenge this conventions. I only hope not to catch a fungus that makes me regret not having chosen climbing as a sport!