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2017.06.30 - How to behave at the swimming pool?

How to behave at the swimming pool?

Swimming pools are an exciting place to observe human behaviour. Even if we have more space than seals or penguins at their beaches, there is still something similar between the two situations. We can see great examples of territorial behaviour – protecting one’s territory – when families are camped at the swimming pool just a few centimetres from each other, enjoying the sun, drying themselves and having something to eat. What kind of rules should be followed to turn bathing into great fun and excellent relaxation, instead of constant annoyance and arguments with others at the swimming pool?   

Gellért fürdő hullámmedence

The culture of bathing changed a great deal in the last few centuries and it differs from country to country; plus there is great variation if we examine it in different layers of society. What hasn’t changed and has always had an influence on people’s behavioural patterns when at the swimming pool or the beach is the special situation that a lot of people, wearing very little clothing, are very close to each other, trying to have a good time, attempting to return to some kind of ancient state of freedom and naturalness. It would be easy to say that it is enough to keep one rule: don’t do anything that you don’t want others to do to you. If you don’t want to walk in crisps and cigarette butts, then don’t throw them away yourself. If you don’t want to get sick, you should also wash yourself before going to the swimming pool. If you don’t want others shouting in your ear, you have to be quiet, too.       

Unfortunately all of this isn’t so simple, because the patience levels of people aren’t the same. What is completely natural to me could be outrageous to others. What is scandalous to me could be life itself to another person. 

Széchenyi fürdő


Some of the most debated behavioural patterns are related to nakedness. What is allowed to be shown and when? Is it allowed to change clothes outside of the changing room? If we do it, we show ourselves completely, even if only for a moment. Are little children allowed to run around naked? They are still very little, you know. Is it allowed for women to take off their tops? If men are allowed to do it, why should different rules apply to women? Can I hug and kiss my girlfriend or boyfriend in the pool or next to the pool? We do love each other and finally we can be together without having to feel unease, and although nothing sexual happens, others could be appalled at our behaviour. Can women queue in the snack bar wearing only their bikini or should they wrap a towel around their body? Some say a snack bar is almost a restaurant. Another sensitive issue: is it only people with beautiful bodies who should show themselves to each other? Are we allowed to stare at others at the swimming pool at all? The answer to this question is definite: no, we aren’t. We don’t go to the swimming pool to stare at other people’s bodies, not even if many go there to show themselves.     

Pool lifeguard

Life would be simple if all we could say about how to behave at the swimming pool was: obey what is written in the swimming pool’s rules and regulations. The rules and regulations of a place can’t be applied to every situation and they aren’t even supposed to. The main task of rules and regulations is to specify how the place can be used safely, forbidding types of behaviour which are a direct threat to the health and well-being of people using the swimming pool: let’s not go into the pool without washing our body, when we are ill, when we have a fresh wound, let’s not take any contamination into the water, let’s not jump on others’ heads, let’s not throw the litter on the ground, let’s not smoke, babies should wear waterproof diapers and one must wear a swim cap! There are very few people who actually read the rules and regulations of a swimming pool, but if we take the various signs around the swimming pool seriously, we have already done a lot for enjoying the swimming pool in peace, without annoying one another. There is one fundamental rule, though: the pool lifeguard is always right! If they ask us to behave well, we must obey!           

Talking about rules and regulations: it could happen that there are different rules at different swimming pools, so one thing is allowed at one place but forbidden at another. For instance we are informed through the loudspeaker that not even small children are allowed to be naked at one swimming pool, but the rules and regulations allow this at another.  



When staying at the swimming pool, most of the tension isn’t caused by the nakedness of others, because sometimes we are even happy about it, it isn’t caused by other people being unclean as our immune systems can protect us from many things, but from the feeling of being crammed into a small space, being too close to strangers physically and finding it hard to cope with what they are doing. It is a strange ritual as the people who arrive at the beach or swimming pool are looking for a place to stay: they don’t want to be too far from the pool because then they don’t see their children, but they don’t want to be too close either, because everyone will run through their blankets and there won’t be enough room.  

Large families are forced to lay down their towels just centimetres from each other, and they have to tolerate other families having conversations, listening to music, running through their towels or blankets, covering them in drops of water when coming from the pool – while they are trying to read or to have a nap. If you are in the water or next to it, others are shouting, covering you in water, throwing a ball at you or bumping into you when swimming. One needs to have some kind of tolerance or wisdom to go to the swimming pool and not be annoyed all the time, so that the whole experience doesn’t turn into a comedy movie. Those who can’t stand crowds should look for a quiet place far from the pools, or go on a holiday to a deserted lakeside! All in all, it isn’t impossible to find the golden middle way between not disturbing others and having a good time, respecting others but enjoying what the swimming pool can give to city dwellers on a hot summer day.