Idiosyncrasies in American Behavior Healthwise

putzfrauAmericans are OCD about germs. You’ll see hand sterilizers in dormitories, Clorox wipes in homes, and face masks in health clinics. They wash hands obsessively, shower daily, and do laundry compulsively. Yet after living abroad for decades, I cannot help but notice some idiosyncrasies in this behavior.

In Switzerland, guests remove shoes at the door and bring slippers to dinner parties. Even kids comply without question. The no shoe rule applies in some doctors’ offices. My children’s orthodontist provided blue, plastic booties for everyone in his office. Imagine sitting in a crowded waiting room wearing mini shower caps on your feet?

In Europe no one dares enter a sports club or steps on a gym floor without changing to a clean set of sneakers. In my school, kids flunked PE if they failed to leave their shoes on shelves in the corridor before entering the changing room.

Nowhere is the difference in standards more blatant than at health clubs. In France changing stalls are like magic boxes. You enter the stall from the outside fully clothed and abracadabra you step out on the other side in a swimsuit and flip-flops.

One of the biggest absurdities I saw even in the ultra health conscious, St. Paul- Minneapolis area was that people walk into the club wearing their sweats, t-shirts and tennis shoes. They pump iron, ride the bikes, run on treadmills, attend fitness class, and then dash right back out the door in the same sweaty attire to shop at Target.

Even more alarming, they step in the sauna straight from the gym in workout gear while I soak in my swimsuit, the odd man out so to speak. One young woman plopped down in the sauna fully clad in her jeans, sweater, and boots. It gets cold in Minnesota, but really.sauna

Most Americans are modest about their bodies except for that one girl wearing Gucci workout shorts and a halter-top. She turned her backside toward the mirror and snapped a selfie of her booty’s reflection.

But for the most part, the puritan ethic is deeply ingrained. No one undresses openly in public even within the safe confines of the same sex changing rooms. If women do change clothes, they hide behind shower curtains or underneath giant towels.

Bodies of all ages and stages of decline are more exposed on French beaches than in America’s fitness club changing rooms.

As an old athlete, I grew up in the days when the communal shower stall was the status quo. I became even more liberated living in Europe where people sit on towels buck naked in mixed saunas and women go topless on the public beaches

When did the Yankees become so uptight about their bodies?

sauna-2Loosen up, America. Let it all hang out. It is good for the girls to air out now and then. Nobody cares what you look like; people are too busy sneaking peaks at their iPhones.

Besides you can always wash your hands on the way out.

 

 

Thought we needed a lighter look at life this week to brighten our mood.
Now if you really want to lift the spirits try this classic family recipe (Boeuf Bourguignon) from our favorite French Chef.

Posted in family, food, humor, recipes.

17 Comments

  1. Thank you, Pat for this lighthearted diversion from the post-election doom and gloom. It’s a welcomed relief though you won’t find me going “European” on a public beach???? I’ll be checking out your Frenchman’s recipe, too.

    • I thought I needed to write something lighthearted to lift the spirits. I know with your Italian ancestry you will love the recipes from the Old World.

  2. Thank you, Pat for this lighthearted diversion from the post-election doom and gloom. It’s a welcomed relief though you won’t find me going “European” on a public beach???? I’ll be checking out your Frenchman’s recipe, too.

  3. We were in Brazil last year and were surprisd to see women of all ages and sizes clad in bikinis. Although I’m too self-conscious to do likewise, I think it’s very healthy and liberating.

    • Yes, I remember how stunned I was the I first time I went to a beach in France. But my shock was short lived and I soon joined them in going topless. However I was 40 years younger then and besides I have never had much up top to expose. ha ha

    • As an overweight woman, I find it liberating to wear sleeveless ruched sheaths. I wear capris pants which I know make me look heavier but what the heck!

  4. “Loosen up, America. Let it all hang out. It is good for the girls to air out now and then. Nobody cares what you look like; people are too busy sneaking peaks at their iPhones.”

    I got a laugh at this. It surely wouldn’t go unnoticed. Shock and awe is more like it.

    • I haven’t been on a French beach in years, but the next time I go I will see if sunbathers can distract the modern man from the cell phone.

  5. Haha, I have NEVER changed my ‘no shoe zone home’ policy since leaving Switzerland. The servicemen in the UK did not like it one bit on my return to my roots. But oh my goodness, how can people walk off the street and then onto my carpets? I watch my hackles rise if a friend of the girls forgets and I gently remind them of the ‘house rules’. I am a serious neat freak on that level. By the way, I think it’s great that the Europeans let it all hang out. After all, our bodies are merely shells for our true selves. Soooo many women have body issues, even if they are slim and beautiful! As I get older I have to work harder to keep in shape, but have grown to love and nurture my body even when I can’t manage the weekly workouts. A great read Pat ???? xx

    • In defense of Minnesotans, I notice service people here automatically take off their shoes or even wear plastic booties. Probably because they had to plow through 6 feet of snow to get to the door. (kidding) You are right so many women have body issues and it seems to be universal on both sides of the Atlantic. As a dancer, you have always had a beautiful body and with your gracefulness and flexibility you made the work outs appear effortless.

      • You are so very sweet Pat, the effortless qualities I embody are surely hard won! Many, many years of disciplined training, just like your basketball training principles but in a more aesthetic way ???? xx

  6. We always were “shoeless” growing up, Pat. Perhaps it was the carpet in a relatively new home; perhaps my mom just didn’t want to be mopping up mud or snow all the time … who knows? That’s something I can easily get behind. Going topless on a public beach?? No ma’am, this Virgo gal prefers way more modesty, ha!

    • I am not a very good example. I am the worst at taking off my shoes at the door especially now since I have to wear special inserts and my back aches if I go around “shoeless” too long.

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