Iceland Mag

2 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Culture

A group of Westfjord residents want to sauna bath naked and demand an end to the "bathing suit insanity” in the municipal pool

By Staff

  • A Swimsuit-war has broken out in the Westfjords Finnish expats in the Westfjords and a group of locals demand the "Sanctity of the Sauna" be respected at the Ísafjörður Municipal pool. Photo/visir.is

A group of 10 people from the Westfjords has written an open letter to the city authorities of Ísafjörður town in the Westfjords, West Iceland, criticizing what they describe as the “insanity” of the swimsuit policy in the sauna of the town pool. The group demands that a sign instructing people to enter the sauna either in their swimwear or wrapped in a towel, be removed and replaced with another sign, requesting people enter the sauna naked.

A grave insult to the cultural and social space of the sauna
The group of letter writers includes seven Finns who live in Ísafjörður and surrounding villages, who are extremely critical of the swimwear rule in the sauna. Demanding people wear a swimsuit in the sauna is “a grave insult to the cultural and social space of the sauna.” Sauna is of course a Finnish cultural institution, and in Finland people go to the sauna in the nude. Demanding people go all dressed up into the sauna is comparable to requiring “drowning your Þorramatur midwinter feast in ketchup”.

The letter points out there is no real need to require swimsuits in the sauna: The sauna in the Ísafjörður municipal pool is separated by gender, one in the women’s locker room and another sauna in the men’s locker room. They point out the demand people wear a swimsuit in the sauna is particularly ironic because just across the next room over, in the showers, there is a second sign, demanding everyone take off their swimsuit before bathing.

Read more: Video: Beware of the Icelandic vigilante shower wardens

Nudity is of course a hot topic at Icelandic swimming pools. As any foreign visitor knows, Icelanders view people who enter the pool without first showering thoroughly in the nude, with contempt and disgust. The letter writers argue that wearing a swimsuit to the sauna is no less disgusting:

“All research shows that dirty and chlorine soaked swimwear, they mop up dirt and bacteria which is then nurtured when you enter the heat, where the filth dissolves and desecrates the löyly [the steam created by the water you throw on the rocks, to immerse yourself in], people’s mouths and noses, bodies and souls, so that they exit the sauna to re-enter the world sick of body and mind, rather than re-energized and brave as they had planned.”

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