Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cultural Observations: Swimwear

One of the things we enjoy most about all the travel we do is seeing, learning and sometimes even understanding all the different cultures that make up our fabulous world. Luckily, Brian and I are very open minded and operate on an attitude of "live and let live" so there aren't many cultural differences that really bother us. We try to understand, appreciate and respect the differences we run into.

But sometimes . . .

Since we are also scuba divers and dive as often as we can, we've gotten to see the various cultural interpretations of swimwear. Let me try to give you a tour - at least from my rather conservative, midwest America viewpoint.

The thing I notice about American swimwear is that you can only wear a bikini if you have a great body. Any flaws and you need to cover them up. So, there is always a mix of one piece and bikinis among the women - and usually a cover up of some kind nearby. In fact, American women will cover up to go to the toilet, get a fresh towel, order another drink ...
For the men, it's baggy surfer shorts, period. 

The British must have a much healthier body image than us Americans because EVERYONE wears a bikini. I'm not exaggerating or embellishing, EVERYONE wears a bikini. Now, picture your typical vacation anywhere and the variety of body types, ages and degrees of fitness. EVERYONE wears a bikini. It can be a bit overwhelming.
Some of the men wear the baggy surfer shorts, but more often you'll see the dreaded speedo. I know, I'm supposed to try and understand and appreciate, but I just can't. It looks silly and uncomfortable and just shares a little too much. And, unfortunately, just like the women, wearing a speedo is not driven by age, body type or fitness level.
In a way, I admire the confidence of wearing such attire in public, but then again . . .

Other Europeans
Depending on where you are, tops are optional for the ladies  . . . yep, ALL the ladies.

In distinct contrast to the Europeans, the Arabs cover up even when at the beach. Be it an Abaya and then not getting in the water or the burkini, the goal is to stay modest and completely covered. What's a burkini, you ask? Think of a wetsuit with a hood, but made of very thin spandex material. There is  also a kind of skirt to it so it's not too form fitting. Looks terribly uncomfortable, hot and cumbersome.

You can imagine then the culture clash of a beach in Abu Dhabi where you have every nationality you can think of sharing the same area. Luckily, no one tries to go topless, but clearly there are still some misunderstandings as evidenced by the sign like the one below that was posted at the Abu Dhabi Corniche beach a while ago.

Now the question is, who's version of "appropriate swimsuits" do we assume?

No comments:

Post a Comment