Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the Icelandic locker rooms.
As we drove to one of the community thermal pools ready for a relaxing swim, my mom flipped through her Frommer’s book on Iceland that she had picked up at our hostel. Eventually, she stumbled upon an article and began reading to us the proper Icelandic swimming etiquette. My eyes widened in horror as she read aloud, and my palms began to sweat at the awkwardness of the whole thing. Since the pools are not very chlorinated, Icelanders are very concerned about the spreading of germs.
Four Rules for Visitors to Iceland’s Geothermal Pools
Rule one: Leave all shoes outside the locker room on the racks to keep the floors clean. In America, we tend to keep our shoes on inside locker rooms so we don’t pick up some else’s toe jam.
Rule two: Strip down to your birthday suit and stash your towel and swimsuit near the open showers.
Rule three: Shower off and wash the “specified” areas. Then, put your swimsuit on.
Rule four: After swimming, shower again. This time swimsuits are allowed while washing off.
After hearing the rules, I was less than excited to experience this firsthand.
When we walked into the locker room, I tried to stare straight ahead. It was hard to look for a locker because every time you glanced around, gaggles of naked woman would be undressing.
We eventually found a clothed lady that was friendly enough to tell us what to do. When we found a locker, we undressed and wrapped our towels around ourselves, unlike everyone else. We then made our way to the open showers. No curtains or closed stalls of any kind. But luckily, there were three stalls, sadly without curtains, that we snagged as opposed to open showering.
You could feel the Icelanders and the other Europeans, who were accustomed to this, entertainingly watching our uncomfortableness. After washing ourselves, we made a mad dash for our swimsuits and slipped them on over our wet bodies. With relief, I realized our traumatic Icelandic locker room experience was over. Until I remembered that we were going to the Blue Lagoon, another geothermal pool, the next day (Luckily, there were closed stalls at the next place).
I can sadly say, this is a horrifying memory I will carry with me to my grave. I will never get the terrifying images out of my mind that keep me tossing and turning in bed for hours.
If I ever moved to Iceland, I would never swim again.
On our last day on the way to the airport, my dad asked my mom, Riley and me, “So, what did we do in Iceland?”
“Froze our butts off and saw too many naked people!” I responded. I was truly scarred for life from the dramatic experience, in Iceland.
To read the official guidelines:
To visit geothermal pools that don’t require being naked in public, visit Hot Water Beach in New Zealand.