Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

When Germans Go Wild


I’ve been spending a lot of time in the pool, a great arena to observe the natives at play. My theory is that Germans love nothing better than a controlled situation where they can rampage. There are the rules, which they observe, but every other possible human nicety is ignored and/or flouted wilfully, carelessly and joyously.

The rules of the pool are thus:

1. Take a shed-load of stuff: a blanket to lie towels upon, second swimming-costumes, towelling dressing gowns, tents, inflatable items, drinks, food, chairs.

2. Find a place to sit as close to another family as possible that you can tell what they had for breakfast.

3. Undress your children, place them in their swimming-gear and cover them in cream.

4. Head for the pool together, bearing your inflatables.

5. When children are tired/wet, remove them from the pool, strip them and place them either in the dry replacement costume which you brought along for this very purpose, or in their towelling dressing-gowns and order them to lie in the sun and warm up.

6. Purchase vast amounts of fried protein and carbs from the restaurant and eat these sitting in the sun.

7. Repeat from point 3.

You will note that the pool rules only cover extra-pool activities. It’s what goes on in the pool that constitutes the wild, where Germans unleash their inner iconoclasts.

Today, we got to the pool early, found a precious place in the shade under the conifers, not too close to anyone else, and went for a swim. There are three pools here in the Burg: the baby pool, the non-swimmers’ pool and the swimmers’ pool. Knowing that the two former would be heaving with children, I headed for the latter to do some laps.

Unfortunately, there was anarchy in the water. You’d think with the way this society embraces rules, the concept of the up lane and the down lane would be firmly in its grasp. You’d be wrong. The swimmers’ pool has ten lanes, which the swimmers gamely ignore. It’s a swim-where-you-will, any-direction, any-speed, random free-for-all. The serious swimmers, and I don’t include myself here, have to overtake embracing couples practising positions best kept for the bedroom, German grannies swimming three abreast and chatting, wild children leaping from the sides onto their heads and clumps of middle-aged people socialising in gangs.  

Leaving the herds of swimming-caps dominating the middle lanes, I headed for the outer lanes. Here children plunged and reared and leapt onto my head and teenage boys made no pretence about ducking under the water in their goggles as I swam past to check out my bikini form.

Now that I think about it, those two large, tattooed, muscled creatures who took breaths and headed under to ogle me submarinely weren’t exactly teenagers. Age aside, it was the blatancy of it, the shamelessness. They could not have been more obvious if they’d tried.

The pool was a great heaving mass of happy German flesh, bounding, leaping, diving, ducking, swimming, chatting, ogling, gossiping, screaming, yelling, and generally having the time of its life. Within the accepted boundaries, there is complete and joyous anarchy.

My children adore the chaos. I’m going to have to find another time to do my laps.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

16 thoughts on “When Germans Go Wild

  1. i’m sorry, i totally laughed! i shouldn’t have–this is your predicament–you have been mercilessly booted out of your own pool. but–the chaos! 🙂

  2. Sorry to hear you’re exiled from your favourite pool. Very frustrating I’m sure. Hope you enjoyed the soccer yesterday though. We were enjoying the atmosphere outside.

  3. This made me smile! I can just picture it.

  4. Had a good giggle reading this post! The joys of the summer holidays!

  5. Your picture of a German pool in summer is the exact picture of a French pool every weekend (oglers included). Are German turning into anarchist French when there’s too much sun?

  6. I had a very similar experience yesterday on points 1-7, thereafter our experiences diverged. You were brave to contemplate lanes! Brilliantly written!

  7. Sounds like a nightmare! I only go to the outdoor pool in the mornings in order to escape the crowds.

  8. I suspect I’m lucky – my part of Lower Saxony seems to supply relatively unchaotic swimming pools (or at least my local one separates two lap lanes from the rest of the chaos!)

    What I do find amusing, though – I am by no means a good swimmer by normal standards…by which I mean the ones I grew up with in Australia. Over here, I’m in the superspeedy category, a novelty I’m rather enjoying. (How do people spend an entire afternoon at the pool without putting their head under the water???)

    I don’t swim in a bikini (I sunburn too easily), so have been thankfully spared the tattooed admirers.

    However, after the very long winter I’m enjoying the sun too much to care about the strange pool anarchy. And anyway, all my attention has to go to interpreting the strange cycling rules here. Do you overtake on the right, the left, or just charge through the crowd? And how many picnic items can you fit in a bike basket without knocking over a fellow cyclist with a baguette?

    Er, hello from a long-time lurker – I’m an Aussie living up near the Dutch border, and I’ve always enjoyed comparing virtual notes.

  9. I think this is the universal public pool experience… it’s certainly ringing a few bells here, and goes a long way toward explaining why it’s been so, so many years since I’ve dipped a foot…

    Hilarious, though, but yes, I’d go very early for laps, and resign yourself to the happy carnage at other times.

  10. it sounds tiring to be a German.

  11. Time to invest in a Mammoth-skin one-piece, methinks 😉

    So true what you say about the rules & chaos thing in Germany though – that’s exactly how I always describe Munich Oktoberfest – rigid rules to be followed and are strictly enforced (no dancing on tables, no ordering drinks unless you are seated etc), but other than that, total chaos. It’s great! Wouldn’t try it in a bikini though…

  12. This is one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages. Thank you, thank you!

  13. Oh lord! I really hate public pools. Actually, I seem to remember queues at supermarkets in Hamburg (or for most other things) having a similar tendency.

  14. hehehe, I just about wet myself laughing! You explained the situation exactly the way I´ve always been wanting to. This Germany is the most upsetting yet hilarious place a person could ever imagine. I decided that a scuba diving course was the thing I would like to try seeing that this place offers everything. So in the middle of winter my girls and I go for scuba classes at the local heated indoor pool at 19:30 in the evenings. And believe it or not the pool (inside) in the middle of winter and pitch black outside still seems horrifyingly familiar to summer (without the sun of course). Thank goodness they have to leave before we start our course. Aaaaaah, the peace and quiet with the instructor and the whole pool to ourselves, it´s like a little bit of heaven………

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  16. This is so perfect, in every way. I saw many areas in Walldorf where the “anarchy” was unleashed , yet you still find, as we see in your post, even in the anarchy there is a structure and process. It is pretty hilarious and your subtle ironic humor comes out very well. I couldn’t help but smile and think about the experiences I had at the gym there, where what I would consider to be Universal rules of polite or civil behavior were just ignored, and also in a repetitive process , especially in the sauna.

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