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Monday, July 28, 2008


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I was confused by the French sign--perhaps I don't understand the English. Ok, men were supposed to wear bathing suits, not swim shorts. Is there a difference? I thought swim shorts were bathing suits for men. And that if you were wearing swim shorts you would be wearing a bathing suit--as opposed to wearing street shorts to swim in. Ummm--I'm wondering if I understand why the boys had to resort to T-shirts and briefs--and how that could possibly satisfy the dress code.


You're not alone on the men's swimsuit misconception, and I've a few others to share as well! As for swimsuits, my French husband ALWAYS has worn a Speedo UNDER swim shorts--never the one without the other. Although he looks just fine in a Speedo, he says he never has felt comfortable out in public in them, and he says that swim trunks alone don't provide enough "support", if you know what I mean! I still find this swimwear combo bizarre after almost 15 years together! Our brother-in-law, on the other hand, wears only a Speedo regardless of whether he is in Europe or visiting us in the States, and he is not the least bit flapped by his swimwear choice in either place. A few other misconceptions I had: one would think that all French men drink wine and coffee and smoke. My husband never has smoked--he says its a disgusting habit, especially when the smoker is a woman. As for wine and coffee, he never drank either until after we were married because he never care for their taste. Now, coffee is a daily ritual for him, and wine is enjoyed at least a few times a week. I have to wonder: does this mean I corrupted him, or does it mean I drove him to drinking? Hmmm...


My (French) husband wears a Speedo to swim in, be it at the pool in our AZ retirement community or in the sea at the beach in France. He abhors the American male version of the swimsuit as shorts as'inhygènique'.
This was puzzling to me and at first, I put it down to personal quirk. But I have come to realize that it is a national belief; just as in the past, during my childhood, women and girls were required to wear rubberized bathing caps. (I still have a problem swimming without one and having my hair get wet and plastered in my eyes. It feels 'unnatural'.)
Needless to say, the ladies of our retirement communty get quite a kick out of my husband in his Speedo--he does have a great butt and legs to show off. But the funniest thing to them is that he persists in calling it a "swim-sweet". Hilarious.

Susan Walter

I think the first cultural misconception that should be knocked on the head is that the French are arrogant and rude. As a general rule it could not be further from the truth, and most visitors and foreign residents rarely experience less than friendly kindness. A busy French person may be brusque, and they may be a little impatient when the language barrier gets frustrating, but that happens anywhere.


the term "compostez" displayed on station notices - I knew about compost and was, on first day in France, most impressed that the French should be so environmentally friendly as to admonish travellers to re-cycle their tickets - not knowing it meant to 'validate' or have the time and date stamped on your ticket so you cannot re-use it.


Color me confused. We can't even find swimsuits other than long board shorts for men to swim in. So this place insists on the speedo variety of swimsuits and doesn't allow the American swimtrunks? My husband would love to find some old swimtrunks that are neither tiny speedos nor cold, drippy board shorts.



I would consider this swim suit issue to be one of my weirdest and most unexpected (not to mention hilarious)instances of culture shock as an American living in France. One fine winter evening, my Spanish roommate Miguel and I decided to head on over to the fabulously renovated community pool in Lorient, Brittany with a French colleague and several of her friends. Imagine our surprise when, at the turnstile outside the changing rooms, we noticed a sign indicating that his swim trunks would not be tolerated in the pool. When we questioned our French companions about it, we were told that it was "une question d'hygiène" (although for the life of me I can't figure out how a Speedo is more sanitary than it's looser fitting equivalent). Pursuant this conversation, Miguel was forced by a pool attendant to purchase a brand new bananahammock out of what was essentially an awkward bathing suit vending machine... a process which took about a half hour as he was stressing because he wasn't sure what color/size he needed, and because Miguel isn't one to be rushed in any context.

The sheer ridiculousness of the situation had me stifling laughter for days.

Christine Dashper

I have learnt something today, I wouldn't have imagined Speedos,better known here in Australia as 'budgie smugglers', would be a French preference. Not sure about the hygiene aspect, but I'm all for the boardshorts (swim trunks) with speedos underneath alternative, but there you go, each to his own!


I think that the speedo thing is generational. My French husband would never wear one, and he is 32. On the other hand I dated an Italian once...

Thanks for the sweet post!


I was confused, too, until I read some of the comments. So it's Speedos, yes; swim trunks, no. Weird. (My husband would actually be okay as he favors the former.)


I have loved this entire chain of comments -- and that great entry of yours, Kristen!! Merci encore une fois!!!

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