In an attempt to integrate more than a million migrants and asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan, Germany is trying to instill some rules into the newcomers — and that includes etiquette at swimming pools.
Social worker Hartmuth Kurzhals, who helps runs “Bleib Cool am Pool” (Staying Cool at the Pool), an organization of conflict mediators from immigrant backgrounds, said the team was braced for culture shock at Berlin’s biggest swimming pool as migrants often come there due to its proximity with two refugee shelters.
So in order to avoid any unpleasantness during the swimming season, the group helped refugees learn German pool culture by handing out friendly cartoon pamphlets at refugee centers and swimming pools.
Here a few guidelines included in the pamphlet:
1. “Don’t Touch The Women”
Hundreds of cases of sexual harassment were reported on New Year’s Eve in the German city of Cologne, and many in the public blamed refugees. Therefore, one of the biggest rules in the pool is not to touch women. It seems to be working as one of the refugees, Jaber Zahraldeen, said Syrians and German must learn to respect each other’s culture.
“If Arabs see a woman who wears a bikini, they have to accept it. And if Germans see a woman with a hijab, they have to accept it as well,” Zahraldeen said.
2. “Observe Swimming Pool Hygiene”
Another big concern is pool hygiene. Using public pools requires swimmers to shower but even some German citizens don’t always follow the rule. However, aside from washing one’s body, Germans are concerned with the cleanliness of the cloth that enters water.
This becomes a problem when Muslim women wear long clothes that drag on the ground in the swimming pool. When they come to the edge of the pool to dip their child in, sometimes their clothing dips in the water, which is not very hygienic. That’s why, unlike in France, burkinis are actually encouraged since they are not made of loose cloth that collects dirt.
3. “Know How To Swim”
Nurcan Civelek, a mediator of Turkish background from the group, said he recently saved a 14-year-old Afghani boy from drowning since he did not know how to swim. Many refugees never learn to swim back in their countries and do not consider the danger in jumping into pools and ponds.
“The Syrians don’t keep the rules,” migrant Zahraldeen said. “They just want to jump anywhere. And this attitude plays a part in the statistics.”
Despite concerns of cultural shock, Arne Freudenberg, another social worker at the pool, said the season had been relatively calm and very few sexual harassment incidents were reported in the summer. People mostly complained about insect bites and lost things at the pool.
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