Wednesday, 31 March 2010

It's good to talk; just do it quietly.

Today, I am glad to say, I am feeling quite chilled. Mellow. Calm. Why? Well, I’ve got a week off work (Smug? Me? Never!) and I started it with a long weekend with friends at Centre Parcs. Not only was much fun (and alcohol) had, but we made the wise decision of upgrading to a deluxe villa with our own private sauna, steam room and hot tub.

And then, of course, there was the on-site spa. I started the weekend with a scalp massage (strange but good) and rounded it off with three hours exploring the numerous steam rooms, salt water pool and shower “experiences” of Aqua Sana. Aaaah, bliss.

However, I can’t ignore a little niggle at the back of my mind. That niggle being the question of Spa Etiquette. My idea of a good time in a spa is relaxing in various hot and humid rooms with your mates, enjoying their company while respecting the aura of peace and harmony. I don’t expect complete silence in a spa, but I do expect people to keep, well, quiet. By all means, catch up with your chums, ask them for a bit of boyfriend advice and run your career plan past them, but keep your voice below a certain number of decibels.

Unfortunately, not everyone can follow these simple rules. They think it is acceptable to screech at each other while trying out the ice fountain. Apparently they aren’t expecting it to be cold, but even if it is news to you that ice tends to hover around zero degrees, I don’t want to hear about it. Not from the other end of the spa, anyway.

Oh, and then there’s the protocol to follow when you enter a sauna or steam room that someone else is already using. Rather than shushing each other loudly and giggling, why not show others a little respect? And when they sit up when you come in, it’s because they want to make sure there is room for you and your gaggle, not because they have a problem with sharing the room with you. And yes, when you slag off other spa-goers for being snobs for the above, I suggest you do it when you leave the spa – because you are clearly incapable of doing it quietly.

On the drive back from our little jolly, my friend commented that her boyfriend left early because the level of noise was off-putting for him. I agreed the spa was a little busy and some people didn’t quite grasp the concept of tranquillity. “It’s not that I mind people talking,” I continued. “I just expect people to talk to each other quietly.”

My friend looked at me. “Yes, but the spa did have signs all over it saying 'Ssh, be quiet'. People go there to relax, not to listen to other people talking.”

Now, that made me feel bad. I had been quite happily chatting away to the pair of them (in hushed tones, of course) throughout the session. Well, before they both went off on their own. Ooops.

So I am now left a little confused. Although I agree that spas should be relaxing places, surely you are permitted to talk? I like a bit of peace and quiet as much as the next spa-goer, but three hours is a long time to spend with your friends without talking. And what happens if you go to a spa for a whole day? Or even a weekend? Do you have to use sign language or pass each other notes to communicate?

My point is: I think to enjoy a spa experience you need to get the balance right. By all means, have a good time; just keep the volume down. And if you really need silence in order to relax, as far as I’m concerned you’re better off having a candle-lit bath. Human beings are sociable animals after all, and appreciate each other’s company. Read more by Shelly.