australian culture and customs

find out how australians do things, how we see the world and the world sees us

Swimming in the right (left) lane

The swimming pool, leisure centre, aquatic centre – the local pool.  Australians love swimming.  Have you noticed our Olympic performances over the years in the pool (very impressive)? Did I mention we love to swim?

We also almost all LEARN to swim in primary school with two weeks of classes at the local swimming pool every year over about seven years.  Now that’s a lot of practice. Then there are swimming carnivals every year, playing water sports and going to the pool or the beach every day over summer until we can swim like little dolphins! Why am I going on about this?  Because too many visitors and migrants to Australia drown in our pools and at our beaches because they don’t understand that you need to learn to swim, you can’t just jump in and do it by magic (like other animals can). Find swimming courses here. That said, let me tell you how the Aussie pool culture works…

What will I find at the public pool?

False start lane 8!

False start lane 8! (Photo credit: JohnBanbury)

Firstly they may be indoors and/or outdoors

  • a 50 metre pool with eight lanes for doing laps (swimming up and down and up and down, on and on…) for fitness. Individual lanes are often roped off. This is what we call an Olympic pool because it is the length used in the Olympic games
  • a 25 metre pool which will often be used for swimming lessons or laps and/or just for fun!
  • a toddlers’ pool which is very shallow for little kids to play in safely
  • many pools also have a children’s playground pool with slides and fountains – lots of fun.  Usually only children are allowed on the slides and some other equipment.
  • changerooms where you can change into your swimmers, have a (usually hot) shower, wash your hands, go the toilet and, sometimes, dry your hair.  Nudity in the changerooms is ok in the shower and when changing in or out of your swimmers (but NOT outside of the changeroom).  Most swimming pools have disabled access changerooms which are also available to families
  • a gym (gymnasium) with fitness equipment which may also offer fitness classes, yoga, etc. You will pay extra for these facilities
  • childcare facilities so you can go for a swim or an exercise class while your little ones are cared for (usually costs a few dollars)
  • lockers for your valuables because there is a lot of theft at pools, so don’t take your valuables
  • support to access the pool for disabled users
  • café with hot take away food and snacks
  • sometimes a swim shop with swimmers, goggles and other gear for swimming.  Sometimes you can borrow goggles here

Any rules? Of course – this is Australia and we want you to be safe and sound and not to sue us when you hurt yourself or someone else!  Read the signs around the pool and ask a lifeguard if you aren’t sure.

  • You must supervise your children.  Although most pools have lifeguards who patrol the pools and know how to rescue drowners YOU or a competent adult who can swim, however, are required to supervise your children at all times when they are in the pool (so you cannot leave them if they are under a certain age – check this at the pool)
  • no running around the edge of the pool
  • no diving into shallow water (so you don’t break your neck)
  • don’t urinate in the pool!
  • No boys over six in the female change rooms

Pool etiquette

  • wear bathers or board shorts and no see-through t-shirts for women or mature girls unless you have swimmers underneath

…no ‘perving’!

  • It is not acceptable in Australia to stare at other people (read women and children), especially in a sexual way.
  • You cannot take photos of children that you don’t know (this is to stop perverts and/or child molesters with bad intentions putting images on the internet, etc.)

…when swimming laps

  • swim on the left hand side
  • chose a lane where others are swimming about the same speed you swim
  • only walk in lanes which have a sign which says ‘walking’
  • don’t play in the roped off lanes – they are only for doing laps

The local swimming pool is a very social place in Australia where we meet up with friends and family.  It is now very popular to hold your child’s birthday party at the pool for a small fee.  The pool will often hire your group huge inflatable pool toys for the kids to play on too, which kids love.

Home swimming pools

This is a whole other story. Many homes in Australia have their own swimming pool (they are a lot of work though…) All home swimming pools must be fully fenced with self-closing gates to stop small children getting in unsupervised because drowning is the lead cause of death of children under five in Australia.  Please check out this video for some great tips to stop your child being the next statistic. And it’s not just about pool filters!

For customs, etiquette and a few laughs about the Aussie beach have a look at my post on Aussie beaches

By the way, you don’t often have to share the pool with the ducks!

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