When my partner gave me a gift massage at a special spa in Germany where we were visiting, I was thrilled. Ah…what more can you ask for?
It turned out to be one of the most stressful relaxation activities I ever engaged in. I got to the spa, expecting a female masseuse (I’m female in my 50s and more comfortable with a woman)-and the masseuse turned out to be a man.
The next surprise was when he told me to take my clothes off (while he stepped out of the room) and didn’t offer me any kind of blanket—which I was used to getting in the US when I went for a massage). So I guiltily rummaged through his drawers until I found a sheet like the one on the table that I was supposed to lie on-and used that to cover myself with. As I found out, the Europeans aren’t usually as modest as we are in the US.
1. Find out exactly what kind of massage you’ll be getting-Swedish, Thai, etc. There are many different types and they serve different purposes. Some are gentle; some use a lot of oil; some use a lot of pressure. Find out what to expect.
2. Get to your appointment early so you can relax before the massage. That means find out exactly how to get to your destination. If this is your first time visiting this country, find out the directions the day before your massage.
3. If it matters to you, request a male or female masseuse at the time you book the massage. When you arrive for your massage, it may be too late (as it was for me).
4. If you’re very shy about lying naked on a massage table, you may want to forgo the massage-or be assertive enough to ask for a sheet or blanket.
5. Most massages start with rubbing oil onto your scalp and/or face. If this doesn’t appeal to you, let the masseuse know before he/s she begins.
6. If there is an area of your body which is injured or is sensitive, tell the masseuse before he/she starts. There are some injuries or conditions that can be made worse by massaging them.
7. If you find the masseuse is applying too much pressure and the massage actually hurts, don’t grit your teeth and bear it; this totally defeats the point of a massage being a relaxing experience. If it hurts, ask the masseuse to go a little lighter.
8. Tips for services vary from one country to the next. Find out what a typical tip is for a massage abroad. By knowing what you’re expected to pay, you’ll greatly reduce your stress level at the end of the massage.
9. Plan to relax after the massage to reap the full benefits of it. Don’t plan on having to rush out of the spa and take in a full, fast-paced day of touring. Plan the massage so that it really accomplished what it’s supposed to: relaxation.
Look at the massage as an interesting and potentially very enjoyable experience. If it’s different than the kind of massages you’re used to at home, then all the better: things should be different when you’re traveling abroad.
Ilene Springer is author of An-American-in-Malta.com and on vacation in NYC, visiting her daughters.