I'm attending a humanities conference in Italy in early September. Since the weather is supposed to be good and the venue is close to a beach, some coworkers are already planing to go for a swim together. We generally have a very friendly working atmosphere, a good rapport with each other and hang out together in private, like having a beer from time to time.
I have basically no problems with going to the beach with my colleagues but would indeed find it kind of inappropriate if, for instance, my supervisor would join (I'm female, 28 years old, in case this is relevant). I'm quite insecure how to behave and would like to know:
- Is it generally inappropriate to go for a swim with coworkers (as well as other PhD students)?
- What to do if a person (like i.e. your supervisor) you wouldn't want to come, joins the group after you already agreed to go the beach?
[EDIT] Since questions came up why I could feel uncomfortable about the situation: I think it is always hard to find a good balance between having a friendly and a professional relationship (with my supervisor, but also with other people who are above me in hierarchy). I also regard the relationship between a PhD student and his/her supervisor as a special one, because it is based on asymmetric dependencies but they also work closely together. While I think having a beer or going out together is completely fine and helpful for a working relationship I consider the beach situation as a tightrope walk since people are (obviously) not fully dressed. It might sound a bit prude but I don't regard is as an uncommon thought. Thanks for your answers so far!
Even though I think some answers are really good and helpful I can’t name one that fully answered the problem and I think the discussion shows that this seems to be nearly impossible. Since many comments did not include answers to my question but concerns about my attitude I want to address some points I have noticed and consider as crucial aspects in this discussion:
Firstly, I was surprised that the initial reactions can be classified into two different categories: Either it was said something like “don’t mind, it’s completely natural” or “there must be some vibes between your supervisor and you”. I think the existence of both parties shows that the situation is a little bit more nuanced than that: The fact that some commenters instantly assumed sexual attraction illustrates that the situation might not be as normal and natural as others state.
I think it's fair to say that sexual objectification of women is also present in academia (like anywhere else), and for me it's hard to comprehend that some claim partial nudity in a professional relationship would not play any role at all (obviously, it affects everyone in a different manner and even though I believe that there might be some men/woman who truly don’t care at all about anyone showing whatever, I’d assume it’s a minority). This might be linked to the idea that – as one of you complained – women “think so low of men” and I indeed understand that this might cause discomfort for some men. Unfortunately, this fear doesn’t come out of thin air and is surely based on the fact that most women made unpleasant experiences in this regard.
However, I think it is interesting that this issue came up even though I didn’t directly address it. The motivation why I asked was a feeling of unease because we could be confronted with a situation of which both of us (or anyone else in the group) could feel weird about simply because we show parts of our body (I’m talking about common swimwear) that usually belong to a private and not to a professional sphere. I consider this part of privacy as even more precarious than, for instance, being tipsy with each other, which might happen after having some beers at an evening event.
I assume most commenters to be male and some might feel offended which requires some steps of interpretations of the situation I didn’t mentioned in my question (which does not mean that I didn’t have some of it in mind, see above). I also think this indicates the complexity of the situation and that it is probably not as easy and harmless as some might want it to be.