1. Disposable underwear. It’s excellent for maintaining hygiene and conserving modesty, but utterly disappointing for one’s dignity. The first time you go into a spa and are handed paper pants, asked to put them on and then wait for your therapist, you’ll feel strange, uncomfortable and confused. It doesn’t get any better, but trust us – it’s worth it.
2. The music will be better than you think. You might recognise the relaxing song playing as you have your massage. Where did you hear it before? A mix tape? Could it be in a film, perhaps? From the club? No, it’s a pan pipe version of a Britney Spears song. No other environment plays sounds quite like it and many a time we have been eased into a meditative state trying to work out if we’re listening to a whale song remix of The Beatles or if it’s just relaxing underwater sounds.
3. It might hurt. We are, it should be said, pain-averse cowards, but the simple truth is that spa treatments can hurt. No sooner have you had nearly boiling hot oil poured on your back, you’re invited to step into an icy cold bath. Somebody will explain something about pores and how you’re cleansing the body, but you’ll be too busy hopping from foot to foot saying ‘ooh aah ooh’ and flailing your arms around to really understand the logic.
4. All the senses will be treated. Yes, it feels nice to be massaged. And the free smoothie and fruits taste great. But let the other senses be enriched by a spa visit as well. The biggest treat is for your nose. Spas smell incredible. Perhaps it’s all the aromatherapy oils, maybe it’s the incense burners, and possibly it’s the frequently changed fresh flowers, but the best spas have us wandering around with noses held high and sniffing at every step like a cat going through the bins.
5. No matter how sleepy you feel, it’s not okay to snore. If your de-stress massage is going well then you should start to feel very drowsy. Drifting off to a light and peaceful sleep is not uncommon. But if you happen to have a history of snoring, tell your masseuse beforehand. Nobody wants to hear your nasal rumblings and they should be given permission to give you a pinch to wake you up if it gets too much.
6. Other people are in the spa, respect them. Outside of your treatment room there could well be an inviting and relaxing communal area. There may be herbal teas, a Jacuzzi, plush day beds and probably other people too. Realise that they have come to the spa to relax. Acknowledge their existence, complete ignoring them would be, well, ignorant. But also understand that they probably don’t want to hear about your injured backside, stressful job or views on disposable underwear.
7. Murmuring is odd. Never forget where you are. Tension and stress may very well be being squeezed out of you under the skilful hands of the masseuse. But keep your audible appreciation to a nice polite ‘thank you’ at the end. We’ve known people to murmur appreciatively during a massage. It’s creepy and should be avoided.
8. It’s going to get weird. At any point you could have caviar, chocolate or diamond dust rubbed all over your face while a total stranger comments on the bags under your eyes. Be prepared for strangeness.
9. Know your pressure preference. Not everyone has the same reaction to every treatment. We’ve known big hulking brutes who have been nearly crippled by the gentlest of massages. Alternatively, we know apparent weaklings who demand a full elbow pummelling from their therapist. Find a level you’re comfortable with and enjoy it.
10. Go with the flow. You’re there to relax. But you can’t leave it all in the hands of the spa team. You need to make an effort to chill out a bit as well. That means leaving work messages unanswered, not going straight to a hectic nightclub immediately afterwards, and listening to the advice of the professionals in the spa. Relax, you might just enjoy it.