Sunday, October 9, 2011

If You Sprinkle When You Tinkle: Strange Swedish Signage

In the course of the many multiple and strange jobs I have had since arriving in Sweden, I have found myself in the professional offices of many a large and rather well-known global Swedish company. I'm not going to name names, but chances are you would recognize the name if you are from Sweden, and probably even if you are from the US.

I also admit that I have spent zero time in any large American companies on American soil. None. So my usual mode of comparison is off here. I'm just making an observation. I will have to leave it to everyone else to give their own personal insight into American companies toilets.

Yes, toilets. Because I have used them in many of these fine establishments I have visited and I continue to be amazed at the strange Swedish signage that intrudes into the most private of actions that might take place at the workplace.

Over the years I have seen signs that I would roughly translate as:

"See that brush over there? Please use it if you make a stinky." (this next to a picture of a little boy with his diaper hanging down)

"Please leave the toilet in the condition you would like to find it."

"Here are some toilet wipes, please use them!"

"For the sake of the environment, please only use one paper towel."

"When washing your hands, please note these areas where germs tend to congregate."

See, before I started reading these signs, I was under the false impression that professional people automatically used the toilet professionally. But NO. Apparently professional people take 10 paper towels after leaving their stinkies all over the place. Apparently the bathroom at Swedish companies is the equivalent to the laundry room in Swedish apartment buildings (here there are signs GALORE - and I once made someone cry when I spoke to them instead of wrote it on a sign).


  1. :) Wonder if any other nation writes notes rather than speaks to people. It is quite weird but cute in a way.

  2. A common sign in the UK in bars and cafes - not the smartest ones! - is

    We aim to please.
    You aim too, please.

  3. You made someone cry? How can you leave that in there without giving more information? :D What happened?

  4. @SteelcityAnna - true, and if it is about bathroom habits, I do get why leaving a note is easier!

    @janerowena - totally makes sense in a bar, totally

    @senchaholic -ha! That's because it sounds much more exciting and dramatic then it really was. I think the woman must have been having a rough day. I came down for my booked laundry time and she had just started using all of the machines. I pointed out that my apartment was booked for this particular time and she insisted that no, hers was. She had the date completely wrong, she had booked for 2 days ago. When I pointed this out, she burst into tears. I got a bit flabbergasted and excused myself. My Swede got annoyed that I didn't insist on her removing all of her laundry on the spot. We had, after all, booked the time. I don't really know what kind of note I would leave in that situation. I didn't even think I was being very confrontational. Ok, well short story got kinda long - lets just stick with 'I made her cry.'

  5. In that situation I feel for both of you!

  6. You know, Swedes write notes since we are too embarrassed to talk to each other. And particular to really "face" each other about not-very-pleasant-things like telling someone we do not like their way... ;-)
    Sorry you had the bad experience of a Swede crying in the laundry room!!!
    BUT, about toilets and toilet habits I think this goes for the US as well. In the work places I´ve been to here it´s very common to find the actual toilet a bit messy AND very often there are no toilet brushes there at all. So even if you would like to clean up you can´t! Very frustrating if you ask me! :-)
    The thing I hate most with the so called restrooms here though is that you can not be private. At All! Since there are always those stupid large restrooms with just a little tiny door that does not go from floor to the feeling but instead covers just a little space. The same with the walls that are around the actual toilets. Resulting in that everyone hears absolutely everything that happens in any of the toilets in this room. Hm.. not always super pleasant if you ask me.... Not that I´m prude, I am not, but passing gas with for example your boss or your colleague next to you is a little to close for me. Also to hear THEm do the same.... And then we should all happily wash our hands standing next to each other afterwards trying to chit chat about things that make us NOT think about what we just heard from each others toilet visits.... ;-) Hm, strange if you ask me. Specially since I find Americans much more prude and easily embarrassed in general about "natural" things. :-)

  7. @saltistjejen - ooh that's true. And then how in some places they even have a crack between the door and the wall so that if you are looking in the mirror you can see into the stall. Swedish bathrooms definately et major plus points for having, often, the sink in the stall and a fully closing door.

    But I really am often a little too fascinated by toilet anthropology - or seeing the crazy kinds of bathrooms they have in different countries. Japan wins hands down. Why the rest of the civilized world does not insist on toilet seat warmers is beyond me (I know, I know - not environmentally friendly - energy efficient - etc.)

  8. I think I have worked at one of these company/I am working (if I would not be on maternity leave)!
    I wonder: how hard it is to actually clean properly a toilet?!?!??!

  9. @aryhann - Ha! It's a small bathroom world!