Okay, here goes. I love bathrooms in Europe. There, it’s out there. I’ve said it.
This, I am thinking, will be a difficult subject to blog about.
The thing is, most bathrooms in Sweden (and in the other parts of Europe I have been in) offer you your own little room where you can get your business done in complete privacy. There’s often a tiny little sink and a commode, and all the supplies you need. It’s quite civilized. (Although it must be said that charging nearly a dollar for the privilege in a public place such as a mall or a bus station seems a little over-priced.)
These unisex, private little Swedish bathrooms also exist in the workplace. At my current job in Stockholm, for example, there are four of them plus a fifth larger one that houses handicap-accessible amenities.
For comparison purposes—in case you’re thinking, what’s the big deal?—most companies in the US offer mens’ and womens’ restrooms that consist of a large room with a varying amount of stalls.
The Swedish version offers a really nice level of privacy. It’s one thing to be out in public and sharing a large public bathroom but when you’re at work, there are certain things you don’t want to share with your co-workers.
At my previous work in San Francisco, the stall doors were just long enough so that it was difficult to tell if the stall was occupied or not (but they didn’t reach the floor). The lock gave no indication from the outside whether someone was in there. So people could get into uncomfortable little scenarios where they rattled a stall door lock to see if it was occupied, it would be, and then they would come face to face a few minutes later with their boss. Or their boss’ boss…Oops, didn’t mean to disturb you.
And that bathroom was quiet. I mean, dead quiet! They needed to rig up some sort of artificial, ambient noise or something. Everyone noticed it. You could hear a cotton ball drop on the floor, for goodness’ sake.
Once a co-worker commented to me that the bathroom stalls were so narrow that the bathroom felt like a “veal farm.” I was never able to get that out of my mind again.
And let’s face it, there are certain things you don’t want to find out about your co-workers, such as whether they use soap to wash their hands. (Maybe you’re thinking that you do want that information. Not me. Ignorance is bliss. I prefer to assume my co-workers are making good choices.)
These Swedish bathrooms are extra nice to have in the workplace. Privacy is maintained and there’s no danger of TMI -“too much information.”