A Tale of Two Toilets

I was in a restaurant in Lucerne, Switzerland, a predominantly German-speaking city. I needed to use the bathroom. One bathroom door said “Toilette Damen,” the other, “Toilette Herren.” There were no symbols for men or women, so I looked back and forth between the two doors in despair.

“Damen” must be for the men, and “Herren” sounds female, like for her. So I pushed open the door that said “Toilette Herren” and saw a wall of urinals, and I immediately realized the error of my thinking. A waitress chuckled as she walked by. “Damen is for women,” she said, smiling.

I walked back to the table and told J what happened. Swiss women must be weird, using urinals, he joked. But it makes sense, he said, because “dame” means lady in German, so “damen” must be plural for ladies.

From this incident, I learned a bit of German. It also reinforced the notion that designs for signs, buttons, etc. should symbols, color, and contextual clues, not just words.

5 interesting facts about Switzerland

I went to Switzerland for vacation. As a tourist, here are things that I found interesting:

  1. King size beds are friend-zone beds. At all the hotels I stayed at, a king bed was just two twin beds pushed together. And instead of having one king-sized comforter, each twin bed had its own twin comforter.

    King bed in Switzerland
    Can you feel the love tonight? Me neither.
  2. When you order coffee, you get expresso. When I asked for an Americano, I was met with blank stares.
  3. Tips are built into restaurant prices. And most meals were ~$30 per person.
  4. Even in the cold, cafés kept dining tables and chairs outside. We ate outside, kept warm by the blankets that were provided.

    Warm and fuzzy blankets to eat in the cold
    Warm and fuzzy blankets to eat in the cold
  5. Every city I went to had an old town, a pedestrian shopping area with cobblestone streets. And every city I went to also had one casino.

    Lucerne's old town, full of new chain stores
    Lucerne’s old town, full of new chain stores