More weird German toilets

Of course one of the most disconcerting things about living abroad is getting used to the toilet culture. Imagine my confusion today, while visiting a client’s offices which had both a male and female sign on the lavatory door, when I went in and found this scene.

weird German toilets

His and hers?

Should I sit one the girls’ throne in the expectation that one of my male colleagues would join me, to use the urinal? Should I use my briefcase as a barricade against the door to repel invaders? What is the etiquette if someone of either sex comes in? Does one strike up conversation? What is the best subject? Should I stick to the weather or move to the more topical ground of digestive health?

The dividing screen provides the absolute minimum level of privacy… but allows for the possibility of eye contact. But what if the man using the urinal is exceptionally tall?

Germans – I need your help here. What is the correct local etiquette in a mixed facility?


Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany

11 responses to “More weird German toilets

  1. brazzy

    Um – I’d expect the door to be lockable in such a setup.

    • But would locking the door be seen as entirely selfish? After all, the facility is clearly intended to be used by more than one at a time…

      • I’m german and wouldn’t see it as selfish. In my understanding, this is a one-person toilet with an added urinal for male users, it’s definitely not intended to be used both at the same time.

      • Not at all, quite the opposite is true: If you would sit down without locking the door then there is the chance of another person walking in, which would create a really awkward situation for both of you.

  2. oh… wow… just WOW!

    I remember the controversy on the tv show Ally Mcbeal – when the law firm had a unisex toilet – but I’m pretty sure it consisted of stalls with doors… just imagine walking in on your male boss doing number twos? Would one wait? Try and use the other option??? Oh, this raises so many ettiquette type questions…

    What sort of company is it? Is it in a NY style legal practice?

    (And on a slightly related note – I read a report in Vanity Fair magazine that said the architects of the Deutsche Bank head quarters in Frankfurt designed the male facilities on the executive floor so that those urinating had a view out the window of their competition’s buildings so they could imagine they were pissing all over them… I guess that’s bankers (as in, rhymes with… “W——” ) for you! ;-))

    • I’m not going to reveal the identity of the client – but they were neither lawyers nor bankers. Nor toilet designers.

    • If it had a lock then I thing it would be expected for you to lock it while in use. I imagine they just put the two different types of fixtures to appease both sexes. The divider is odd…

  3. This reminds me of when a friend was travelling in Germany. She saw a sign that said ‘Herren” and assumed that Her meant women. She went in, stripped to the waist, and washed her hair. Luckily no-one else came in. It wasn’t until she went out and saw the adjacent ‘Damen” sign that she realised her mistake.

  4. Reinhard

    Simple answer: You have to lock the door, otherwise mixed facilities in the lavatory of an office are illegal.

    As you can expect living in a country where even farting will need permission of the authorities sooner or later, there is a genuine law called “Arbeitsstättenverordnung” (that defines requirements places of work like offices, factories, workshops etc. have to fulfill – Article 6 says: „Umkleide-, Wasch- und Toilettenräume sind für Männer und Frauen getrennt einzurichten oder es ist eine getrennte Nutzung zu ermöglichen.“ (what means for an office you need to have separated lavatories for males and females or even to provide separated use).

    Ok, that’s theory so far. Let’s turn to practice now:
    – Lock the door (in fact to avoid illegal use of the lavatory)
    – If it’s urgent and there is no key: Hurry up and good luck! (… and leave a complaint at the Bezirksregierung (district government) in Düsseldorf anyway – it’s the authority in charge of executing the Arbeitsstättenverordnung. Form plus three copies please!)

    Hope this was helpful …

    By the way – still wonder how to keep the lid open while using the urinal …

  5. amm408

    Definitely lock the door…I think they are providing two options…not two options to be used at the same time.

  6. Wombat

    Hi. Your insight on us Germans makes one stop and think about things one may not notice anymore or take for granted, like the loo pic. Nice find.

    Like Reinhard said: Definitely lock the door.

    Dual-use toilets with separate urinals in a single room are not too common. A mixed use is even less common. In your client’s case one explanation could be that they only had limited space for separate facilities? Or it’s an intentional design statement as a gimmick.

    Only once have I seen a setup like in your pic in a private home. It was in the guest toilet of a friend’s house that they had just bought. The previous owner had it installed for both visual effect (uncommon = special) and improved hygiene (Most men just won’t sit down if you only have a throne but rather do some target practice). He even had the divider installed – the argument being that men were used to dividers from public toilets and women would not feel uncomfortable sitting next to a urinal. Needless to say the guest toilet had a lock – and you were expected to use it.

    And Reinhard, the lid will stay open. 🙂 It rests nicely on the push button. Before flushing water you have to close the lid, so you cannot but leave the room in a tidy state for the girls. Fancy gimmick to show off – but not without its charm…

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