Which Door?  Or, How to Choose the Right Restroom

One unexpected issue for travelers in Europe is making the right choice on approaching the restroom.   Some tips:

In France the “facilities” are almost always identified as “toilettes” or simply WC.  In Spain, however, you may find “aseos” or “lavabos” as well as toilet, but never “baños.”  

Belgian restrooms are often unisex (and there may be just one, with urinals in front and stalls behind, although this is becoming less common).  Even if there are two, both may be intended for use by either sex, on a one-person at at time basis – a little more reassuring to the timid traveler.  Elsewhere there will be two – but what’s behind those doors, a lady or a tiger?  How to choose which door to enter?

Stylized drawings may be the first thing you see.  There are two standard Male and Female shapes attached to such facilities, which are based on the notion that women have a skirt-like shape and men wear trousers.  Leaving aside the cultural discrimination imposed by these standards, let’s proceed to what shapes you might actually see. If the facilities are part of an art museum, you might find portraits from the collection on the doors…That should be fairly simple to figure out.  

Even simpler, you might see C and D on the doors.  This is Caballeros and, Damas or Gentlemen and Ladies.  Another version is H & S, Hombres y Señoras, or Men and Women.   The urge to be creative may override all else, leading to:




Or Mujeres, Women.  I once saw doors adorned solely with a bolt and a screw, respectively.  Cultural assumptions may intervene in a glass-etched door showing only a hand with long fingernails for the ladies’ side.  Be prepared!

© Copyright 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, Richard W. Tripp, Jr.