Things you wouldn’t know…


… if it wasn’t for me! YOU’RE WELCOME!

As an expat, living in a different country away from home, you encounter a whole lot of things that are just different from what you’re used to. Some things are significant, others barely noticeable.
Still, in many regards you really don’t expect for things to be different and there are a whole lot of things that we completely subconsciously take for granted to be the way that we know them to be, not wasting a second thought on the slightest possibility that things might be different some place else.

This might – or might not – become a new weekly feature post here on this blog (I haven’t decided yet if I am really that dedicated and/or if I might run out of things to write about sooner than you can say “I told you so”), but it might be entertaining and you actually might learn something, too.
Because unless you have traveled to Europe (which some of you have and I’d be especially interested in your opinion on the matter!), you wouldn’t really know about all the little things that I’ve been encountering on a daily basis since I set foot on American soil that are just not the way I used to know them (although I am pretty used to them by now!).

Today I’ll entertain you with something that pretty much bothers me on a regular basis. Maybe you can already take a guess on what I might be talking about from the images at the top of this post.

Indeed. Restrooms.

There are two distinct peculiarities that instantly struck me when I first used a public restroom (with multiple stalls) in the US.

a) Why is there always a (huge) gap between the door and the door frame? This makes it highly awkward and almost impossible to get some temporary privacy while you’re doing your business. You know, I honestly believed that people could pretty much see everything that I was doing through those gaps (and HELLO?, maybe I am not imagining this, maybe they really can, which means I can, too. And that is TMI!)

b) Why aren’t there any “vacant” or “occupied” signs (they don’t have to be as pretty and colorful as on the images above, mind you.) on the outside of the bathroom stalls? Is that some sort of conspiratorial exercise setup, to have to bend down to see if somebody is using the stall (or, alternatively, trying to peep through the gaps around the door)?

In Germany, bathroom stalls in public restrooms might not always have walls and doors that go completely down to line up with the floor, though in many places that is pretty much the case (pay attention next time you use a restroom at a European airport!), but there are definitely no gaps between the doors and the door frames and it is very, very likely that you’ll see a vacant/occupied sign integrated with the door lock.

Since using a public bathroom is not the most pleasant thing that comes to mind, wouldn’t it be nice to have at least the most privacy humanly possible in this situation? Raise your hand Leave a comment if you agree.

Before I leave you to your own thoughts regarding this matter, I thought it would be nice to describe my approach to the dilemma and then you share your tactics in the restroom, mmkay?

So, whenever I need to use the restroom at work (oh, which is only about 8x per day, because of all the coffee/tea/water that I (try to) drink), I usually enter the restroom listening for any noise coming from the restroom stalls.
If there is somebody there, I usually fall into a brisk walk and make for the second stall, lightly tapping my finger on stall No. 1 in passing to see if the door gives way. (Thank God, the doors open inwardly; contrary to the restroom doors in Europe).
If it does, I stop abruptly mid-movement and slide into stall No.1. Otherwise I repeat the same on door No.2. I’d imagine for somebody watching, it would look kind of awkward, but this is better than banging on the door and better than peeping through the gaps or bending down to count feet.

What’s your approach?
Do you peep through the cracks? Do you bend down?
Do share!

  1. hahaha, funny topic. But first: I LOVE the Greta picture! So adorable.

    I approach it like you, I tap my fingers on the doors and see if they open, but I usually start at the end and work my way backwards. I am just convinced that less people will have sat on the last toilet than on the first. At least that’s what I like to believe!

  2. Ha ha, that post made me laugh. :-)
    In Germany, as you mentioned, that is not a problem at all.

    During our holiday in the US last year I usually went right for the last stall, as Susi mentioned above.
    I definitely didn’t bend down or looked through the gaps!!!
    Wouldn’t want that someone is looking through a gap when I am on the toilet as well.
    .-= Steffi´s last blog ..Progress =-.

  3. OMG YOU’RE RIGHT! i’m very private when it comes to that kinda “business” and have a hard time relaxing in a strange environment as it is – the cracked doors in the US certainly don’t make it better… so if the doors of the unoccupied stalls aren’t gaping open anyway – which luckily a lot of times they are – i just walk by and tap on the door as well to see if one will magically open :)

    oh and another bathroom-topic for you: the water-level in the toilet. good thing or bad? i mean, there is that “splashing” problem in the US but on the other hand, the “drowning” of #2 takes somewhat care of the smelly part… (i’m sorry if that’s TMI here but i’m REALLY, honestly curious and you know how i roll :)) what do you think? :D
    .-= kim´s last blog ..Protected: breathing =-.

  4. I will check under the door for shoes to check to see if the stall is free. I don’t like public bathrooms, but…..they are a human necessity!
    .-= Maribeth´s last blog ..No Joke, It’s April 1st =-.

  5. You are sooo right. I hate to have no privacy in public bathrooms and I try also to use the last in the row ;) At work I reach out for the one for handicapped people because the gap is not that huge….

  6. I’m with you on the light tap to see if it will open. But the peeping underneat is always a good backup!
    .-= LiLu´s last blog ..TMI Thursday: Monday Strikes Again… In The Vagine. =-.

  7. Before I was pregnant, I NEVER used public bathrooms – they’re just disgusting! Now I have to use them all the time :( I do the same as you with the door tapping thing. I used to peak under for shoes but I can’t bend that far these days so it doesn’t work anymore! If there’s someone else in a bathroom with multiple stalls I’ll use the toilet a few stalls down from the occupied one – I don’t really know why, it’s just what I do.

  8. I usually go for the ones that are wide open. Most of the time – if not always – empty, unlocked bathroom stall doors don’t stay closed = problem solved. :)
    .-= Stefanie´s last blog ..Patience. Oh, patience. =-.

  9. I LOVED that you shared this with us!! I was so confused when I first moved to Canada – in England they have proper doors that close all the way with handy vacant signs and no GAPS too!! I still haven’t figured it out – sometimes I’ll push on a door and somebody’s inside and then I feel awkward because they totally look through the gap and I feel like a perv!!
    .-= Emily Jane´s last blog ..Lean On Me =-.

  10. If everybody uses the last stall I am going to use the first one from now on! :)
    Funny Post. I love it!

    1. Haha… that’s my way of thinking! Since everyone’s using the last stall, I am always going for the first one! :)

      P.S. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I check under the stalls and count feet and listen for noise. I did read somewhere that the first stalls tend to be cleaner because fewer people use them, although who knows how much the germ level really differs…
    .-= terra´s last blog ..Spring Fever, Ch-ch-changes, and FLOWERS! =-.

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