08 August 2007

You can't go to the restroom in Europe

We had dinner at a Spanish restaurant one nite in Antwerp during the World Malacological Congress last month. At one point I needed to get rid of some of the good beer I had been having, I got up and went over to the waitress (she may have been Spanish) and asked for the restroom. Restroom?, she said. Restroom, I said. Restroom?, she said. Then, I thought of saying toilet. Ah, toileta, she said and pointed at the right direction.

A couple of nites later I was having dinner with some colleagues from Great Britain and I was happy I could finally understand them without much trouble. I guess all those nites of watching Monty Python and Mr. Bean were paying off. So anyway, I told them about my difficulty locating the restroom in the restaurant. They said "You can't say restroom or bathroom in Europe. You have to say toilet". Somebody added, "In England you can also say lavatory".

Now I know. If I visit Great Britain one day, I will keep singing to myself the Lumberjack Song so that I won't forget the right word:

I cut down trees, I eat my lunch, I go to the lavatory.
On Wednesdays I go shopping and have buttered scones for tea

Note added later: I have received a friendly reminder that at least one dinner colleague was Welsh not English. Since I have no intention to offend anyone's sensibilities, I have now changed England in the original post to Great Britain. I hope that is more accurate.


Duane said...

I have a good friend, Mike by name, who until a year or so ago always referred to himself as British and said he was from the United Kingdom. But he started referring to himself as English and saying he was from England. When asked why the change, he said, "The bloody Welsh, Irish and Scottish never say they are British or from the UK, so why should I?"

He always says he was going to the lavatory whenever it is necessary to say anything about it at all. Once, one of our Chinese colleagues asked me if I knew where Mike was. I said, "In the laboratory." About an hour later our Chinese colleague, a women, came into my office and asked if I would look in the men's room to see if Mike was okay because he had been away from his office for such a long time. Communications, you have to love it!


Duane, your Chinese colleague misunderstood you probably because you said "LAB-ratory". But if you had said "la-BOR-atory", there wouldn't have been any confusion.

Snail said...

I always assumed that the euphemisms 'restroom' and 'bathroom' were used to avoid offending those sensitive about excretion.

I noticed on my recent journey that some towns in Queensland have now adopted the term 'comfort station'. (Or was it 'comfort stop'? One of the two.)

romunov said...

The loooooooo!

It just struck me - labor-atory *smack*.