Going to the toilet

One of the questions I am often asked is how to ask someone if they would like to go to the toilet or show them the facilities. Swedish, Sweden and Swedes are very direct and they often feel that they need to be more polite about things of this nature. Zome notes that spring to mind are

  • although the term WC comes from English ‘Water Closet’, it is seldom used nowadays
  • the word rest room is used sometimes in other cultures for a room at the office with a bed so if the person you are talking to looks confused then rephrase. One of my students once collected their Estonian au pair from the airport and asked if she would like to use the restroom. she replied ‘It’s okay, I will do it in the car on the way’. The same applies to ‘cloakroom’

and some general terms

  • would you like to powder your nose (usually women)?
  • would you like to freshen up?
  • do you need to go to the loo? (quite informal so use with people you know)
  • the ladies/gents is over there
  • do you need a technical break?
  • would you like a break of a couple of minutes?
  • would you like to wash your hands?

A note also from my own personal experience. If you have to escort your visitors out because of security restrictions and you only have toilets BEFORE security control on the way out, give them a chance to go to the loo before they leave. They may need to and they may not have another chance for hours. Not everyone is confident enough to ask if they can go to the toilet!

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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