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Interesting signs from Europe

October 5, 2009
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Here are some interesting signs that I saw during my trip to Europe. Some of them have light humour, some are refreshing and some are…well, just interesting. They may be part and parcel of daily life for those who live abroad, but not for me. The real amusing signs were in Britain, and I think the British have a great sense of humour and are friendly too. This I found not only by reading public messages but also in my interaction with the people.

I spotted the sign below in Bangor, a small town in Wales. As you can see it’s the outside of a shoe shop. A lot of the shoes were kept on tables outside on the pavement. We know how it is in India. Shoplifters are almost never prosecuted. In fact the shopkeepers let them off with a simple warning. Why overwork the police and overcrowd the prisons!!

This sign which I saw in London may seem pretty innocuous to those who live there, but to me there was something sinister in it. I am sure the police mean what they say. In India I cannot imagine the police ever touching a cycle, however badly it is parked. But maybe this has nothing to do with being strict with all vehicles, including cycles, because this sign was in a street near Buckingham palace. A major tourist area, buzzing with crowds through the day.

The picture below was taken in Zurich, Switzerland. It shows the police taking a photograph of a wrongly parked vehicle. Evidence to confront the wrong-doer! Therefore, less arguing once the fine is imposed. In India, vehicles parked a little off the parking line are never penalised. And a photo does not brook any argument! Ask me, I always argue with the police! In India ofcourse.

The photograph below was taken near Buckingham palace in London. It’s a warning to thieves (like the first one in this post) and such signs are unlike most signs in other parts of Europe which warn the public about thieves and pick-pockets, not the thieves themselves. Just in case the image is not clear, the warning here says: CRIME PREVENTION ADVICE. THIEVES BEWARE, PLAIN CLOTHES POLICE OFFICERS ARE OPERATING IN THIS AREA.

The sign below was seen outside a pub in Bangor, Wales, and it warns teens about drinking if they are underage but it’s done in a humorous and light-hearted way. The sign says: If you are lucky enough to look under 21 you will be asked to prove that you are over 18.

Outside the same pub was this sign which tells you that making noise inside the pub is one thing, but disturbing the peace quite another. Overall I found that consideration for other people was the most in Britain. I did not see that much of it in France, and certainly not in Switzerland. But more about that later, in another post, where I will be writing about my impressions of the people in the countries I traveled to.

Self-service is a common concept in the west, but in India it is still catching on. We are used to picking up our trays and dumping the trash in the bin at Macdonalds, but self-service restaurants are very common in Europe. The next picture was taken at a self-service eatery near Lucerne, Switzerland, where one doesn’t have to just pick up one’s tray, but also pick up any crumbs from the table. The sign orders: PLEASE CLEAN THE TABLE. Inside some toilets in Switzerland I found a dispenser to clean the toilet seat after using the toilet. One had to do it manually.

In Switzerland there was no public toilet at two major railway stations – Bern and Zurich. However there was a company which called itself McClean where one had to pay 2 Swiss Francs (roughly equivalent to 2 dollars or Rs 100/-) to access their toilets, which were not that clean anyway. The strange thing was that if one accessed the “Pissoir” (Urinal) one had to pay just 1Fr, but as you might have guessed, it was for men only. The women had to go to the 2Fr one. The trains did have toilets, but these two major stations didn’t, and this was an inconvenience. However smaller rail stations in Switzerland had free public toilets.

That was just a little something I came up with. Am still a little tired from my trip and not completely back in the blogging world. Got loads of email to check! I hope to post again at the end of the week if I can manage the time.

Related Viewing (all photo posts):
Funny signs in India
Pune signboards (Puneri Patya)
A funny battered car
Sweet Salted Translations
Seeing India through the eyes of Amul

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59 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2009 1:16 pm

    Incredible!!! Cant wait to read about the rest of your trip… BTW, no public bathrooms!?? Thats quite strange!

  2. October 5, 2009 1:25 pm

    Interesting Nita. I will be touring Austria, Switzerland and Spain later this month, and some of these tips will be helpful for me (no toilets in Zurich station? How ridiculous is that!!).

    Thanks! and looking forward to your other travelogues – esp the Swiss one(I can do with all info I get :)

  3. October 5, 2009 1:45 pm

    I think we are all shocked by no toilets at the Zurich station! Enjoyed the signs … :) It’s great to see you back :) Look forward to reading more about your trip!! :)

  4. October 5, 2009 2:46 pm

    Welcome back Nita.. Nice way 2 break the break :)

  5. October 5, 2009 2:47 pm

    Great to see you back! Funny and interesting signs…Waiting for a more detailed post…

  6. wishtobeanon permalink
    October 5, 2009 6:01 pm

    Good to see you back, Nita. Hope you had a great vacation!

  7. October 5, 2009 6:16 pm

    Nita: Great you are back (which is odd since you were back here some days ago). It amuses me to know that someone notices these signs enough to take photos :-) Witty signs are quite common across the UK. Why antagonise all customers and why not make them giggle anyway?

    Oh and those consideration signs outside pubs? They make no difference to drunk people leaving late in the night. Every pub and night club in Edinburgh had that sign; and only the sleeper knows whether it really makes a difference..

    Looking forward to more of your posts.

  8. October 5, 2009 6:22 pm

    Very much interesting! :-) Looking for your detailed post on the trip.

  9. October 5, 2009 6:34 pm

    heyy welcome back! U went on an Europe Tour? wow! *envious* :) glad to have you back!

  10. October 5, 2009 7:15 pm

    Everything is similar to the states, except the last one. To P or not to P becomes the question.

  11. Steven Harris permalink
    October 5, 2009 7:59 pm

    IN Britain most people ignore the signs asking them to be considerate towards the neighbours? And plenty of people ignore the ones about shoplifting too – shops who threaten that they always prosecute rarely actually do, and the shoplifters know that. If they really did prosecute every time, they wouldn’t bother with a sign.
    http://doctorbeatnik.wordpress.com/

  12. October 5, 2009 8:02 pm

    I am surprised that, you were surprised at such signs-boards.
    For a Punekar, you must be used to similar “Puneri Paatyaa”, which are equally humorous, if not more.
    GOD Bless :)

  13. Frances Bean permalink
    October 5, 2009 8:12 pm

    Wow. I live in the US and you would never see a pay toilet here, though it might help with the toilet shortages is public places in Manhattan. The only common self service restaurants here are usually fast food places, like Mcdonalds, and Americans are too lazy to clean up after themselves most of the time, ha ha!

  14. utherdoul permalink
    October 5, 2009 8:53 pm

    Pay-toilets are fairly common around London, particularly in most train and bus stations. You generally pay from 20p – 50p. In some shops you have to pay, too… Interesting post.

  15. Daniel Delgado-White permalink
    October 5, 2009 9:02 pm

    Interesting..! I’ll keep that on mind next time I plan on a vacation there…! maybe..

  16. October 5, 2009 9:05 pm

    Welcome back Nita.. :)

  17. October 5, 2009 9:07 pm

    Welcome back and hope you had a great trip.

    Will be fun to read about your experiences.

  18. randomischief permalink
    October 5, 2009 10:09 pm

    Very interesting signs indeed! You should look up signs in China and laugh at the expression of English!

  19. October 5, 2009 10:49 pm

    “Inside some toilets in Switzerland I found a dispenser to clean the toilet seat after using the toilet. One had to do it manually.”

    Er, what does that mean, Nita :)? How does one clean a toilet-seat other than ‘manually’? Is there any other way?

    • October 6, 2009 1:21 pm

      Some toilet seats – in Japan – disinfect themselves.

  20. Rixard permalink
    October 5, 2009 11:02 pm

    I found the sign requesting that people clean their table before leaving rather amusing.
    In Toronto, and much of the rest of Canada, people automatically clear their tables in the fast food restaurants without prompting.
    I never thought about this until I went to London and was surprised at the state of one fast food restarant in Picadilly.

  21. October 5, 2009 11:11 pm

    welcome back. very interesting signs you have spotted. :)

  22. October 5, 2009 11:46 pm

    really fun stuff.

  23. Godiva permalink
    October 6, 2009 12:19 am

    Hi, I just like to say that the system of McClean is fairly common by now in Germany as well. There are “no public” toilets because McClean replaces all public once. In fact also in the still operating public ones you are expected to “leave” a tip. Here they are just more open with paying and it frees up public money the cities use else where. I also like to add that despite your experience with cleaness these are usually much more cleaner that the public ones. I had some quite horrible experiences there *g*

  24. October 6, 2009 12:35 am

    So Europeans are no different from Punekars, huh???

  25. October 6, 2009 12:58 am

    Did you see the dudes on those tiny tricycle-looking things, pulling a huge advertisement on wheels? THOSE were hysterical.

  26. October 6, 2009 1:10 am

    mummyjaan, in many countries you get toilet seats that rotate – and in rotating they clean the seat with a disinfectant.
    This is pretty popolar in Germany – where most of not all Motorway Service stations have this sort of system (usually for the entrance fee of 50 Euro Cents).
    Simon

  27. theprettyproject permalink
    October 6, 2009 3:26 am

    I love the “In Consideration of Our Neighbors” one. How funny is that?! :)

    http://www.theprettyproject.com

  28. October 6, 2009 9:01 am

    Nova, IHM, thanks. I think in Europe they make us pay for going to P, at least that is what one hears from other other comments here. Its not so good for us Indians as we earn in rupees and for us a P can be very expensive!

    Kiran, sraboneyghose, Jo, Mavin, thanks.I will be writing a short note on my trip soon.

    Vipul, Reema, Daniel, hinduonline, , :)

    wishtobeanon, yes I did, but I was glad to be back to this wonderful ole place. India!!!

    Shefaly, thanks. I guess human beings all over the world are the same really! rules are meant to be broken eh.

    Ruthvick, Frances, I think the US seems to be a better place!

    Steven, humm thats a point. I guess the sign is just to scare people.

    Khalil, more humourous I should say!

    utherdoul, I think 20p seems reasonable to me. But to pay a pound or more? Criminal!

  29. October 6, 2009 9:13 am

    randomischief, yeah I have seen some of those. They are hilarious.

    mummyjaan, a reader has explained your point. You see over there probably due to a shortage of people, everything is mechanized.

    Rixard, I think the more crowded the city, the greater the chance that people will feel anonymous and feel free to do what they want.

    Xylene, humanitas remedium, theprettyproject, :)

    Godiva, I made that remark about mclean because I was pretty pissed off. :) Actually, considering that there is an attendant at mcleans every minute of the day, the place was not that clean. I visited many many toilets across Switzerland and none of them had an attendant but even then the places were fairly clean.

    Guru, I guess they are in many ways. I will be writing this in my next post.

    Jessica, I saw that, once. But overall I found less hoardings etc there and I guess that is because of the rules about the city.

    Simon, thanks.

    • October 6, 2009 2:45 pm

      Do write more about your Europe trip when you get the time, Nita. I’m sure your trip will make for some very interesting posts!

  30. October 6, 2009 9:29 am

    Nita,welcome back.Hope you had a good trip and have got over the Jet lag.
    These pictures speak of the real character of Europe.
    It is impressive to see the police taking pics of wrong parked cars.
    There is so much we can learn from them.They have a law,they have means and intentions to implement the law,everyone,irrespective of position is equal before law.
    Can we try and come closer these to our reality?

  31. October 6, 2009 9:37 am

    That was cool dear, the narration with photo’s.. And you do roam around with an intution that you will get something interesting on your way?

    BTW, the narration is reaaly good and keeps us glued!

  32. October 6, 2009 10:33 am

    Isn’t it always the small differences that stand out most?

  33. October 6, 2009 10:34 am

    The worst part about Europe is having to fork over money to pee!! haha
    I remember having to go so bad sometimes I would wait until I knew we were having food somewhere so I could use the restaurant washroom for free. One day I waited until we got to where we were to pee and I walk to the washroom in the restaurant and there is a turnstile asking for 1 pound before it would let me enter and I was so frustrated.
    You never factor peeing into the budget!

    I also love the sign photography I definitely take pictures of funny signs, good idea for a next blog!

    Have a lovely evening.

  34. Dev permalink
    October 6, 2009 10:49 am

    Nita, glad to know that you visited Europe..hope you had a wonderful trip. It was interesting to read your tid bits about different countries you visited there. Will look forward to read more of your personal experiences in these countries.

  35. October 6, 2009 11:11 am

    Welcome back :) Liked the beer one the best :D

  36. October 6, 2009 12:03 pm

    Nice to have you back, Nita. I really missed your posts. :)

  37. October 6, 2009 12:36 pm

    Hi Nita, so great to know you are back!! Hope the trip was successful in every extend.
    And I am looking forward to your comparative cultural posts on Europe!!! – this first one is already a treat.

  38. October 6, 2009 12:57 pm

    We have pay toilets in Germany too, and they aren’t clean there either.

    The ‘Bikes will be removed’ sign is part of a wider campaign in the UK: someone came up with the idea that a bomb could be put in a bicycle. That’s right, in the frame. It’s crazy, especially as a car could be parked in the same place and packed with explosives, but on the strength of this argument cyclists can no longer park in many places in the UK without harrasment.

  39. Joss permalink
    October 6, 2009 1:35 pm

    Good to see you again, Nita. And you’re back from my home town! It’s great to read about your impressions. From your point of view this is an incredibly over-regulated society, near police state! Yet the citizens are perpetually good humoured, courteous and thoughtful. Why, then, do we need all these laws, I wonder? Or maybe the authorities have actually succeeded in making us behave ourselves. Hahaha!

    I’m looking forward to reading more about your trip.

  40. October 6, 2009 1:46 pm

    interesting collection :)

    hope you had a good time there !

  41. October 6, 2009 2:34 pm

    btw, this post is featured on wordpress.com homepage :)

    ( I know this is not a knew thing for u ;) )

  42. psychologist1 permalink
    October 6, 2009 2:51 pm

    nice job! waiting for continuation! was it your plan to gather such things? or is it just happened so?

  43. October 6, 2009 3:58 pm

    Signs I would like to see:

    “It is illegal to read this sign.”

    “Do not read this sign.”

    “Under no circumstances should you read this sign.”

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

  44. October 6, 2009 8:00 pm

    Like your observations and photographing them.
    “In India I cannot imagine the police ever touching a cycle, however badly it is parked.. . . . . . .” I think thats because there is no scope of extracting a bribe from the “poor fellow”

    Keep writing. (some blogs are interesting , and informative too)

  45. October 7, 2009 8:08 am

    BKC, thanks. True what you say but there are many things in our society too that we can admire, things they dont have.

    Admin – Uaeexchange Travel blog, thanks. But no, I don’t go around with that feeling. However I always have my camera with me and take pics of things I find interesting.

    Michael, small differences tend to surprise;

    ashleythinks, thanks for sharing that! :)

    Dev, vishesh, mahendra, thanks,

    Axinia, hope I can come up with something nice. Right now things are very hectic on the home front! Diwali too is nearing.

    Andy in Germany, if that is the logic of the police, then its illogical. Its like assuming that terrorists are so hard up that they use bikes instead of cars!

  46. October 7, 2009 8:14 am

    Joss, thanks. I agree with you about the British. But you know in every society there are elements that are bad and in Britian too. By police state if you mean cameras, then well I didn’t find them obtrusive at all. Overall if I compare the kind of checking they do in Britain its very gentle as compared to India. And yet despite the intrusive checking here, we have the terrorist attacks, you don’t. You are lucky to live in a place where the government can prevent terrorist attacks.

    Dinu, thanks. Yeah, it was good to get traffic from wordpress. At one time I used to get it fairly often, almost twice a month but then they stopped their news pages and after that this is the first time that I got so much traffic from wp.

    psychologist1, no, no planning. Just readiness.

    hkyson, :)

    Joe, true. bribe or fine, the cyclists are not going to be forthcoming that easily. And then there is the helplessness that comes with their being so many cycles that the police feel unable to control them!
    .

  47. October 7, 2009 9:44 pm

    europe! europe!
    oh europe!

  48. October 8, 2009 2:20 pm

    Nice one. Thanks for sharing :)

    Police in plain clothes – Smart one there!

  49. October 8, 2009 3:47 pm

    Cool!! :) :)

  50. October 9, 2009 3:53 am

    Whatttttt???? U came to UK and dint even tell me??? I live in an hour’s drive form Bangor! Waaa….I am hurt! I would have felt sooo honoured to be your host even if it was for an hour!! I hurt :(

    • October 9, 2009 7:59 am

      Sahaja, I didn’t know you lived an hour’s drive from Bangor. In fact although I knew you lived in the UK, I wasn’t quite sure where, and somehow we haven’t exchanged this information on email. I am sorry but I am sure we will be able to meet one day! I would have loved to meet you, and feel bad to hear that you lived just an hour away! Wow, it would have been so easy to meet! Anyway, well, I think isn’t the last time I am coming to the UK and hope we can meet sometime. And if you ever come to Mumbai and India we will surely meet. So contact me!!!

  51. October 9, 2009 2:19 pm

    some really interesting signs there. Loved the one about looking like under 21 :)

  52. October 11, 2009 10:00 am

    Welcome back from a wonderful vacation Nita :) Loved the photos. Hilarious indeed :D

  53. October 12, 2009 1:28 am

    The first picture was the most witty – shoplifter sign board. I think even in India, people should be innovative and funny with their sign boards, instead of the serious ones that we have everywhere… We ought to catch up with their culture of thinking outside the box…

    Destination Infinity

  54. ankit pokes permalink
    October 25, 2009 7:28 pm

    New to this blog. thanks for sharing the wonderful moments of euro trip. one thing (of many) of west that i(of course all) appreciate is they follow the rules making it as a part of their life which we Indian have to learn.

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