Need to go?

23 June 2010 | This 'n' that

No traveller can avoid toilets, as the internet service about.com (run by the company that owns the New York Times) points out on its Scandinavia travel website.

Thus, it may be reassuring to know that ‘the days of outhouses are numbered’, and in Finland there are no squat toilets, according to the experiences of the editor, Terri Mapes. (The concept of ‘Finlandic restrooms’, however, is a new one to us – as is, for that matter, the adjective ‘Finlandic’.)

However, under the title ‘Bad Things About Toilets in Finland’ you’ll be informed about the possibility of outhouses without running water, should you choose the option of wandering into the wildernesses. And as toilets at airports or train stations may occasionally smell bad, it is advisable to use the bathroom at your hotel, unless your needs are urgent of course.

All in all, the website’s take on Finland’s public loos – whose levels of modernity and hygiene in general equal those to be found in the United States, and far exceed those of the United Kingdom – is a strangely nervous one.

In our opinion, by the way, the grandest toilet in Finland is in the 15th-century Olavinlinna Castle in the city of Savonlinna in eastern Finland: a small box attached high up on a stone tower, above the running water of the stream on which the castle sits. The castle now houses the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival, but, for reasons of hygiene, the toilet is no longer in public use.

A traveller needs tips for verbal communication as well; as for the language, you’ll learn on the about.com Scandinavian page that ‘a very popular Finnish/Suomi word is ‘Perkele!’: it is a ‘common Finnish/Suomi swearword (do not use this word in formal conversations).’ About doesn’t cite any dirty words for the other Nordic peoples, so we are left to conclude that it’s only the Finns who swear. Drat!

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