Sometimes you just find yourself in a foreign country, needing to settle a pressing issue in a foreign language - and few issues are more pressing than finding the bathroom.
The best way to practice your German skills is by visiting a German-speaking country and finding your way around without using any English. While you’re exploring the country and its sights, you just can’t get around those delicious German drinks and sooner or later, the pint of Oktoberfest beer, your refreshing Apfelschorle and that shot of Kräuterschnapps will need to go SOMEWHERE.
This will eventually leave you wondering: How do you say ‘where is the bathroom’ in German?
Don’t worry. We’ll teach you all about it, plus some funny German words that are bathroom-related and a couple of weird facts about German bathrooms and toilets that you never knew about!
Bathroom and toilet in German: How to say it
The bathroom is the “Badezimmer” in German and the “toilet” is the “Toilette”. Both words work but if you’re at someone’s home, it’s more common to ask for the “Badezimmer” while in public you would directly ask for the “Toiletten”.
If you see the “WC” sign, which stands for “Wasserklosett” (water closet), it means you’ll find a proper toilet. This is the standard throughout German-speaking countries. If you’re traveling on the Autobahn, you’ll also encounter so-called “Dixiklos” (portable toilets). These don’t have running water and are often pretty icky!
Other than that, from the outside German toilets are just the same, so once you know the general direction, you won’t have any problems finding them. The gender-designated bathroom signs look like everywhere else: Generally, the male toilet sign shows a neutral silhouette and the female sign shows the silhouette of a person wearing a dress - any dress, not necessarily a German dirndl. Although we can just imagine that’s what it is in this case.
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Where is the bathroom in German
There are a number of different ways to ask “Can I use the bathroom” or “Where is the bathroom” in German. If you’re lucky, someone will show you the way and the conversation ends there.
If you’re less lucky, it might also be handy to know how to ask for more toilet paper and a toilet brush or how to inform someone that you can't seem to flush the toilet in German.
|Where is the bathroom?
|Wo ist das Badezimmer?
|Can I go to the bathroom?
|Kann ich auf die Toilette gehen?
|[kan ɪç aʊ̯f di: toˈlɛtə ˈɡeːən]
|May I use the bathroom?
|Darf ich die Toilette benutzen?
|[daɐ̯f ɪç di: toˈlɛtə bəˈnʊt͡sn̩]
|Where is the toilet?
|Wo ist die Toilette?
|[vo: ɪst di: toˈlɛtə]
|Could I please use your bathroom? (formal)
|Könnte ich bitte Ihre Toilette benutzen?
|[ˈkœntə ɪç ˈbɪtə ˈiːʁə toˈlɛtə bənʊt͡sən]
|Do you know where the next public toilet is? (formal)
|Wissen Sie, wo die nächste öffentliche Toilette ist?
|[ˈvɪsən zi: vo: di: ˈnɛ:çstə ˈœfntlçə toˈlɛtə ɪst]
|I really need to go to the bathroom
|Ich muss dringend auf Toilette
|[ɪç mʊs ˈdʁɪŋənt aʊ̯f toˈlɛtə]
|I’m having a little bathroom emergency
|Ich habe einen kleinen Badezimmer-Notfall
|[ɪç ˈha:bə ˈaɪ̯nən ˈklaɪ̯nən ˈbadətsɪmɐɐno:tfal]
|I’m afraid that toilet is clogged
|Ich fürchte, die Toilette ist verstopft
|[ɪç ˈfʏɐ̯çtə di: toˈlɛtə ɪst fɛɐ̯ˈʃtɔp͡ft]
|The toilet doesn’t flush
|Die Toilette lässt sich nicht spülen
|[di: toˈlɛtə lɛst zɪç nɪçt ˈʃpyːlən]
|There’s no more toilet paper in that stall
|In der Kabine gibt es kein Toilettenpapier mehr
|[ɪn de:ɐ̯:kaˈbiːnə gi:pt ɛs kaɪ̯n toˈlɛtənpapi:ɐ̯ me:ɐ]
|Can I have another roll of toilet paper?
|Kann ich noch eine Rolle Toilettenpapier haben?
|[kan ɪç nɔx aɪ̯nə ʁɔlə toˈlɛtənpapi:ɐ̯ ha:bən]
|Where is the soap?
|Wo ist die Seife?
|[vo: ɪst di: zaɪ̯fə]
Toilet paper and more handy bathroom words in German
Did you know that the German word for toilet seat (Klobrille) literally means “toilet glasses”? It’s one of those quirky German words that evoke a vivid picture in your head right away, like your toilet wearing glasses. Here’s a list that includes this and other helpful bathroom-related words including “toilet paper”, “bathroom” and “restroom” in German.
|Toilet (water closet)
|Loo; toilet (colloquial)
|Die Unisex Toilette
|To use the bathroom
|Die Toilette benutzen
|To flush the toilet
|To repair the toilet
|Die Toilette reparieren
|[di: toˈlɛtə ʁepaˈʁiːʁən]
|To clean the toilet
|Die Toilette sauber machen
|[di: toˈlɛtə ˈzaʊ̯bɐ ˈmaxn]
Bathroom and toilet etiquette in Germany
Be prepared when using the bathroom in Germany. Things might be quite different from what you’re used to!
- In older German houses, the light switch will be outside of the bathroom. So remember to switch it on before you enter.
- Expect to pay 50 Cents or a Euro to use a public restroom at main train stations and gas stations. Sometimes there will be actual turnstiles to enforce this. Other times, there’s a cleaning person sitting there, expecting you to leave some money for them.
- Some restaurants might also require you to buy something if you want to use the restroom and will often display a sign saying that the bathroom is reserved for customers.
- As Germans tend to be very eco-friendly, expect them to use certain water-saving measures. This includes using less water while flushing and only turning the shower on once they’re already inside, while many Americans turn on the water as soon as they start getting ready to shower.
- German shower curtains tend to have only one layer that is water-resistant and goes inside of the shower. It’s not as convenient as the American shower curtains that tend to have two layers - one water-resistant layer that goes inside and a cotton one that hangs on the outside.
- You’ll find the occasional Bidet but these are a lot more common in Italian and French bathrooms.
- Last but not least: Meet the German “Flachspüler” toilet or what the internet likes to refer to as “German toilet shelves”.
The truth about those weird German “toilet shelves”
If you’ve ever been to Germany, you’ve probably encountered them before: Many German toilets will have a step inside so that excretions don't land in the water directly. They just kind of sit there. It’s like a little display area, in case you want to admire what you’ve done before you flush it.
Now of course this isn’t the actual purpose of this kind of toilet! Some say back in the day, it helped people notice any abnormalities and detect stomach diseases easier, while others say it was to avoid splashing.
We don’t actually know what the true purpose is, and these toilets are definitely disappearing, as modern toilets don’t come with this peculiar feature.
It’s still very common in older homes though. Most Germans never even notice there’s anything weird about their toilets until someone from a different country comes to visit and points it out!
Different countries - different customs
You would think a basic human need like going to the bathroom would be pretty much the same all across the world but all these differences prove once more what the Germans describe as “Andere Länder - andere Sitten” (Different countries - different customs).
However, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter all that much if your bathrooms are self-flushing high tech toilets, holes in the ground or if they have a weird little display area. Everyone still has to use the bathroom.
It helps to remember this when you’re dealing with different cultures and find yourself having a hard time adapting. We might do things very differently across the world - but we all have the same human needs and do what we do for the same reasons.
For more words of wisdom, visit our German language blog!