When culture meets design

12 Nov

One of the most fascinating things about moving to a new country are all the little every-day things you notice, both what is similar and what is different to wherever you’ve come from. Since moving to Jakarta it’s been really cool to notice how culture and society influence form and function.

Take bathrooms. Specifically toilets. Yes, I know, not something you want to read about on the internet. But, if you think about it, clearly something that is intimately reflective of how we … well you know. It’s personal. What I’ve also learned is, it’s different. Here’s how:

  • The universal bidet – every bathroom (at least all the women’s toilets) have some kind of hose attachment that converts a toilet into a bidet. Imagine a small hand-held shower head and you have the idea. The really fancy ones have more than just a hose, they have electronic controls that let you manipulate water pressure, direction and temperature to your heart’s … or other body part’s … desire. Don’t believe me – check out the picture!

    Oh, the choices!

    Oh, the choices!

  • Foot washers – this was only slightly startling, but makes perfect sense. People wash their feet before praying, so bathrooms in work places have provisions for this. As I say, logical when you think about it, but somewhat puzzling to look at. Imagine a small shower stall, but with a tap at waist height rather than above one’s head. Foot washer, not leprechaun shower. (As an aside, having to wash one’s feet several times a day also results in communal shoe racks for rubber slippers, which people wear back and forth from the bathroom to prayer room, and an abundance of well dressed men and women periodically holding up their pants legs and flip-flop clopping down the hallway.)

    Don't do this!

    Don’t do this!

  • The signage! Apparently, not all people think about bathroom stalls the same way. Here’s the sign that the Kuala Lumpur airport displays, just in case you are tempted to misbehave … by standing on the seat for example!

OK, enough about toilets, let’s talk about elevators. This one really puzzled me when I first moved into my apartment. The elevator buttons for the floors weren’t consecutive. And I’m not just talking about skipping out the 13th floor, I mean, seriously non-consecutive. Like floor 50 comes after floor 39, floors 12 – 14 are missing. My realtor finally explained – the number 4 is considered very unlucky in some countries, and target tenants for the building were apparently in this group. Therefore, all the floors with the number 4, as well as lucky #13 were skipped in the floor naming. Incidentally, the #12 is also missing – maybe just for symmetry? This is what the panel looks like. By the way, notice the total number of floors? I don’t think anyone checked 🙂

Going up!

Going up!


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