Friday, December 31, 2010

#1 Useful Signage

In an ode to one of my all time favorite blogs, Stuff White People Like, I have begun this project in an attempt to make sense of my new Danish life. Since arriving in Copenhagen (or København to be locally correct), my American sensibilities and norms have left me at times scratching my head but mostly applauding the general genius of my new country-people.

A New Year, a new country, a new blog. So here it goes.

In a place where my rudimentary language skills start and stop at, "Hej" (hello) and "Tak" (thank you), I am highly appreciative of this first item. Danes seem to have an uncanny knack for intuitive, communicative, helpful, efficient signage. Not having travelled all that extensively through Europe I can't say whether this is more universal to the continent or because of a proximity to Germany but given my brief experiences in England and France I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's the latter.

Here's one I particuarly like. You see this everywhere as it's the Danish universal sign for an emergency exit. Note that the person is in a full sprint toward the exit, unlike in America where we are advised to walk, don't run to the nearest exit. Also, there isn't any text so no time is wasted trying to use your cell phone to Google Translate the big red letters over the doorway to find out if you're headed for safety or a public sauna. Apparently here in Denmark they'd like everyone to survive in an emergency.

Run, don't walk to the nearest exit.
Danish efficiency and helpfulness doesn't just stop at life-threatening emergency situations. We live across the way from a giant shopping mall (which is convenient when you have an empty apartment to fill). Just today I noticed that the huge parking signs pointing the way to the lots also display a number corresponding to the available spaces left. Genius! Sure, you may still end up trolling around the aisles hunting for a spot but at least you were forewarned.

Not just a commercial gimmick either - saw a few at work parking lots.
Even though this "sign" technically has a lot of text, the fact that it's on our neighbors' mailboxes led me to quickly decipher its literal translation to be putting the smack-down on unwanted junk mail. Informative and satisfying!

Pow! Take that sales flyers!
And finally, one for all my parent friends out there. I'm sure this is a result of American brand-obsession and corporate competition but what exactly gave someone the idea that a cute marsupial in a diaper would indicate where a baby should be changed? Good thing Australians speak English and can ask questions or they might think they'd stumbled upon some promised land for koala owners! Me, I'll take my species-specific Danish signage.