Friday, 15 January 2010

Broken English noses

I often wonder how many English people end up with broken noses when they visit Swedish friends at home.

You arrive at their building. You tap in the obligatory door code. Climb the stairs or ride the lift. Ring the doorbell and wait. Swiftly, the door opens. But in the wrong direction! Unlike in the UK, the doors open outwards in Sweden and you didn't expect it. The door moves towards you like an inevitable wave. And you're not quick enough to get out of the way. Smack! Broken nose.

But why do Swedish doors open outwards? What could be the explanation? Does it symbolise that the English are inward-looking, and Swedes are more outward-looking? Is it for security? It's more difficult to kick in a door that opens outwards. Could very well be.

I think, however, it's something entirely different. The price of accommodation in Sweden is high. Houses and flats are sold according to their precious square meterage. This makes the space behind a door important. Definitely sellable. Furnishable perhaps. One extra usable square meter means space for a hatrack.

So, it's obvious, doors open outwards to give people a valuable extra square meter. And this is roughly the price of a broken English nose.


  1. OR! it's insulation - the wind blows doors more tightly shut thus reducing drafts??

  2. Great piece of writing. Hadn't even thought about which ways doors opened. But you missed the part about being somewhat stuffed if you don't have a mobile phone to call up for said door code.
    Hard to throw stones five floors up.

  3. I found your blog today and I must say that it really brings a smile on my face.
    It's refreshing to be able to view myself (as a swede) from the "outside".
    But now to something completely different...

    The doors.
    The reason that they open outwards are indeed a matter of safety. It's true that it's much, much harder to kick in a door that open towards you.
    But the underlying reason is not to prevent break-ins, but to make it easier to evacuate a building!

    Imagine a room filled with people and a fire starts. Panic. Everybody run for the doors who open inwards. Lots of bodies pressing against the door. You have to be Hercules to get them opened.
    But if the doors open outwards? You only have to turn the handle.

  4. In the Isle of Skye the doors open the opposite way too