“Going #1 or #2?”: An Important Phrase to Know Before Using the Bathroom in Germany

German flag in dog poop
“You stay classy, Germany.”

You know what I just found out? Germans don’t specify toilet activities the same way we Americans do. In the States, if you want to know if someone needs to either poo or pee, you say, “Are you going #1 or #2?” (Number one would be peeing, of course, and number two would be dropping a chubby deuce.)

I guess this question most likely occurs between parent and child, so it doesn’t really apply to adult peers. I mean, if some dude waiting in line behind me for the restroom at the local pub asked me, “Hey man, are you going #1 or #2?” I’d probably laugh, choke on my beer, and spew it all over our shoes. But if he asked me this question in earnest, I’d say, “Damn dude! Just go on ahead of me if it’s an emergency. Don’t make it weird.”

So in practice, we Americans don’t employ this question on a daily basis; it’s really more for kids. (And they better be your kids, you creepy fuck.) But you’ll find this question popping up with slightly greater frequency here in Germany; it can be used a little more freely, like when discussing the bathroom habits of your new beagle puppy with your strangely curious neighbor, for example.

Beagle Puppy
(High self-esteem not a problem.)

But the way I first found out how to ask this question in German was when my wife and I were watching a movie back in the spring of 2016, and I hit the pause button as I got up from the couch:

ME: “I’ll be right back. I gotta use the bathroom super quick.”

THE WIFE: “Will you make big, or little?”

ME: “… WHAT?

See, in German, this phrase has absolutely nothing to do with numeric order. Instead, it’s all about size — hence, big or little — where “big” is poo, and “little” is pee. (The exact translation of, “Do you have to go poop, or pee?” is, “Musst du Groß oder Klein machen?”) And it makes sense, I guess; the distinction is totally logical and everything, but that doesn’t make it any less disgusting. I mean, “Big or little?” Eww, dude.

And on a side note, I could not have predicted I would someday take our beagle puppy outside at 3:00am — in the middle of a freezing cold German winter — and chase him around our front yard in my pajamas, shouting:

“Mach Groß! Mach Groß! Um Gottes willen, bitte mach Groß!”*

*”Make big! Make big! For the love of God, please make big!”

Thank you for reading, and have an awesome day!


15 thoughts

  1. Yeah, but no. Must be a local thing. I grew up in the Cologne/Bonn area and the only time when you talk about what exactly you are going to do in the bathroom is after a few beers and you “willst eine Stange Wasser in die Ecke stellen.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Of course I NEVER discuss my specific use of the bathroom with anybody, I just use it. But yes, parents (or other grown up relatives) do indeed inquire of a child who asks to be taking to the toilet urgently if the child needs to make big or little … (sounds so wrong in English – and is wrong, too)


  3. My husband is German-American and when he read this over my shoulder said “why do you all find that strange?” Oh lordie! Married for over 31 years and he can still astonish me!


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