In London, they urge you to look to the right before crossing the street and to mind the gap (between the train and the platform). In Germany they love bans, especially strict ones.
In Communist Bulgaria public signs amalgamated the idea of urging people to do things deemed safe for them and to ban them from other things that are dangerous or unhealthy. To put it in another way, they taught people how to live and behave.
In the years when the pre-1944 farming society transformed itself into an urban one, the social education of hundreds of peasants-turned-city-dwellers was crucial, and the Communist government decided that signs on streets and in workplaces would be an effective method for the task. Attached onto walls all over large and small cities, signs instructed newcomers on how to walk on pavements, how to cross streets and why it was so important to keep the streets clean ("cleanliness of a city is a measure of the culture of its inhabitants" is one of the most common slogans).
Public signs, however, did not stop there. In factories and offices, they instructed workers on how to obtain food from the canteen and even what food to order ("In winter choose soup and in summer give preference to tarator," instructed one).
Signs even took the role of advertisements, proclaiming life-defining ideals such as "Every child ‒ with an account in the State Savings Bank!".
As a general rule, their language was uneducated, crude and ultimately pretentious as Communist sign thinkers tended to avoid plain language and use "new" words, often borrowed from Russia.
Just imagine those mid-level bureaucrats who commissioned government-employed painters poets to toil over menacing slogans!
Significantly, the Bulgarian culture of signs has not disappeared with the demise of Communism. Post-Communist signs are at least as ridiculous as the ones devised by the government-employed poets and painters of yesteryear. In the next issue of Vagabond we will be bringing you our exclusive selection of the signs of Post-Communism.
CLEANLINESS BRINGS HEALTH.
HEALTH IS HAPPINESS
COME TO WORK RELAXED
MOVE ONLY ALONG THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE OF THE SIDEWALKS IN THE
DIRECTION OF YOUR MOVEMENT!
BEWARE OF FALLING SUBJECTS
WORKSHOP FOR RESTRETCHING BED SPRINGS
THROWING RUBBISH EATING SEEDS SPITTING IN STREETS INDICATES BASE CULTURE
EVERY CHILD – A DEPOSITOR AT THE STATE SAVINGS BANK
BEWARE OF JABBING
ROOM FOR DAMSELS
FOR RUBBISH USE THE BASKETS
THERE ARE NO SPARE PARTS FOR THE HUMAN BODY
CITIZENS. PRESERVE YOUR HEALTH. DO NOT LITTER THE STREETS!
THE BEAUTY OF THE PARK URGES ITS BEING KEPT CLEAN
EXPOSE THE VIOLATORS OF CLEANLINESS
PEDESTRIANS, THE SUDDEN EMERGENCE FROM THE SIDEWALK
ONTO THE TARMAC OF THE STREET IN FRONT OF A MOTORIZED TRANSPORTATION VEHICLE IN MOTION MEANS CERTAIN DEMISE!
GOING ON RED LIGHT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN!
CLEANLINESS MAY ONLY BE KEPT
WITH THE EFFORTS OF ALL CITIZENS
DO NOT SPILL OIL ON THE WORK SITE!
FIRE IS A GOOD FRIEND AND A BAD ENEMY
REGULARLY SWEEP THE SIDEWALKS
IN FRONT OF THE BUILDINGS
INHABITED BY YOURSELVES
IN ORDER TO BE HEALTHY:
WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE YOU EAT;
TAKE A BATH EVERY WEEK;
DO YOUR MORNING EXERCISE;
EAT REGULARLY EVERY DAY;
CHEW YOUR FOOD WELL;
EAT FRUIT AND VEGETABLES;
BRUSH YOUR TEETH;
DO NOT VISIT YOUR SICK COMRADES
LET US FIGHT FOR AN EXEMPLARY
ANTIFIRE ORDER IN THE RAILROAD TRANSPORT
CLOSE THE DOOR
BRUSH YOUR FEET
PIONEER! YOU ARE AN YOUNG FOLLOWER OF GEORGI DIMITROV! BE ALWAYS CLEAN AND TIDY!
INSURANCE IS PRUDENCE
REMEMBER! WHAT YOU LOSE
IN AN ACCIDENT WILL NEVER COME BACK!
ALWAYS WORK WITH TUCKED-IN WORK CLOTHES AND HAIR!
TENANTS, KEEP THE STATE HOUSES AS IF THEY WERE YOUR OWN
LET US PROTECT THE STATE PROPERTY FROM FIRE!
MERCHANT WORKERS DO NOT BLOCK THE SIDEWALKS WITH PACKAGING!
BY ENSURING EXEMPLARY CLEANLINESS, LET US PROVIDE OUR CITY WITH A REAL SOCIALIST IMAGE
CLEANLINESS IN THE CITY IS A MEASURE FOR THE CULTURE OF ITS CITIZENS.
CITIZENS, LET US BE CULTURED!
KEEP THE CLEANLINESS!
TOBACCO SMOKING OR HEALTH: YOU CHOOSE
FORBIDDEN! WASHING CLOTHES IN THE AREA OF THE BATHING PLACE!
PICNICKERS AND TOURISTS
DO NOT THROW LIT MATCHES
AND CIGARETTE BUTTS IN
THE DRY GRASS!
KEEP THE TRAFFIC RULES!
DO NOT CLOSE! PEOPLE ARE WORKING!
TO THE SHELTER
DO NOT SPILL WATER WITHOUT A REASON
PARENTS, KEEP YOUR MATCHES IN PLACES INACCESSIBLE TO CHILDREN!
WASHING ROOM OO MEN
IT IS FORBIDDEN TO POUND MATTRESSES, CARPETS, AND RUGS FROM THE BALCONY! TO DO THAT, USE THE BAR IN THE YARD!
HIT IT OFF ONLY IN THE ALLOWED WAYS!
USING THE TAP IS BANNED!
CITIZENS LET US WORK TIRELESSLY TO ATTAIN AND MAINTAIN AN EXEMPLARY NEIGHBOURHOOD
IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN FOR THE SICK TO WALK OUT OF THE HOSPITAL AREA. VIOLATORS WILL BE DISCHARGED ON DISCIPLINARY GROUNDS.
HOLD THE RECEIVER VERTICALLY
HYGIENE IS A MEASURE FOR PEOPLE'S CULTURE
STATE INSURANCE INSTITUTE. CITIZENS, INSURE YOUR BELONGINGS. THE INSTALMENTS ARE MINIMAL.
TOBACCO SMOKING UNDERMINES HEALTH
THANK YOU FOR NOT TRAMPLING OVER THE GREEN FIELDS
CITIZENS, HELP MAINTAIN CLEANLINESS
OBEY THE SAFETY WORK REGULATIONS!
TOSSING LINENS AND CARPETS OVER THE NON-FACADE BALCONIES IS ALLOWED BEFORE NOON FROM 7 TO 9 (SUNDAYS FROM 0830 TO 0930) AND AFTER NOON FROM 1700 TO 1900
PREPARE FOR DISENTANGLING