Apparently, today is World toilet day. Did you get a Hallmark card wishing you “Happy number two”? Neither did I but it had me thinking about my toilet experiences around the world.
Let’s start off with the culture shock a westerner will get when you go to places that literally have a hole in the ground. I recall one cafe in Amsterdam having a hole that you’d need the skill of a WWII bombardier to get your aim right. It was better than a bucket but still, it was not what one expects especially after you’d indulged in their herbal products and you’re not too steady on your feet.
Another culture shock is toilet paper : Not all of them flush it away. Many places around the world don’t want the paper in their water system and expect you to put it in the trash which as you can imagine, now stinks. When in such places, you don’t hang around too long to read a book.
That is assuming you even have toilet paper. In some places such as Middle East and India, using toilet paper is considered unhygienic. The protocol is to wash your backside with your left hand from a cup of water. Afterwards you wash your hand. This is also why you should only eat with your right hand in India. The left is considered ‘dirty’ so careful what you use it for.
At the other end of the toilet spectrum is Japan. Going to the potty can be like the Apollo project. It is a delight to stay in a 5 star hotel in Tokyo just to experience the high tech toilets. They have ones that automatically put a new paper cover over the seat before you sit down. Others may warm the seat for you or play background music so people cannot your movements. Some include built in bidets but good luck in understanding which button does what.
As for toilet paper. Would you believe that many public toilets in Japan did not provide toilet paper until recently: They expected you to carry your own. It may still be the case today in some places but many department stores gave them out for free. For more reading Japan and their toilets, see this Japantoday poll and Japan-talk.
The rest of Asia is also catching up with their obsession with their toilets. When recently in Taipei, I was taken aback by the cleanliness of the public toilet. Look at this, they even had plants in there. By the way, the women cleaners will just walk in so you bladder shy men are pre-warned.
Lets move to the US. Like many things in life, there are some bizarre things when it comes to the US toilets habits:
Which brings me to my favorite toilets of all time: Protea Hotel “Fire & Ice!” in Capetown. Each toilet is individually themed – “Long Drop”, “Stage Fright”, “Out House” and “Tempation”- where it was a delight to try a new one out each time.
Wishing you a clean and crappy World Toilet day.