OK we're all adults here, so really, how on earth should I use a squat toilet?
OK so for anyone that's travelled beyond North America and Western Europe you know what I'm talking about.
Left: Romania, last year. Right: Turkey, last night.
They start popping up in the Balkans and of course they're everywhere by the time you get to Turkey and become totally unavoidable no matter how patient you are or how long you can hold on when you're anywhere between about India and Japan.
Asian toilets AKA squat toilets - Do you know how to use one if you have to?
Seems simple. There's the grippy bits on the sides and the hole in the middle. I wonder which direction I should face...
So let's give it a try...
Trousers down just like at home...
Squat down like the name says...
But now my trousers seem to be blocking an important thoroughfare! How the hell is this supposed to work??!!
There's no way to keep one's balance in a position where your weight is not over your feet and when your weight is over your feet so are your pesky trousers.
Now I'm pretty sure the locals don't remove their trousers because there's almost never a hook and the floor is often flooded. Exiting with wet trouser cuffs or socks wet from the toilet floor surely can't be socially acceptable!
And I'm completely utterly sure they don't wipe the porcelain and sit down making believe they're in the west because that would be dirty!
Well I'm here to say that after plenty of trips to plenty of countries with plenty of oriental eastern Asian toilets I've used both of these unsatisfactory workarounds but I still want to know one thing...
What on earth is the proper way to use a squat toilet??
A lot of people perch of the balls of their feet... as I do. FYI, there is research showing relieving your bowels this way leads to decreased instances of colon cancer.
@Ginamin I bet it's an observational study. But go ahead and put a squatty potty in your toilet if you want.
@Adam That would be a hard thing to prove empirically. Also, I live in Asia so I have squatter toilets in my office. Some people here don't get the choice of 'what we want' due to our current locations. Personally, I find squatters to be no more or less inconvenient than a sit down now. My toes hurt a but, but sitters cause my legs to fall asleep.
As a bonus question, if you're in a sketchy place what do you do with your daypack? There's never a hook or shelf or dry spot.
Dude, those are some of the cleanest looking squat toilets I've ever seen. I'd have no problems with my daypack being on those floors!
They are actually called "Turkish toilets" in Romania. Only the cheapest restaurants/bars have them.
There is actually some evidence that squatting toilets can prevent haemorrhoids. Here is an interesting paper: http://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/pubs/96tldp.html
I only signed in to say that I was trying to convince my wife to travel to Asia, but this pretty much put the last nail in that coffin. :(
Go to the next cubicle, usually a western toilet there! well... I know some places you don't get the choice... +1 - I remember when I first went to Malaysia with my brother and he had to go to the toilet at a restaurant... came back and complained that he couldn't use it right/was worried... not realising that there really was a western toilet in the next cubicle!
@MarkMayo: I would've liked cleaner ones. The left one I had from my last trip when I surprised to find one in Romania with a weird low western one next door. To add variety though since I'm in Turkey I just went to the nearest toilet and took another photo... I did try to choose the least icky one.
@SilviuPostavaru: Here in Turkey, we mostly just have ... yup you guessed it. And frankly I've come to prefer them as they are more sanitary than their tall cousins when given the same public exposure and cleaning (non)routines.
Welp, I guess that limits me to North America and Western Europe. And Japan...I hear they have some crazy toilets over there that you can still sit on.
@AdamRobinson: In Japan they also have what I call "Star Treck toilets". You sit on them like sitting at the helm of the Enterprise.
@Ankur: Why remove the country tags? I know there's more countries but there's only five tag slots and I tried to choose two with a fairly wide spread although Eastern Europe and India would also be good and apply better to the responses we got.
@hippietrail Going with http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags/
But they're not meta tags at all. Meta tags are the kind that people are unlikely to watch/search and I'm pretty sure we do have people watching all of India, Japan, and Eastern Europe tags \-:
I came across one in Mali and was too uncomfortable to use it. I tried, as I really had to go, but I found that I just couldn't without actually sitting on something. Luckily I found a "western" toilet in another building down the street.
All the info I've seen on this page has thoroughly changed my view about traveling the world. (Hint: Not in a good way)
I'm definitely not traveling to either one of those countries unless I can get the toilets I'm used to. I mean I already have a really really hard time going to the restroom in public places, let alone squat toilet. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.
@AlanChavez: Squat toilets are generally not public/open/communal, except in China where communal ones are not uncommon.
In China squat toilets are considered proper to share (in essense you are using your legs as the toilet seat. Western toilets are usually only installed where only family will use them. In a two story home the first floor (where there will be guests) will often have a squat toilet. The second floor (with bedrooms) will have a western toilet!
I grew up using that thing. When I went studying abroad, I had problems with the toilet you guys called as the normal one (the sitting one). I literally wet my pants several times. Probably I should start a post about "How to sit on the normal toilet".
Here are just some extra tips so you don't wet your pants on a squatting toilet.
- I will suggest you to take out everything from your pant's pockets before you squat.
- Don't pull your pants too low. Leave it above your knees. So, when you squatted, it doesn't interfere with the important thoroughfare.
- The toilet hole is where the poop should go, so that's where you should aim your ass, right above it if you can.
- If you don't have toilet paper, just use the water to clean it. Be careful not to wet your pant. Be sure to use your dominant hand to hold the pipe or bucket and only the other hand for cleaning. After that you clean your hands. :) And after that, prevent using your non-dominant hand to interact with other people. In some places like Indonesia, it's rude to use your left hand for interaction. And I believe you know why already.
- Your legs will be numbed if you've squatted for too long. Just for your information.
@Adam Perhaps you should go to Indonesia. The dominant hand is actually good advice for anyone traveling in locations where toilet paper is non-existent.
I would also add that if you are looking for a hostel or room to stay in that has squatter toilets, a shower head is a useful replacement for a beday.
@hippietrail I normally put them on a corner where it's dry and clean. But I don't think this will work on every toilet. So, maybe put them on your bag (if you have one) or leave them with your travel-mate if you bring one :).
The whole left hand thing, being left-handed I always find it awkward, because, well, um, I do stuff opposite. But as soon as my hand goes anywhere near food, I get horrified looks. What do locals do if left-handed?
Thinking about it, I assume they just do what I do, try and make do, even if it means one looks and acts more uncoordinated than normal...
@MarkMayo, some are forced to use their right hand since they are small (normally by school teachers). But most of them stick with their left handedness. I think it's still fine if you are eating or writing using your left hand. But not when you have to offer somebody something with your left hand, especially money.
"Your legs will be numbed if you've squatted for too long." So no time to read newspaper?
I've got to ask.. How could you possibly have issues with the sitting toilet? No disrespect, I just can't seem to figure it out.
@user606723, well, imagine cleaning with a bucket of water while sitting on the toilet.
Hi, I'm from Indonesia. I grow up with this kind of toilet. Before the toilet mass produced like the one in the photos, people just built the small room above the river. People will squat in it, and the dump will go straight to the river. Nowdays it will go to septic tank, but the design is still the same. If the door have hooks, it's better to hang your pants there, so it will not got wet or dirty. Before using, make sure the water is enough to clean yourself and flush the toilet.
@MarkMayo: I think the lefty question for squat toilet countries is a great sample question for the Culture Exchange proposal.
Why would anyone prefer a squatting toilet, the western one cleans the toilet for you, provides cleaning paper for *you* and then disposes of it quickly, helps you to squat (i.e. sit), prevents objects from falling out your pockets into the toilet, you don't have to take off your trousers. Maybe normally the squatting toilet is more hygienic, but if someone misses, or you loose you balance it will be unbelievable unhygienic. Literally in everyway a sitting toilet is better. I think I'll have to take a portal with me to such countries...
I definitely agree w/ @Jonathan on this one. There are other important cases to consider as well. For example, how do they expect seniors to use this having to squat? Squatting down like this would be difficult and getting up would be more so if they have joint problems. Another example, what if someone has an upset stomach/diarrhea? You can't seriously expect them to not make a mess in such a case.
@Jonathan Although I do prefer a western toilet in normal situations, if you live in a region that struggles on water resources, the squatting toilet is indeed more "hygienic". Just imagine a **public** toilet with water supply only a few hours per day... In my country of origin, this situation is common in some military bases, and military service is mandatory for all males aged 16-28, lucky me :-(
@Jonathan. Wow, that is super ethnocentric. You seriously putting you butt checks on the same surface some homeless dude just pissed and crapped on is more hygienic? I'm not saying the squatters are more so, but seriously... that is just a silly statement.
@Gimamin, you put your hand (you know the thing you do things like eat with) on many door handles (or surfaces) that countless others with goodness knows what bacteria and germs have previously touched, so there are many things you touch that are equally unhygienic, especially as most people don't do it onto the seat but rather through the whole in the middle.
@yms in my own military service 15 years ago I was often stationed in remote bases with no running water whatsoever - toilets were deep hole in the ground, vacuumed on weekly basis. Believe me, that's the WORST thing possible.
@Ginamin: Wow, that is super alarmist. You seriously have evidence putting you butt checks on the same surface some homeless dude just pissed and crapped on is a vector of disease? And why aren't you wiping it before you sit on it?
@hippietrail Oh man, haven't been on this site in a while! I did an undergrad in pre-med years ago, and during an Infections Disease class, we sampled all sorts of stuff including toilets. They were surprisingly clean (many bathrooms are typically cleaned often more often than say, gas station handles). Aside from anecdotal comments of getting warts, I think toilet seats are generally fine. There were some coliform bacteria (fecal), which wiping won't really help with... mostly, I just think the posters statement that a sitting toilet is better in every way is absolutely ridiculous.
Yeah I think both absolutist POVs needed some counterarguments, retorts, or devil's advocation (-: