How to adapt to Western Toilets from Indian-style toilets?

  • I am an Indian and have been using Indian style toilets for all my life, Now that I have a knee injury, I am forced to go to Western Style toilets. I find it really hard to empty my bowels in western toilets. I keep myself seated in there but with no results for long durations. Any suggestion is welcome on how to adapt to this.

    I swear it is Travel.SE, not Toilets.SE :/

    Kinda hard to answer since I've always used western toilets and did not go through any adapting phase when I was in India: everything went natural. :)

    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because I see no travel intention at all.

    Whatever you do, do not squat up on the toilet. This has been known to break the toilet from its mount on the floor and cause some pretty serious injuries. A lot of places that have many South Asian visitors will even have signs warning not to do it.

    Travel.SE's #1 question by votes is "how to use a squat toilet", surely we've got room for "how to use a Western toilet"?

    I'm voting to reopen this. True it's not originally framed as a travel question but some editing should be able to generalize it to cover all habitual squatters having to sit, which certainly is a problem also faced by many travellers.

    how about adding a toilet tag to the question

    Wow, I think I just realized why toilets at work are sometimes dirty like if the last one who used it never used a toilet in his whole life... I guess it would give the same impression if I had to use a squat toilet. Note that in some places in France you still have squat toilets too but it is more like souvenir from old times :-)

    (Since I don't have enough rep, I am posting a solution instead of a comment) This might help

    Posting just links doesn't really help. The point is to provide an answer in your answer. What if the website goes down? The solution will be lost forever!

    This topic is not obviously related to travel.

    The "squatty potty" video is quite amusing, but other answers here tell how to get the same results without buying a fancy footrest.

    @Dirty-flow He wants to make feces **travel** from his rectum to the toilet! :)

    I had no issue with that but now reverse is not possible for me.

  • Raising your feet up about 20 cm and leaning forward helps a lot. It puts your body into a position more like squatting, aligning the tubes for more productive pooping, but your weight is still firmly supported by your buttocks on the seat. If you don't have something to rest your feet on, just raise your knees by going on tiptoes (up on the balls of your feet).

    I found this out when my children were young, and we had a small one-step stool handy.

    Edit: See LINK Paragraph 8, for confirmation. (Thanks Commenter!)

    Update (Sept 16, 2016): This Squatty Potty is apparently now a thing!

    "...more productive pooping". Pure gold.

    The pictures at @Self Evident's link explain how it works: (section titled "The science is simple"). The site seems to be down now, here's a link to a copy:

    Also, leaning your upper body towards front can get you the same effect as raising your legs, like you want to rest your chin on your palm while elbow is on knee.. the motive is to make an acute angle at waist, between thighs and torso, so either raise legs, or lean torso to front, or both.

  • I'm kind of impressed that our site now has both ends of the same toilet question! While this is quite humorous to discuss about toilets in a site that we usually talk about travel, hygiene is indeed part of traveling.

    I'm from Sri Lanka, where the majority of culture is similar to India. But China, India, Sri Lanka, and many of the Asian countries do have the squat toilets.

    I have used the worst imaginable one to the most advanced ones you can imagine (thanks Japan!). So here is a little guide to get use to those "western" ones. I'm not going to compare how effective each of them are, but this should help you to get started.

    • You are supposed to sit there like a chair. That is why your doctor/others want you to use the western one, because you don't have to squat. Your weight is given to the bowl part.
    • Other than the way you sit, the only difference is how you clean yourself after you do your thing.

    Toilet papers

    You will be grateful to them in the winter.

    There is a nice guide dedicated for this here: How To Wipe Your Butt

    Hand showers

    In some countries, you will find a shower next to the bowl. Use it as you would use water buckets in squat toilets.


    Again, a nice guide here: How to Use a Bidet

    Electronic Japanese toilet

    You can find them in many places in Japan, and in some other countries too. It's basically same as bidet, but you can control the nozzle positioning, water temperature, water flow, etc. I heard many people call this "Japanese", but I have seen them in many other countries.

    • After use, do not forget to clean the bowl. Pull the lever or press the button to flush everything.
    • Try to keep the floor dry. Do not spill water on the floor.
    • Toilet papers are not supposed to be flushed with the bowl, but lookout for exceptions that are usually marked with some notice on the door or somewhere inside the toilet. This is more important in China. If there is a note that says to put toilet papers in the bin, take it seriously. Some toilets are connected to terrible sewage systems. The last thing you want to happen is see the toilets get blocked and overflow.

    I'm in a two-month trip to India, and having traveled several thousands of kilometers, in Indian trains, my honest thought is that it's just a mental barrier. 1 out of 4 toilets in Indian trains are western ones, and are usually vacant. I can use almost any toilet known to the mankind without eating any special food to release the digesting system. Just go for it. You will get use to it quickly.

    "Toilet papers are not supposed to be flushed with the bowl." - I'm not sure where that applies but certainly not in central Europe. There's not even an alternative disposal route for them. In which country is it that the sewage system can handle excrementation just fine, but not a thin, soft piece of paper covered with a layer of such excrementation?

    Almost every single commercial flight I have taken had such notice posted somewhere. I agree that in almost all cases, they go to the bowl :)

    @JanDvorak I recently read that toilet paper goes into a waste paper bin in parts of South America, e.g. Peru.

    How do they handle the smell of all of the bodily waste staying in the room? I even have to pick up the trash if it contains some food remains that are not literal poop.

    @JanDvorak Ayesh is spot on with the advice to take that sign seriously and that it's the norm in China. Lots of places with good sewage systems, proper toilet paper (most places don't provide any, so carrying napkins or facial tissue is SOP) and western style toilets still put out a basket, even though it's not necessary. As for the smell, you'd be surprised how quickly you can acclimate to something when it becomes an unavoidable part of your daily life. And it's not as bad as you'd think; it's not like anyone actually poops in the bin.

    In Australia we throw toilet paper in the toilet bowl and flush it. In Brazil, attempting to do that will block the pipe and make the bowl overflow during flush, so there is always a bin next to the toilet seat. I'm not sure if the problem is the plumbing or the quality of the toilet paper (or both). In doubt, check if a bin is provided.

    Yeah, the "don't flush the paper in the bowl" thing is an exception, not the rule. In pretty much all Western countries you **should** flush it.

    Many latin american countries you don't flush the toilet paper, they usually provide a waste bin for it-

    @JanDvorak And for an example closer to home, traveling to Greece usually includes a lecture about *not* flushing the toilet paper - the reason given is the same, bad sewage systems. And yeah, it is very weird getting used to.

    @JanDvorak I'm British (where paper is flushed, like most of Europe) and I lived in Greece for two years (where paper is binned). There wasn't an odour problem at all, even though Greece is much hotter than the UK. You're talking about small quantities, reasonably well-wrapped in paper, which dries it out quickly. And the bin's small so you have to empty it every few days anyway.

  • As I can see, your problem is not the sitting part - I mean we all know how to sit on chairs - hence western style toilets do not require special training to sit on.

    The problem as I understand from your question is the difficulty of emptying your bowels while sitting, particularly this part:

    I find it really hard to empty my bowels in western toilets. I keep myself seated in there but to no results for long durations

    The real missing element here is squatting. Squatting while using squat toilets helps in pushing the bowels, which makes you put less effort to achieve the same result. Sitting does not have the same effect on bowels, and you need to compensate for that, especially for people who have been used to squat toilets for all their lives.

    You can always squat on a western style toilet (bad idea do not try), but since that's not an option due to your knee injury, here are some tips that might make you get some results, splashy results:

    1. Lean forward, as much as you can. This is as close as it gets to squatting.
    2. Use your abdomen muscles to squeeze, push push push.
    3. Breathe.
    4. Repeat No. 2.

    Well actually don't push too hard, but I think you understood well his problem and the leaning solution should really help.

    We really, really should not advise anyone to squat on top of a western toilet, it is very dangerous for the person as well as the toilet.

    @hippietrail added a note about that to the answer, thank you our dear expert in the matter :D :D

    **WARNING!** Graphic images of horrific injuries sustained from squatting on a western toilet:

    @hippietrail I regret opening them man, I thought you were kidding.. Too much blood

    Next time I'll try to add fewer smilies and put a big warning in bold capitals.

    Diet can also help your bowel movements -- if you normally pass very firm, solid stool, you may want to consider more fiber and other dietary changes to help loosen your stool; you don't want to go all the way to liquid, but you'll find it easier to pass a softer stool with less strain :)

    they have warning signs against squatting on western toilets here in Singapore.

  • We had a similar issue with the MiL, as her house had a squat toilet and ours has western style toilets. It is in big part a mental thing, your mind telling your bowels that you are not in the right position to go.

    A couple of things that helped with her situation...

    1. Don't sit upright, like in a chair, rather lean forward with your elbows on your legs. This aligns everything in similar fashion to squatting.

    2. Eat something that loosens the stool (we gave the MiL prunes to eat), this way the need to go overrules the mental reservations not to.

    In the long run she had us replace her squat toilet, as she found the western toilets more comfortable at her age.

    Does MiL stand for “mother-in-law”?

    Yes, "MiL" is mother in law.

  • (This answer assumes that your knee problem is from the strain of bearing weight on a bent knee, and not from simply bending the knee, such as when lying down.)

    Use a small step stool around the base of the toilet. That will mimic the stance of squatting, without the strain on your knees.

    The following link is to a product that also uses simple illustrations to explain why squatting is better than simply sitting (basically, squatting opens up the colon more than sitting):

    "The Squatty Potty"   (I have not tried it, but it seems practical.)

  • This solution is not focussed on the physical details of using a western toilet, but approaches the problem "from the inside".

    From anecdotal evidence I know that drinking coffee shortly after / while smoking a cigarette gets most people to empty their bowels in no time. I'm not trying to persuade you to start one of these habits, but if you already drink coffee and smoke cigarettes you could try timing them together to see if it yields a desirable effect.

    Happy sitting!

  • Squatting is the natural position for vacating the bowels and since you're conditioned to it may I suggest raising the feet slightly to compensate?

    One tends to lean forward and adopt a 'thinkers pose' - progressive clarity of thought is often to be found at these times... do not waste this! Enjoy the moment and relax.

    And, with the bowels active in a state of constant motion and you will pass stool eventually. The change to a sitting position is negligible after a couple of jobbies.

    Perhaps you could merge the two and create a medium for us all?

    (Finally, smoke a cigarette if you must. I swear this helps).

  • Consider using a foot stool when you are on the toilet to keep your feet elevated. The result should be kind of like this. It doesn't put your weight on your knees but puts your body in the more familiar position.

    Of course, you could also consider getting one of these:

    Squatty Potty The Original Bathroom Toilet Stool, White, 9"

  • If you are accustomed to squatting and must use a Western style toilet (there are also circumstances where squatting is simply not possible e.g. the toilet is insecurely mounted, there is a grate above the seat leaving no room) try changing your sitting position to find the best one.

    One position which is advantageous is moving slightly forward on the seat and pressing your back against the rear seat (Careful, sometimes the seat comes off ☹). Massage and press your bowel slightly with both arms. Move a bit back and forth with your upper body. Put your legs (if possible) to the side and give slight downward pressure to imitate squatting.

    Moving towards is a very good advice. Also, squatting on top of a western toil bowl would be a very dangerous thing to do, special when you have a knee problem.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM