Toilets around the world

So trying to write an INTERESTING post every week isn’t the easiest thing in the world.  Until I remembered a conversation that I had last night with my housemate about toiltets. He said that my Italian housemate is really annoyed there’s no bidet here because she needs to take a shower every time she uses the bathroom. Call me stupid, but I thought those things were just decoration in hotel rooms! So then I started wondering – how do different nationalities go about their toilet business? (This is written by a woman – I’ve never been to guy’s toilets before!)

Western Europe

In most hotel rooms you’ll get a normal seat toilet, and possibly something that looks like it but it actually has a hot and cold tap (i.e. bidet), which apparently are not as redundant as they seem! This is only for WASHING your behind. For those a little uneasy about sitting on the same seat as thousands of others, Europeans may hover over the seat instead of sitting on it – which would explain some people’s poor aim.
Also, there are still lots of old-fashion ones with water reservoirs hanging on the wall that require a tug of a chain to flush.


Europe’s public toilets will often have toilet ladies (or men!) who collect money, typically 20 or 50 eurocents, for the ‘cleaning’ of the toilets. It seems that Scandinavian public toilets, like everything else in those countries are much more expensive, and slightly more creative:


North America

I’m led to believe that toilet seat covers (paper shaped like a toilet seat for you to sit on) are more common here than they are in Europe…


Latin America

From my personal experience, toilets with seats are most common but squat toilets can be found in the basic bus stations etc. Most drainage systems aren’t able to deal with toilet paper, so they usually toss it in a bin. Word of advice: there may not be a note telling you what to do, so if there’s a big open-topped bin next to the toilet with toilet paper in it, follow suite! It may be strange at first to not flush your paper (I’ve done it by accent once or twice) but once you get used to it, you start looking for a bin at home too!



Most toilets here will be squat toilets. Now let’s be honest – squat toilets can be much more hygienic than seat toilets. Can be. In Africa, if people don’t just do a bushpee instead, the toilets have a tendency to overflow. So when pulling your trousers down, make sure they’re not going to be touching the floor!
There will most likely be a bucket of water – to ‘flush’ the toilet! This usually means it’s a long-drop toilet with a fancy cover. Wash your hands after using that bucket.

FYI: flush toilets were invented in Ephesus, Turkey, where there is a constant stream of running water!



Again, squat toilets are the norm. If you see the toilet flushes, but still has a bucket of water and no toilet paper, you’re most likely going to have to wash your bits with the water instead. Tip: always carry your own toilet paper, if you’re not comfortable with that prospect.  Some of these may be a bit fancier with ribbed sides – these are meant to be foot rests, for extra grip.


In most countries with squats, you use the squat by facing away from the flush hole. Same way you use a toilet with a seat. Logical? Well, in this next country they do it backwards.


Japan has developed such complicated toilet hygiene, I’ve excluded it from Asia.

Squat toilets are still very common in most public places, but they usually offer a choice between a western-style or a Japanese-style toilet. If you choose squat toilet, make sure you sit on it facing the flush hole.


To help you along, they often have bars on the sides, to help you keep steady over the seat.


All toilets, public and private, have an option of a small flush (小) or a long flush (大).

You will often hear an electronic flushing sound being used in the cubicle. Most girls are ashamed of the sound pee makes, and (where many people I know would just do some maneuvering to avoid making noise) they’ve solved this problem by having a noise that typically lasts for 25 seconds. This can either be a button, or these is a sensor that activates if you wave your hand in front of it.


The electric toilets are amazing, and many Japanese are surprised by how obsessed we Westerners are about them. Many will have heated toilet seats, which will keep you there for hours over winter. And then after, you can of course use toilet paper, but there’s also an option to personalize your bidet experience – you can choose which direction the water squirts out, how strong the water is, how hot the water is. Fantastic, no?


That’s not all. There’s often no paper towels to dry your hands with after using the sink. Most Japanese carry small little towels in their handbags, and use them to dry their hands. And you may see slippers on the floor, especially in squat toilets. Beyond just having ‘indoor shoes’ many Japanese will have ‘toilet shoes’ to keep all the dirt and dust in their respective places. If they’re there, it’s probably most polite to use them. And Japanese people love polite!

Finally, to be even more eco-friendly, a lot of Japanese people will have a washlet at home (though might also be more space-friendly). Instead of having a separate sink, there’s a little tap that runs into the toilet water reservoir using that water, that you can use to wash your hands.



These tend to be like European and American toilets, though frequently you will find an extra box hanging in the cubicle to dispose needles. How kind to diabetics!


To finish off this (unexpectedly) long post, here’s a very cool little infographic on toilet rolls: over vs. under, the great debate.


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