Saturday, November 28, 2009

International Bathroom Discussion: Squatty Potties! -Annie

In all of my travels abroad, I've encountered a pretty diverse array of toilets. The first time I went to Europe when I was twenty, I was puzzled and embarrassed when I had to ask for instructions on how to flush… the solution was a pull cord that used gravity to drop the water down from the ceiling! For me as an American, this was a totally novel idea. Now that I'm somewhat more experienced as an international bathroom user, I pride myself in being able to figure things out. Whether it's a pedal on the floor, a hidden flush button, or throwing a simple bucket of water, I can usually manage to flush successfully without consulting the locals.

Here in the Charmin Restrooms, I keep asking people for their favorite international bathroom stories. Now, after a few days here, I've started to accumulate some pretty interesting anecdotes about restrooms from all over the world! Just the other day, I met a girl from Montana named Hannah. (Not Hannah Montana, but Hannah from Montana.) Anyway, Hannah was explaining to me that she grew up in Taiwan, where the normal toilet is a "squatty potty." I'm including some photos to help you visualize, in case you've never seen one.

I've encountered these lovely toilets in Asia, Africa, and South America, so they're pretty common… but to an American, they can be kind of intimidating the first time you use them. They are basically a porcelain-lined hole in the ground, with pedals for your feet. Yep. You've gotta squat, balance, and not fall over in the process. For men, it's easier, because they can just stand up, but for women, it really exercises our thigh muscles!

In Taiwan, Hannah had regular western toilet in her house, but this was new to many of her Taiwanese friends who had never seen one, and had always exclusively used the squatty potties. Hannah said that frequently after her friends visited, she would find footprints on her toilet seat from their shoes… because they didn't understand that they were supposed to sit down, and they balanced on their feet and squatted instead!

Through the power of the internet, I have discovered that this phenomenon isn't completely unique, and you can actually buy an adaptable toilet seat for people who prefer to squat, rather than sit! I guess when we're looking at the amazing diversity of the world, going to the bathroom is just part of the mix!

Send me your international bathroom stories! You can email me:!


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