You must be looking at the title of this post thinking what on earth? But yes, you read correctly. I am writing a post on how to use a toilet. As bizarre as it may seem I would have appreciated it if someone had given me the low-down on the toilets in China before I went. So here goes…
Three rules for using a toilet in China:
Rule Number 1 – Hold your breath (or breathe through your mouth).
My nose has learnt from experience and I now do this automatically without even thinking about it. I do it as a precaution as whilst most public toilets are far from pretty sights, even in the cleaner ones there always seems to be a very ‘strong’ (for want of a better word) smell that just lingers in the toilets. The reason for this is explained in rule number 3.
Rule Number 2 – Take tissue with you (but don’t put it into the bowl).
Toilet paper is not always provided in toilets so always ensure you have a pack of tissues to hand. I’ve been told you shouldn’t flush them down the toilet but put them in the bins provided. Apparently the sewage systems aren’t great so don’t allow for bigger things to flush.
Rule Number 3 - Get ready to SQUAT…
This is what I wish someone had told me!
Most Chinese toilets are latrines, ie holes in the ground. At work most of the toilets are western ‘sit down’ toilets but I remember my first time opening the cubicle to a ‘squatter’ and assuming it was a shower or a urinal or something, absent-mindedly closing the door and moving on to the next cubicle which was a normal toilet so I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until we went on factory visits and I had to open about three cubicles with squat toilets before I got to a normal one that I realised that the holes in the ground were indeed some sort of waste ejecting mechanism lol. I went back to my Chinese colleagues to ask about the weird holes in the ground and after they explained, they could not believe the shock I was in. When I actually went back to take a photo of the squatters, they were in stitches! (I admit it’s not every day you take pictures of toilets…)
Going back to the smell, the reason for it is that the squatter toilets actually store the waste far down below rather than it being drained to somewhere else. I don’t know for certain but I assume they are emptied daily because there always seems to be less of a strong smell in the morning compared to the evening when there has been a whole day of everyone dumping their junk.
So there you are. In China be prepared to have to squat to use the toilet. It does take some practice (lol I can’t believe I’m actually writing this!) but you get used to it and I must say that things seem to pass more easily whilst squatting, apparently it’s the position we were made to do our business in!
* Apologies if you had just eaten, are eating, or were about to eat before reading this. It’s all part of the experience right? ;)
Oh and on a side note: I regularly see children urinating in the streets. This is very common practice, so much so that there are even baby trousers that are purpose-made with a split down the middle for streetside potty training! (Photo from Google, I wasn’t brave enough to take one myself!)