Archive for January 2016

A Global Take on Toilets

Different countries have different toilets, and you’d be surprised the level of variety that exists the world. If you’re American-born like myself, you may have assumed everyone uses the porcelain throne, but that’s not true. Turns out that the back-splashing seat-touching compromises that we take for granted have been avoided by other cultures with different types of toilets and, accordingly, different pro’s and con’s.

Take, for example, the squat pot (or squat toilet). This one’s a pretty simple design; it’s generally just a hole in the ground within some kind of structure made to shelter users and keep them out of sight. Toilet tissue is sometimes provided, sometimes not. Either way, the squatting stature is good for your intestines and allows to you avoid touching any seats, though it is less comfortable than sitting down.

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On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s the bidet. This is more common in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and favored for its offer of high quality cleanliness and the absence of flushed toilet paper. It’s especially helpful for countries with antiquated pipe systems that can’t take huge amounts of TP clogging up the system. There are three types of bidets: one is built into the toilet and sprays a stream of water in the affected areas; all you have to do is activate a nozzle or button located on the bowl. Then there’s the shower/toilet combo that puts a shower head or hose in the wall above an actual toilet (which is often a squatter). Just clean and aim for the drain-like hole in the floor. Finally, there’s the old spigot and bucket. This system involves you filling up the bucket with water and pouring it over any area you want to clean.

Japanese toilets occupy perhaps the widest spectrum; it can be assumed that the most low-tech toilets occupy rural and out-of-the-way areas, but big cities have the Tesla of toilets (and advertise them as such). They tend to have Western designs, but with some impressive bells and whistles such as seat warming, body scanning, and remote-control position changing features.

Open-air urinals are becoming a thing in Europe, which has actually helped some cities tremendously in keeping their streets clean. They are generally free and often patronized as very straight-forward alternatives to the frowned upon public urination that unfortunately is commonplace in many overpopulated areas.

Then there’s the infamous on-board toilets that must be frequented at some point by any avid traveler. The bathrooms on Western airlines tend to flush using a vacuum and have no bidet option, while those on trains in Europe and Asia tend to cost money and be considerably less maintained.

pig pottyPig toilets exist in Asia, which are basically squat toilets except that the chute in which the waste is collected actually leads to a trough inside a pig pen. The pigs then eat the waste, which does work for them and allow for pig pen owners to avoid buying and growing food for pigs but is, if course, extremely disgusting to the literal and financial consumer.

Finally, there’s the shelf toilet, an oddity commonplace only in Germany, Austria and Denmark. A tiny porcelain shelf sits above the waterline in these toilets, allowing for users to examine their excrement before flushing. The shelf lowers when the toilet is flushed, allowing the waste to be eliminated.