Challenge: Using an Asian Bathroom

I grew up in a house with one bathroom. Four people, two of whom were teenaged girls for a good amount of time, sharing a single bathroom. In the modern age. No half bath, no extra toilet (besides the super scary non-working one in the corner of the horror-movie basement), no nothing. Oh yeah, and if you turned on the water in the sink downstairs, the water pressure in the shower upstairs went to a trickle and the water turned ice cold. You had to stomp on the floor of the shower and maybe yell a little to remind people you were in the shower and they should quit doing whatever they were doing because you had a head full of shampoo and were now freezing, thank you very much.

My parents still live in the same house. I think that’s why I’m so concerned about bathrooms now.

The infamous house in the winter. So cute! Yes, that's Frosty on top. You would never know a bathroom time warp exists inside.

I feel lucky that my bathroom here in BKK is Western-style. It’s actually one of the main reasons I chose this apartment.

But, Megan, I pretend to hear you say so I can write this, what does that even mean? Aren’t all bathrooms the same?

No, my friends, all bathrooms are not the same. Especially not Asian bathrooms.

Here is a picture of the Western-style toilet in my bathroom here in Bangkok:

It's okay, right? The hose is there to use to clean up if you don't want to use toilet paper. But (HA! No pun intended) I use toilet paper, as you can see.

Here is a picture of my shower:

Pretty Western-style, besides the butt hose and the electric water heater, which always freaks me out a little bit. How does it work? I don’t think I want to know because that way it can’t kill me! Yay for not being electrocuted by your shower! It’s like being on a plane–if I don’t think too hard about the fact that flying on a plane seems like it should be impossible, we won’t crash!

Okay, so you’ve seen what many of you would consider a “normal” bathroom. Now get ready to experience some overseas bathroom culture. Remember, it’s okay to say something is “culturally different and very interesting, anthropologically-speaking”, but “really freaking stupid” is unacceptable. That’s the rule.

So, here we have a picture of a toilet in an Indian restaurant not too far from my apartment.

This bathroom obviously had no toilet paper. Thanks, wet wipes!

An anonymous volunteer is going to show you correct and incorrect squatting technique. This is incredibly important if you don’t want to get all messy.

You will be tempted to hover over a squat toilet. WRONG! This way, you're definitely peeing--or WHATEVER--all over yourself. Don't do it.

Good form, anonymous volunteer! You gotta dip it low, people. Channel your inner Beyonce. And be sure to take the pants ALL the way down.

What you can’t see in the restaurant toilet picture is that this was also where the restaurant people showered. It is not unusual over here for the bathroom to be one room without division; toilet, sink, and shower all together with a drain somewhere on the floor for the shower. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of getting cozy with my toilet when I shower, which is generally what you have to do in this type of bathroom.

I might be a single woman in my 30s, but I do have standards, after all.

My major contribution to society this year was not that I taught children with interrupted education back in Maryland how to read, but that I figured out you should raise the toilet seat when you take a shower in one of these bathrooms. Seriously. Otherwise, the toilet seat gets all wet, and if you’re a woman, this is one of the most miserable things you can deal with. Unless you’re a refugee. Or somebody who lives in a restaurant.

Okay. So. It’s one of the most miserable things you can deal with as a privileged woman who has no other things to worry about except if the toilet seat is wet or not. Life is hard when you have enough money to live comfortably and a good education that will get you a job with a decent living wage! Feel sorry for me!

One thing I absolutely cannot forget to add about Asian toilets–or toilets in just about every developing country I’ve been to–is that you usually can’t throw your toilet paper in the toilet because the septic/sewer system can’t handle it. You have to throw it in a wastebasket that’s (usually) next to the toilet.

This is in the bathroom stalls in my Thai language school.

Yup, that's a trash can full of dirty toilet paper. Nope, it does not smell like roses in there.

I know. I KNOW.

Final Score:

Asian Bathrooms: 0   Megan: 1

Take THAT, Asian Bathrooms! I know how to use them, how to get around the annoying parts by carrying wet wipes, and I don’t even gag that much when I go into a really gross one anymore (that last part is a lie). I WIN!


Filed under Daily Challenge, Thailand

10 responses to “Challenge: Using an Asian Bathroom

  1. Marlee

    No Meg vs. appendix? I though for sure that would be next!

  2. Erin

    Megan! I have to say, all it takes is one step into a dirty Western restroom, and I miss the squatty-potties. Much easier to deal with dirty shoe soles than potentially dirty everthing else. Annnd, much easier to squat and balance than to hover and balance! :)

  3. Very excellent, educational post.

    I’ve been having the same bathroom experience in Armenia for years and did not realize the proper squatting technique.

    We had an intern here once using one of those out house squatties. He came out and couldn’t find his wallet. Guess where it was??

    Yep, he actually fished it out and cleaned it.

    “ICK,” as my grandma Juanita would always say….

    Glad you’re having a great time. I’ve heard great things about the hospital you were in. So glad everything turned out ok!

  4. (*embarrassing confession warning*) ahem, for the longest time i faced the OTHER way using the squat toilet. i mean, how are you supposed to know? and does it matter? if you have good form, right?

    sometimes i just pray, “come on, come on, come on girls, co-oper-ate” and other times i just use the bucket of water to splash my slippers and feet cause there was a stray drop (eeeww!) or two.

    but i have to say capri pants are your friends and the bidet (the butt hose) is a great way to clean the loo :D

    • Well, I’ve read other things that say you’re supposed to face the other way, but I always try to think about which way looks like a regular toilet and then put my bum that way. I don’t think it really matters, though! :)

      Yeah, trying to hold up the cuffs of your long pants, squat, balance, and stand up…not fun!

  5. I live in Malaysia and find the bathrooms to be very bad. Public ones are disgusting. I cannot use a squat toilet as I have arthritis in both needs and cannot squat. In my house I have transformed one of my bathrooms into a Western style. I really hate getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and walk on a wet floor. I also find this dangerous.

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