Whether we refer to it as the lavatory, the Loo, the WC, the Dunny, or just about anything else, luckily there are bathrooms just about everywhere. But that definitely does not mean that all bathrooms around the world are made equal. From the good to the bad to the ugly, take a look behind the stall doors to see restrooms from the rest of the world.
1. There Was Once A “Toilet Revolution”
Recently, much of the world economy has been focused, in part, around China. With that new attention, tourists and businesspeople from around the world have traveled to China and found something a bit, well, unexpected, when they went to the restrooms. It seemed that many of China’s bathrooms were still using squat toilets. Enter the “Toilet Revolution.”
In 2015, China’s President Xi Jinping announced a $3 billion renovation to 68,000 public restrooms in areas with high tourist traffic. The toilets that were built since then are not just up to usual American standards. No, they went above and beyond, and created luxurious bathrooms that, at some times, look like something out of a palace. Now, that’s a revolution we can get behind.
2. High Tech Toilets In Japan
While some Asian countries are leading in technology development, they have developed restrooms to match. In some areas, bathrooms look like a tech hub of their own. Public restrooms can often play music, come with a heated toilet seat, and can even open and close toilet lids automatically.
Other unbelievable bathrooms from the future include toilet paper rolls that are specifically designed to wipe off the screen on smartphones. Some even include a drying function as well as a built in bidet and a service call button. Places like Japan have almost become famous for their high tech toilets, and buying one for a home in the United States can cost a family thousands of dollars. We’d say it’s worth it.
3. What Are “Princess Noises?”
Sometimes going to a public restroom can be awkward and, while we won’t fully get into the details, the experience can come with some slightly embarrassing noises. For years, people have repeatedly flushed toilets to mask any uncomfortable sounds, and ended up wasting a ton of water. Then, along came the “Princess Noise” function in Japan.
Many high tech bathrooms in Japan now come with an option for princess noises. In Japan, it is considered rude, especially by women, to make noise in the bathroom. So this gentle music player is meant to help. It is said that women will even carry their own princess noise machine in case their bathroom is not up to this high tech standard.
4. Watch Where You Throw Your Toilet Paper In Some Countries
Most bathrooms around the world come with a trashcan or some other waste bin. But in some countries, the trashcan is not just meant for hygiene products. No, those bins are actually meant for used toilet paper, as some countries do not encourage people to throw their paper down the drain.
Places like Mexico and Brazil have notoriously bad pipes in many of their bathrooms and an equally bad sewage system. So instead of throwing used T.P. into the toilet, it is more common to dispose of it in the trash can. Fortunately these countries’ love for padded toilet seats can help make the entire culture-shocking moment a little bit more comfortable.
5. Toilet Paper Can Cost You In Some Countries
This might not be the best thing to think about, but back in the days of our ancestors, there was no toilet paper. Modern toilet paper only started to be mass produced in the mid-1800s, and has been a saving grace every since. But toilet paper, like all paper, is not a never-ending resource. In some parts of the world toilet paper is scarce, and it will cost you.
Places like Egypt actually end up charging people for toilet paper in some bathrooms. Take a look around websites that offer tips for travelers going to Egypt, and many of them will warn about a toilet paper fee. So next time anyone finds themselves in a public bathroom in Egypt, make sure they bring their wallet.
6. It’s Illegal Not To Flush In Singapore
While we’d all hope our fellow citizens of the world would do the decent thing and flush after they use the toilet, that, most unfortunately, is not always the case. However, in Singapore the act of flushing is taken to all new levels of seriousness and hygiene.
It is actually illegal in ulta-cleanly Singapore to leave a public toilet unflushed, and anyone caught doing so can be fined about $150. To be honest, we kind of wish that law was enacted in more places around the world. Also, don’t even think about urinating in an elevator in the country as many lifts there have detection system that active alarms that keep the elevator’s doors shutter until authorities arrive.
7. France Is Making Trashcan Toilets
Millions of tourists from around the world flock to Paris, France, to soak in the beauty of one of the most romantic cities in the world. But while people post all of their stunning photos on Instagram, one thing that is typically not pictured? Public urination. Apparently, it became a real problem in Paris.
So, much like the Toilet Revolution in China, the government stepped in. In August 2018, Paris introduced the “Uritrottoirs.” These public urinals basically look like red mail boxes or trash cans, except we would not suggest putting mail into them. It’s a little weird, but definitely less unsightly than seeing someone relieve themselves on the street. Some even grow flowers on top, with the help of some, cough, fertilizer.
8. The Irish Hate Public Restrooms
Let’s be real, does anyone actually enjoy using a public bathroom? Pretty much nobody actually prefers to use a public restroom if given the option to use a more private, usually more clean, one. And while everyone has an opinion on it, the Irish have a lot of opinions on public restrooms.
A study that we are surprised even took place found that 62 percent of people in Ireland absolutely refuse to ever use a public bathroom. Some admitted that they will use a public restroom, but refuse to sit on the toilet seat. We are still trying to figure out if this says more about Irish people, or the public restrooms options throughout the country. Either way, we’re going to “Irish goodbye” this one.
9. It Can Cost A Fee To Pee
Throughout Europe, visitors will often see people working within the restrooms, handing out paper towels and asking for payment. The practice is seen everywhere from the U.K. to Germany to France. Usually that money is optional and it is put towards the upkeep of the public restroom. But then, there’s Sweden.
Sweden has become notorious among travelers for demanding payment to use public restrooms. Some stay locked until payment is received. There are websites now devoted to finding free toilets in Sweden. But for anyone who does not have the time to seek out a good deal on a bathroom, just make sure to carry around some pocket change in case nature starts calling. Hopefully it calls collect.
10. Bidets Are More Popular Than You Think
In the United States, it seems like having a bidet is basically a status symbol. Finding a bidet in a hotel bathroom can be the height of luxury. But even if people in the U.S. are given this amenity, they are often there just to look at, and people seem to be weary of actually using them.
But in bathrooms around the world, having a bidet is actually really common, and the device is used often. The water hose, whether in its own porcelain basin or as an attachment to the toilet, is seen as being cleaner and less wasteful than using toilet paper.
11. The Great German Pee Debate
There’s a big debate brewing in Germany, and it has less to do with politics and more to do with pottytics. Instead of political parties, Germans on opposite sides of the debate are divided into sitzpinklers and stehpinklers, depending if they believe men should urinate while sitting down or standing up.
Yes, there is debate on whether men should sit down while going to the bathroom, known as Sitzpinkers, in order to keep public restrooms clean. Some toilets have red signs demanding men stay seated. The disagreement even made it to German court, where the Stehpinklers, or those who want to stand, won. But that does not mean the Sitzpinkers will take this loss sitting down.
12. Russian Toilets Have A Bad Rep
When the best athletes from around the world, who were used to using all types of bathrooms around the world, came to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, they were greeted with a surprise. It seemed that the poorly made bathrooms made relieving themselves practically an Olympic sport.
Athletes found that some of the bathrooms at the Olympic village had “friendship toilets,” or toilets situated right next to each other with no barrier. Others found toilets with seats screwed on backwards or upside down. Some had screws poking out. Apparently, these toilets were representative of a larger trend in Russia, where toilets can sometimes be a bit … off.
13. Our Worst Nightmare in Australia
We’ve seen the absolutely terrifying viral videos of snakes popping out of toilets. Until now, we were hoping that this Internet urban legend would remain just a thing that lived in our nightmares. Oh, if only we could be so lucky.
Apparently, snakes living in toilets is very much a real threat in some parts of Australia. According to experts, snakes in hot summer months, and especially during their mating season, seek sources of water wherever they can. That, terrifyingly enough, includes crawling into toilets. So before anyone goes to the bathroom in Australia during the summer, please promise us to check before sitting down.
14. Strangers Can Use Your Private Bathroom in Scotland
There are some strange “laws” in Scotland that govern the etiquette of going to the bathroom. One old custom dictates that if a stranger knocks on a person’s door at home and asks to use the bathroom, it is the Scottish Way to let them inside to relieve themselves.
But strangely enough another “rule” has stuck, and many believe that it is the law of the land. That rule states that if anyone is using the toilet and someone knocks on the door saying they need to use it, the occupant is obligated to let that person enter. Fortunately, there is no actual rule governing this, so everyone can do their business in peace and wait their turn.
15. What Is A Bum Gun in Thailand?
Anyone traveling in Thailand might notice a little something added to practically every single bathroom in the country. But that little something packs a whole lot of punch. In fact, that added amenity is known as a toilet hose or, more endearingly, a “bum gun.”
The bum gun is intended for people to clean themselves after going to the bathroom. And it is supposed to work much better than toilet paper. Bum guns have become a fascination of foreign travelers trekking through Thailand, and there are websites dedicated to tips and tricks of its use. One tip: test out the water pressure first. The power of these guns can be a little unpredictable.
16. Bring Your Own Toilet Paper in Cuba
Sometimes it feels like there is nothing worse than finishing up in the restroom and noticing that there is no toilet paper in the stall. Suddenly, someone can find themselves stranded on the toilet bowl. But in some countries, this is a common occurrence, and locals tend to come prepared.
Take, for example, Cuba, where there simply is not the money to stock every single public restroom with unlimited amounts of toilet paper. Because of this, locals usually carry some toilet paper along with them when they go out. When visiting other countries, blogs say that Cubans will stuff free public restroom toilet paper in their luggage to bring back home.
17. The Odd Antarctica Sewage System
While there are a few heated bathrooms in Antarctica, those are definitely the rare exception. Heated, flushable toilets can be found at the main scientific research bases. But for the most part, researchers in the middle of nowhere in Antarctica find that the facilities are not exactly that comfortable.
Researchers out in the field typically find that bathrooms are usually just a hole in the ground, or maybe an outhouse if they are lucky. But no matter where they go to the bathroom, all of that waste ends up in the same place: the ocean. And while, yes, that is pretty gross, consider the bright side that there are very few people in Antarctica and, therefore, not that much waste being dumped into the ocean.
18. South Korea’s Cleaning System
Many tourists that travel to South Korea immediately notice something that they do not normally see around the world, and especially in large cities. Everything seems to be relatively clean, even the public restrooms. But clean public bathrooms do not just happen, they take hard work and effort. And for some in South Korea, they take a full time job.
In South Korea, it is commonplace for public restrooms to have “ajoomas.” These ajoomas are usually older women, and they are tasked with cleaning and maintaining the bathrooms, and they are dedicated. Even if a bathroom is in use, ajoomas will often come in and clean up right around the person.
19. Japan Does Things A Different Way
When traveling abroad, it is not unusual for things to feel a little backwards. Navigating a new country is hard! Apparently, navigating a new bathroom is just as difficult. And if anyone finds themselves in Japan, trying to use a foreign bathroom can lead to things going especially … backwards.
The Japanese are finding that many tourists are not exactly sure which way to face when using the bathrooms in their country, especially in Kyoto. The confusion can lead to some pretty big messes. So some frustrated locals have started posting stickers directing tourists where to face. Hopefully the messy situation will turn around for the best.
20. Street Toilets Are Making A Comeback
When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. And after a day of constant exploring and walking around, sometimes it is hard to find somewhere to take a quick bathroom break. But not for long. It seems that outdoor toilets, right there on the street are making a major comeback.
In some places, especially throughout Europe, outdoor street bathrooms are cropping up left and right. These outhouses of the future have some pretty surprising amenities. They provide just as much privacy as one could expect from an outdoor restroom, as well as running water for hand washing. In Montreal, some outdoor bathrooms can even wash themselves. Welcome to the future, people! But bring noseplugs.
21. Squat Toilets Are More Common Than You Think
The porcelain throne is not so much porcelain and not so much a throne in many parts of the world. The flush toilets in bathrooms around the world that many of us know and love today actually were not a thing until the 19th century. And for many people around the world, they are still not commonplace. Instead, people use squat toilets.
Squat toilets can come in many shapes in sizes. For some, they are just a hole in the ground. Others can be raised onto a platform. Some are actually porcelain or metal, with places for feet on either side. Squat toilets can be found in many countries in Asia, as well as throughout sub-Saharan Africa and even some parts of eastern Europe.
22. The Most Interesting Public Restrooms In New Zealand
Tourists have long loved traveling to New Zealand for a adventurous trip of hiking, exploring, and some high adrenaline activities. So would anyone have guessed that a public restroom would be on the list of New Zealand’s popular tourist sights? Not exactly thrill inducing.
There is a public restroom on New Zealand’s North Island that has attracted a ton of attention. No, not for its extra clean restrooms. Instead, it is considered a massive art installation by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Dubbed the Hundertwasser Toilets, the wacky, Dr.-Suess-like bathrooms are made from local, recycled materials. Since the restroom was built, it has become one of the most photographed public restrooms of all time.
23. What’s In A Name?
Saying the word “toilet” has somehow become a potty-mouthed word. Around the world, people have come up with some pretty creative words to replace the word “toilet.” Even in the United States, people call it the John, the Porcelain Throne, or, our personal favorite, The Oval Office.
Other countries are no different, and have their own words for the bathroom. Canadians often prefer to use the word “washroom,” while in Scotland people can use anything from “bog” to “netty” to “lavvy.” Over in Australia, they refer to the toilet as the dunny. In Philippine English, the bathroom is called the “comfort room.” So take some comfort in the fact that in the end, they all basically have the same purpose.
24. An Open Secret
Next time that anyone goes into a bathroom, no matter if it is of the squatting variety or not, and closes the door, they should be thankful. According to global sanitation organization World Toilet (yes, that’s a thing), 15 percent of the world’s population has do their business in the open. That means they do their business in fields, forests and other outdoor spaces.
In India alone, 53 percent of people do not have a toilet in their homes. In 2011, the census in India found that only 3.2 percent of people use a public restroom. The rest leave it up to nature. And, yes, in case anyone was wondering, this does mean that more people in India own cell phones than bathrooms.
25. Toilets Can Be A Tourist Attraction
There are plenty of breathtaking sights to see when walking around Paris, from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower and everything in between. But we would never expect an old public restroom to be on the list. And while it might not be breathtaking, it might at least make someone hold their nose.
In the 1870’s there were over a thousand outdoor restrooms sprinkled throughout Paris. And they were just about as nice and beautifully constructed as any outdoor restroom could be at the time. Today, there is only one of these bathrooms left on Boulevard Arago.
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