The restroom situation around the world


The good news of course is that I live in a country without restroom wars.

No local governments here in Switzerland, as far as I know, are getting ready to pass laws about who can use which restroom and, believe me, I’ve been scanning the headlines each night in my Blick am Abend just to be sure.

Back in the U.S., which never ceases to amuse (and horrify) my Swiss neighbors, people are apparently getting all hot and bothered about people in restrooms who, in the opinion of some, shouldn’t be there.

Most of the people who are freaking out, I’m guessing, have never been been to a W.C. in Europe, where female attendants in men’s restrooms are fairly common. You’ll be minding your own business one day, and suddenly a woman will be sweeping under your feet. It’s distracting at first, sure, but you get used to it. Now I hardly notice.

Frankly, if you want to be traumatized by restrooms, you should travel more, not only in Europe, but in other countries as well.

Squat toilets – sometimes called “Turkish toilets” – are the norm in much of the world, not just in Turkey. (Some Swiss like to call these toilets “French toilets,” but I think that has something to do with not liking the French.) What you get are porcelain treads and a hole in the floor about four inches wide. I was puzzled when I saw my first one, I studied it carefully, and then I thought, well, when in Peru, which is where I happened to be, do as the Peruvians do. I was proud of my first attempt.

Less traumatizing, but no less annoying, is having to pay to go. A tip dish by the door? Really? And then, to add insult to injury, the attendants themselves are often incredibly rude, though I suppose I would be rude too if I had to work there day after day.

I might as well go all the way with this post and make a comment about the toilet paper. If you visit me, or travel anywhere in the world, you might want to take your own. You’ll be glad you did, especially where none is offered, and I’ll leave my comment at that. But seriously, if you visit me and leave a roll or two of the good stuff, I will be very grateful.

Look, I could go on. There’s a lot to write about, as you can imagine. I have spent a lot of time in restrooms around the world and have taken a special interest in the topic. But this is probably as much as you wanted to know. Frankly, I now know as much about the restroom situation in the U.S. as I ever wanted to know, and I wish state legislators would turn their attention to a few other subjects which – I apologize for this – have a greater sense of urgency.

Until next time. Tschüss!

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


5 Responses to The restroom situation around the world

  1. Steve Stimpson May 28, 2016 at 7:03 am #

    Wonderfully done, Doug. I’ve spent my share of time in toilets around the world. I am thankful that my NC home-state governor has set his heels with this issue. Politically I think this is an issue to distract from government inability by those with the greatest of inabilities. Socially I think it is an issue initiated by those that have never had to use a toilet that lacked a seat, running hot and cold water, toilet paper, deodorizer or a staff to clean up after them, a.k.a. a bunch of spoiled brats that need to get a life/job. I’m not complaining about the unemployed. I think you know what I mean. I have only “met” those involved in this issue via the media. I am looking very forward to seeing what one of these nincompoops pushing this issue looks, acts and sounds like.

  2. Susan May 28, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    Great post, in fact I liked it so much I shared it on FB.

    I’ve encountered some interesting toilets, from Lausanne to Cambodia, but I have to tell you, two of the most memorable were in Italy.

    I agree, folks in the States have much more important matters to be worried about, in my humble opinion, than the restroom rules.

  3. Bettina May 28, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

    Sinc we travelled through Bolivia, we never complain about public toilets anywhere anymore. Because in Bolivia, there were none. Not that this would be a particular problem if you’re out somewhere in nature. But: on the Altiplano, there’s hardly any tree to hide behind. And as a woman, you know what I mean. The Bolivian women wear several skirts on top of each other. When they need to pee, they just squat down and that’s it…

  4. karen parkinson, wheaton May 31, 2016 at 2:11 pm #

    Since no one from Wheaton has left a reply, I decided to reply. I agree with you about the greater sense of urgency. Thank you for introducing me to Will Willimon. I appreciate his blogs and plan to read one of his books. I look forward to reading your book.
    Karen Parkinson

  5. Heidi Gagnon June 1, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

    I was thinking of the toilet behind the church in South Africa…. When you need to go, you need to go!