My rant about bathrooms in China…

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okay people.. I just had to stop and rant about the bathrooms here in China because i got out of my school bathroom squatty potty.. and kind of aimed wrong and my pants are shall I say damp… ewwww… it gets so frustrating at times… so.. I thought I would share the situation here.

To avoid what I just went thru I thought I would compile some tips on using the bathrooms in China.  I am still frustrated that a country that can build a wall that you can see from the moon, a palace that has 99 buildings and a dam that can block an ocean cant make a decent bathroom.  Here we go….

  1. Pack Tissues. Before you even leave home, make sure you’ve got portable toilet paper with you. The little travel size tissues are the best, unless you can shove a whole roll of paper in your purse. Lots of public restrooms don’t provide it. Wet wipes and hand sanitizer are also good to have along, because  if there’s a sink, there probably isn’t any soap and for sure no paper towels, I am not exactly sure they know what those are , really.
  2. Plan Your Business #1. “Preventive Peeing” or going before you go is a good way to avoid getting caught in a place that won’t have a nice toilet. (Nice doesn’t necessarily mean Western by the way.) Pretend you’re all five years old and make sure everyone goes before you leave the house. I always go to the bathroom when I see a normal bathroom, whether I really have to go or not.
  3. Plan Your Business #2. If you’re going to be out and about, think about where you’ll be and try to plan some pit-stops in between. 5- star international hotels, upscale restaurants and shopping malls will have clean washrooms with most of the amenities (toilet paper, Western toilets, soap and towels). Places to avoid using the bathroom: large markets (especially outdoor markets), street-side public bathrooms (though they’re improving), tourist spots, McDonald’s (you would think they have normal bathrooms but they don’t), any small traditional restaurants and some tea houses. Some times if you check the handicap toilet it will be western style, that is just a secret tip I found.
  4. Bag Hand-Off. If you can, hand any unnecessary bags to a friend while you use the washroom. There are generally no hooks and you’ll need your hands to balance, to dig around your purse for tissues and to hold on to the door if the lock is broken. Oh and to get up. If you have no friend to hand your bag too.. then hook it around your neck. This only helps if you have a long strap. I would not suggest you do this if your bag only has arm holes.
  5. Queuing Up. If you find yourself outside, don’t panic. It won’t be unbearable. Queues in China don’t work the same way as they do in the States. Women generally line up in front of a particular stall rather than hang back as one opens. This can create a free-for-all so it’s best to stick to one door and keep your eye on it. If it happens not to be a Western toilet, better to get in there than re-queue. Many times, doors have pictures or signs indicating Western or squat-style toilets, but not always.  Also, check the lock, if it’s red, then it’s occupied. Green means free but always knock. They tend to sometimes just leave the door open to do their business.  I have walked in on a few people finishing up or deep in thought when I had to go.  When that happens just shut the door and move on.
  6. Pants Check. I don’t want to scare you but some washrooms are rather wet – either from splash effect or the toilet maid (usually there is someone assigned to sit in the washroom and clean it) running amok with her mop. Either way, it’s not moisture you want on your pants. If it’s wet, roll them up, especially if you’re in line for a squat toilet. If you see other Chinese ladies rolling, then be sure to. They know something you don’t. When in doubt look around and see what the trend is.  Also, you should roll up your pants  anyway,  because when you squat your aim may not be so good. I personally have good days and bad days.
  7. The Squat. OK, well, you’ve found yourself in a squatty potty. It’s really not that bad and many argue it’s actually healthier to go this way than sitting down. Whatever, if you’re not used to it, squatting can be really difficult. Face forward and try to let your pants down while ensuring that the ends are up (hopefully you’ve rolled) and not touching the floor. There are grooved places for your feet on either side of the toilet. Try to get somewhere in the middle, feet flat on the floor (you don’t want to fall in, believe me) and aim for the potty. The hard part is the feet flat on the floor.  Most Chinese can do this very easily, however, try to stand up and just squat down with your feet flat on the floor.. go ahead I will wait……. Yeah.. isn’t so easy, especially if you are a little top-heavy like myself, this is when your curves are not an asset.  Like I said before.. good days and bad days…
  8. Paper Discard – Not in the Pot! Chinese plumbing in public restrooms generally doesn’t handle paper. If you can remember, please put anything other than #1 or #2 in the basket. Try as hard as you can NOT to look at the basket, it’s usually open and teeming with things on which you’d rather not lay eyes, I will leave it at that.
  9. Finish Up. Out you go, you accomplished squat toilet user. Unroll your pants, wash your hands, if you can, and find your friends waiting for you outside.

Is really not that bad once you get the hang of it and isn’t it better than hovering over a public toilet seat?  Okay.. I am trying to think positive here.

A note on the trough. As hideous as this sounds, there are places where there are still troughs in public bathrooms. In these types of public toilets, there are usually door-less stalls facing up to a long trough with water running down from one end to the other. Folks back up and squat over the trough and everything floats away. These types of toilets are going the way of the dinosaur, but consider yourself warned. Do not look down at any cost.. you really do not want to see what Is happening down there. They are usually located in the bus stations and train stations all o ver china.

China’s reputation for horrible public bathrooms used to be well-deserved, but these days, the government is doing a lot to improve the state of the facilities. You’ll often find public toilets rated with stars. Try not to freak out about the squat toilets. I have been here for two years and I am almost used to them… well I wouldn’t say used to but.. I use them.

I even saw one of the male foreign teachers come out of the bathroom cheering because he finished his business and his pants were still clean. In China the small accomplishments make you happy.

Thank you for listening to my rant and now, I think my pants are dry since I have been sitting in front of this fan as I write this blog.  Spray myself down with perfume and I am good to go and teach my class… hey.. only in China.

until next time…


30 thoughts on “My rant about bathrooms in China…

  1. Thanks for this article. I’m going to China for the first time on Thursday and I’m trying to psych my mind. Not looking forward to squat toilets. But at least boys can pee without having to touch anything.

  2. Sven

    Just stumbled across this blog, and while I don’t usually read blogs, this one was worth reading!

    I have never been to china (will someday) but I took a trip to japan and all I can say is…WOW.

    At the airport…..a very nice, clean toilette, but it was a squat toilette…something very new.

    Then I get to where i am staying, and the toilette is the most advanced in the world! Seat warmer, bidet, massage…etc it was crazy!

    As long as the toilettes are clean and have doors, I have no problem.

    Although, I dont’ know if it’s just me, but I simply CANNOT squat down and keep flat on my feet….I simply can’t balance. But trying to balance on the balls of your feet is equally as hard…esp. while doing your business. Without something to hold on to, I’m usually screwed lol

    And I can’t even IMAGINE doing my business with no doors!

    Thanks for the rant, maybe it should prove useful when I finally visit china!

  3. Angie

    Omg! I did a study abroad in China last summer and squats were the worst!! I still cringe at the memories! One girl in my class wasn’t so lucky one day when we went out to McDonalds… 😦

  4. Randy

    Thailand has taught me well when it comes to doing the business in the bathroom in a foreign country.

    Yes I’ve learned all of the above! Thank you for sharing with unexpecting squat victims (haha)
    Although tissue is good, baby wipes (or feminine wipes) are better! And you feel a little bit cleaner 🙂 I still use them even being back in the states. My teacher said he used to take his pants off (which made me think to bring extra pants) just so he wouldn’t get them wet or messy… Oh goodness this is making my stomach turn 😦 One thing I don’t miss about being over seas. SQUATS!

  5. pearls

    Expats give bravery a new definition! As I recall, passing by a few alleys here in western civ can be a sinus opener!

    Still can’t fathom the summer heat beaming down on drying puddles on the sidewalk, creating a scent that would even knock out Mike Tyson with one whiff! Or even toddler bottoms exposed in public (babies bottoms are cute, but not that cute)…going potty anytime, anywhere! Hopefully, they have a self made pooper scooper or is that too much like right?

  6. Your blog and the comments are too much. I know if I was in the situation I would just learn and deal but right now I just can’t imagine. I remember when I was in pre-school and all the girls had to go to the boys’ bathroom for some reason and there weren’t doors on the stalls. I could barely relax to use the bathroom. If I can remember that from so many years ago how would this effect me. Man oh Man.

  7. Tori

    I have come across the squat toilet myself, but thankfully it was in a much cleaner environment in Japan. I’m still not too fond of them, though. That’s just entirely too much focus and energy required to use the bathroom…I’d rather hover over a western-style toilet anyday…

    As far as the peeing in public is concerned…the Chinese are not the only ones. I was in Ireland for about a week, and went out on a Saturday night with friends/fellow grads. On the way back to the university (everything was basically closed so drunk people were loitering everywhere…), we noticed that the sidewalks were all wet…everywhere…and it did not rain…

    1. I heard one chinese student tell me… that .. all of china is a bathroom… i just fell out… sometimes you are walking down the street.. and get a strong wiff.. of piss… it about knocks you down… pitiful…

  8. Haha, this is great. I’ve seen some really bad toilets here, but luckily no major accidents yet. Can’t wait to move to my new home and use my lovely Chinese toilet every day. Bye bye western luxury!

  9. Going in the bushes sounds less complicated…and possibly cleaner. There’s always the danger of ticks, though. 😀

    I hope to never encounter one of these toilets. I KNOW I would fall in. 😦

    1. @Viajera…. you know.. everyone uses the bathroom outside in China.. just walk right out in the open and pee… and the babies’ have the backs of their pants open with out pampers.. so they can just go where ever…

  10. I just stumbled upon your blog and I love it!
    Great posts…
    I have been to China a few times (never stayed more than a few days, Im a former flight attendant, I’ve only been for work not pleasure), but I never used a bathroom outside of my hotel. From your description, it requires too much work. Lol.

  11. Kelly

    I can’t leave this post without mentioning two things:

    1) You forgot to mention the absence of doors on some bathroom stalls here. You noted holding the door shut on some, but not that in some cases they are missing entirely…like in one of the bathrooms at my school! Haha

    2) I might be able to disgust you even more by telling you that I am certain that the little garbage cans in our school bathrooms have not been emptied in at least 3 weeks (not gonna tell you HOW I know this, just trust me). Now imagine the smell…

    However, my philosophy on this has been and still is, “when you gotta go, you gotta go!”

  12. I have encountered these in some places in Croatia, France and Italy. i was out and about once in Tuscany, where – on the whole – they had the type of toilet I am used to. One day, however, I left the hotel without using the bathroom (Mistake #1). While we were out, we stopped for at least two expressi (Mistake #2). As luck (!) would have it, within about 1/4 of an hour I really, really had to go. We were driving through the mountains somewhere, and there was no place beside the road that would have given me enough cover to just go “wild”, so – after driving down roads curvy enough to scare the p** out of me, we finally stopped at a little cafè. My companion went in first to check things out in their restroom. When he came out, he just said, “You better go see for yourself”. By this time I almost had yellow tears of frustration rolling down my face, but that sight of that hole in the floor? No! We finally ended up at a small restaurant that had a “normal” bathroom, but a very lax sense of cleanliness. Oh well, I had my little packet of wet wipes, my hand sanitizer and some tissues, so the story ended with a huge sigh of relief on my part.

  13. pearls

    (Laughing)…bless your heart! Your rant is too funny…yet I can emphathize with you! To this day, here in western civ., I always pray for clean public bathrooms while I’m out and about, even though I was taught not to sit on the seat! So, my balancing act is pretty good! ~smile~

      1. pearls

        Come to think about it…I too have experienced in times past…no hooks in the stall (either not installed or ripped out ????)…thinking of inventive places to put my short strap purse and business size portfolio! I also have donned my long strap purse like a feed bag around my neck…short strap ones…over my shoulder! Sometimes wiped down the sink and balanced items on it!

        There were a few times when the lock was broken…of all places…why in a public place (you know I talked to the manager didn’t you, afterwards)…all the while trying to watch the door…ready to holler out ‘occupied’ especially for a unisex bathroom! Keen hearing is definitely needed! LOL! I too opt for the handi-cap stall because of the bar…can wedge my belongings between it and the wall if there are no hooks! ~Big Smile~

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