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….
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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…