Tuesday, October 4, 2011

These Toilets are the Pits

Poster inside toilet stall in Shanghai

I get the paper
up and aim at the wastebasket.
A throw! The
paper lifted
up after being 
released. Ha,
a nice shoot with a goal!
I am a strong
man in civilization

In China almost all of the toilets are pit toilets.

In the fancier hotels and airports, you may find the occasional “western” toilet, but for the most part, resign yourself to squat. If you have bad knees, well, you’re shit out of luck (pun intended). 

The plumbing in China is shitty (there I go again!), so you can’t flush toilet paper - you have to throw it in the trash can next to the squatter.
This, as you can imagine, makes the bathrooms most aromatic.
You never have to look for a toilet - just follow your nose.

So the simple act of relieving oneself becomes, for those of us raised in the States,
an exercise in strength, stamina, and agility.

Very few public toilets have toilet paper, so bring a pack of Puffs or wet wipes.

First, approach the toilet with trepidation, opening all the stall doors to find the least offensive one. Don’t try to hold your breath to ward off the stench - you don’t want to get dizzy and pass out and fall IN the toilet. Better to accept the smell, and give thanks for your shiny, white porcelain throne back home.
One experienced traveler recommends a smidge of Vicks Vap-o-Rub under the nose to block the smell.

If you’re lucky, your stall will have a lock on the door.
No, wait - if you're lucky, your stall will HAVE a door!
If you’re even luckier, there will be a hook to hang your purse. 

Roll up your pants legs a bit, or they’ll be soaked in the urine left on the floor from the other Western tourists who were too scared to squat properly, missing the pit altogether.
Don’t be one of them - get in there and do it right.
You came to China to be immersed in the life and culture here, didn’t you?

Feet go on either side of the pit, obviously. 
Drop your pants, taking care not to let them touch the floor, bend your knees, squat, and let ‘er flow.

This is where you'll be happy you’ve practiced your Kegels - if you can control your flow to something between a trickle and a gushing fountain, you won’t have to deal with backsplash.

Now, still squatting, grab your tissue (you DID take your tissue out of your purse before you hung it up, right?), steady your balance, and finish up.
Don’t forget - don’t throw your tissue into the squatter!

Now go wash your hands - every bathroom has a sink,
but in the 2-1/2 weeks I’ve been here so far, only 2 or 3 have had soap.
And then shake your hands and wipe them on your pants, because none of them have towels or hand dryers. 

Here’s another tip for the Western woman traveling in China - you, too, can pee standing up.

I brought a handy dandy little device called P-Style  - I call it my Port-o-Peenie.
It’s a hard plastic tunnel-funnel thingy that . . . well, use your imagination.

Suffice it to say that I fear no pit toilets - I can take it like a man. Heh. 

Still can’t write my name in the snow, though.


  1. HAH! Your post took me back to my time in Japan when the phrase, "slit trench," entered my vocabulary. Lived there 2 years and even though it was almost 20 years ago, to this DAY I carry the pocket pack of tissues. Just in case. And I always wondered about the pStyle - thanks for demystifying! Cheers!!

  2. Oooh, slit trench - we were fortunate NOT to encounter one of those!
    P-Style was a revelation, sure made my life a lot easier!

  3. Thanks for the laugh, Betcey...and the trip down memory lane for me too. I lived in Japan for 3 years, and while I never heard the "slit trench" I do remember the no squatting on the western toilet pictures! Too funny!

  4. It was not unusual, when finding a western toilet, to see footprints right on the seat. Ew.

  5. I am still holding my breathe from reading this! And shuddering...

  6. Awww, it's not so bad when you have a Port-o-Peen!!!

  7. And then there are the city public toilets that have no stalls, just one open "room". Yech. And be careful where you step when you are in a small city or town - those babies don't wear diapers, just loose clothes that are shifted out of the way when they squat to relieve in the gutter.

  8. I lived in Japan for the greater half of my adult life and got a good laugh out of this post. It is all only too, too true!

    In Japan, most of these floor toilets are made with a sort of ceramic "hood" on the front of them, so that they look a bit like an old-fashioned baby carriage. I think the hoods are to prevent men from splashing too much. Fortunately, you were allowed to flush the toilet paper!

    No one has mentioned the non-flush floor toilets. I encountered many in Japan, where I went right out of college, many years ago, and we lived with one in our tiny apartment for 8 years. In this case, the hole is positioned more towards the back of the toilet, just where it needs to be, and is larger than the hole in a flush toilet. You have to hope you don't miss it.

    Many Japanese children have been terrorized by the fear of falling into that hole, although by the time they are using the toilet, they are probably too big to do so. (Hey, I used to be afraid that I would be sucked down the 1" wide drain of our bathtub when I was little, so I shouldn't point fingers at anyone!)

  9. In Egypt they are "long drop" toilets--two footprints and a hole. The finer hotels and more modern city toilets are similar to ours--but out in the toolies it is the long drop toilet. TP is available in the hotels if you are willing to pay the ladies who clean and manage the toilets. And you BETTER pay those ladies for the TP! I never did learn how wo use the long drop toilet withoug getting urine on my shoes!