Apr 29, 2007

All Your Toilets Are Belong To Us

I'm not sure of whether I should laugh or cry when I read recently how the Kansas City International Airport has decided to install "foot basins" in the restrooms at the airport to accomodate growing number of Muslim cab drivers at the airport.

I suppose I wanted to laugh because in in all my years throughout Indonesia and Malaysia, I have never seen these so-called "foot basins" installed in a toilet for Muslims to wash their feet. If they need to wash their feet, then they need to go do that at a mosque and not in an airport toilet.

What made me feel like crying was the fact that these naive Americans are diving headlong into appeasement without coming to the realization that this now steady flow of "demands" will not ever cease. Next is going to be the running water hose or the faucet and basin for Muslims to clean the crap off their butts and fingers because these people don't use toilet paper. And what happens when someone catches a disease or worse from one of these basins after some reprobate washes his crap covered left hand in one? Eventually you are going to have to install a Muslim or Asian toilet.

The Asian toilet or the Muslim toilet is basically a hole the ground, there is normally a hose hanging down next to the toilet or a tub of water and a pail. You basically stand over the hole and then squat to relieve yourself. While it might sound simple so use, it isn't. Very few Westerners have ever learned to master the "Asian squat" , and the brave one's who have tried this difficult maneuver normally end up losing their balance or hoverering above the hole and crapping on the back of their pants. The hose and/or the pail are supposedly meat to used in the manner of a bidet, but it almost always ends horribly wrong with water and faeces ending up being splashed all over the place.

But it can be just as difficult for Asians and Muslims to use a Wester-style toilets. Years ago after a dinner party at my house, I was horrified when I went into the bathroom. Toilet paper was strewn everywhere, the toilet was was on the verge of overflowing, the floor was all wet and there were footprints on the toilet seat. It was a nightmare I will never forget.

The ultimate irony is that moderate Muslim majority countries like Malaysia are in the process of doing away with these unsanitary toilets, and are teaching their citizens how to keep toilets tidy in an effort to make the transition from the traditional Asian squat toilet to Western-style seats.

And so as America slides ever closer to the 14th century in their pathetic bid to appease these uncivilized extremists, countries like Malaysia move decidedly toward the 21st century.



  1. Anonymous4:36 AM

    As I'm sure many readers may know, in Japan they have not completely abandoned the squat toilet. Regardless of what one's thoughts are on such facilities, they can be kept clean and made more easily accessible to westerners. Perhaps the issue is how much do they value sanitary conditions?

  2. May you never have to use the ...uh, facilities, in an Afghan village. And may I never again have to do so...

  3. Wilson5:35 AM

    ...and there were footprints on the toilet seat.

    Forgive me for laughing.

  4. I agree with anonymous. It's not a "muslim toilet". Didn't you ever use a restroom in a Japanese airport? They give you a choice between western and Japanese style. and in Africa, we had toilet choice for our patients; those from the country couldn't use the seat.
    And here in the Philippines, we have a hose for our workers (at home they use a large cup).

  5. Squat toilets are not confined to non-westernized nations. I remember aboout 8 years ago stopping at a rest stop on the autobahn (A6?) tying Germany and Denmark together and finding a squat toilet.

  6. Anonymous6:15 AM

    In 1969 I made a Med cruise on a US Navy ship. We had liberty in Spain, Malta, Greece, Italy

    At that time, I saw nothing but squat toilets in any of those countries.

    Except in Malta. One bar did not even have a squate toilet. It had a galvanized metal bucket. I think they emptied it daily whether it needed it or not.

    John Henry

  7. Anonymous6:39 AM

    In both Venice and Paris I ran across the squat toilet in decent restaurants.

    In Venice, I was the first in my party to use the restroom, after coming out I told the others what the facilities were like and there was a stampede to take pictures.

    Maybe the squat toilet will become a tourist attraction.

  8. Anonymous7:03 AM

    At French government universities...i.e. almost all universities in France, the lecture halls' unisex bathrooms are equipped with row after row of very dirty grafitti-filled squat toilets. Toilets with seats can be found in the office areas of academic departments or among masters level and PhD level research facilities. All of these bathrooms are unisex.

  9. Merry7:50 AM

    Squat toilets are all over China and Taiwan, of course, and as a (female) westerner whose lived in both places, I did master their use. (I actually prefer them in places like outdoor parks, because the "no contact" aspect is appealing when not cleaned frequently.) It's not actually that hard, if you're willing to try.

    I will grant, however, that squat toilets on moving trains are pretty tricky.

    By far, my biggest complaint about toilets in some parts of China was the lack of doors, stalls or whatnot. It's bad enough to lack the privacy, but when you are a rare foreigner squatting in a doorless stall, everyone watches your every move. The "group trench" phenomenon is also at times undesirable, but again, you can get used to anything if you're open-minded.

  10. Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain all have (exclusively) western toilets in places like airports, restaurant and malls.

    They do have the hose next to the toilet though, and there is a 24/7 attendant whose job appears to be pushing the excess water down the floor drain.

    Before using one, it's best to check if there is paper. Learned that one the hard way.

    Always wondered how the guys in man dresses did it, but then I noticed the stall doors were usually at least 7' tall and went all the way to the floor. I'm pretty sure they strip down to their skivvies and hang the man dress on the door hook.

  11. " can get used to anything if you're open minded."

    Good. Then all we have to do is open the minds of the Cab Drivers... and issue them Handy Wipes. Or, as the case may be, Footy Wipes. Whichever.

  12. Anonymous8:04 AM

    I've seen squat toilets in Asia & the mid-east. But, I have to admit that in the mid-east, I thought the bucket and spigot was for washing down the area, never occurred to me that it was for hand wiping. Eeww. Fortunatly, I always travel w/ packs of tissue for that purpose.

  13. Anonymous8:08 AM

    And who said we were NOT in a clash of Civilizations??

  14. Anonymous8:48 AM

    I didn't care for the "shelf" toilets in Germany. They made it easy to inspect your deposit for worms, but when you flushed, the water and manure was splashed all over the room. My solution? Don't flush, in public toilets they have someone who does that for you. I always left them a generous tip.

    We had a class on the use of less than optimal facilities. One can wipe oneself with a single square. You tear off a corner, and place it in your shirt pocket. You use your one square by poking your finger through it. Then you clean off your finger as you remove the square from it. The little corner is used to get the last little bit of crap from under your fingernail.

  15. Anonymous9:34 AM

    [T]he shelf toilets in Germany: All you had to do was lay a couple squares of toilet paper on the shelf, and your deposit flushed away nicely. A lot of smaller places do NOT have attendants to flush for you.

  16. Anonymous10:13 AM

    merry: Thanks for convincing me to vacation in Montata this summer.

    Anon 8:48 and 9:34: When the reds sacked Berlin in WWII, they looted the place of toilets. A lot of toilets in Russia are still those kooky "shelf" toilets. It was said that the looting of those toilets was Berlin's own revenge on the Soviets.

  17. I'm never shaking hands with a foreigner again.

  18. Kevin and others:

    "They do have the hose next to the toilet though, and there is a 24/7 attendant whose job appears to be pushing the excess water down the floor drain."

    I'm going to have to disagree with those who say that the squat toilet is just as sanitary as well.

    That hose or bucket next to the toilet is used to spray the crap off their butts and hands, and like I said it normally ends up horribly wrong with crap being splashed all around the toilet.

    Next time you walk into one of those places take a look at the floor and then the bottom of your shoes when you walk out.


  19. Bayou Bubba6:47 PM

    Ya'll need to get over yourselves. The American obsession with "clean" is expensive and hard to achieve where resources are scarce. As every parent knows, you CAN touch poo without dropping dead of some horrible disease. Also, whatever diseases might be in your own scat are no threat to you... you're already infected. Just wash your hands.
    When leaving the cozy cocoon that is modern western civilization, always prepare for potty issues (BYOTP, hand sanitizers, etc.). After all, most of the world squats to do their business (not that I don't prefer a nice clean throne when I can get it).

  20. Anonymous12:47 AM

    You can tell Kansas City International what you think:

  21. Anonymous1:01 AM

    I ran into squat toilets in Tijuana, Delhi and Paris. In Delhi they had a dozen squat toilets and a single western one on the end. Probably tired of fishing the westerners out of their mess. In Paris the toilet seemed to be the exception since I only saw one. In Tijuana it's better to take imodium and avoid number 2 so I've only seen looked for and/or seen the one.

  22. After all, most of the world squats to do their business (not that I don't prefer a nice clean throne when I can get it).

    Yeah, and most of the world lives in disease and filth.

    If it's all the same, I prefer NOT to "build up a tolerance" and instead have THEM adapt to OUR ways when in the USA, which are inherently healthier.

  23. Anonymous11:32 PM

    It isn't just malaysia and other islamic countries, it's also Communist China ( I don't know about how mod. Taiwan is); but in China History Forum, many American Chinese go to visit the "Old country" - and go innocently into the "restroom" of "fancy" restaurants and such - they have come back out, green around the gills.

    The toilet problem is also in India, and in South America, i.e. countries like Peru, and Ecuador.

    It's a shame that the descendants of illustrious ancient civilizations should have been reduced to this. Yes, the further one goes back in time, the more advanced it was. Archaeologists have dug up ancient cities worldwide, with bathroom pipes even in private residences.

    Someone above wrote:

    "If it's all the same, I prefer NOT to "build up a tolerance" and instead have THEM adapt to OUR ways when in the USA, which are inherently healthier."

    Indeed, the epitome of civilization, is the existence of flushing toilets everywhere.

    This the the most advanced.

  24. Anonymous2:08 AM

    It's hit or miss in SE Asia. Some places are sit, some are squat, and some are in between.

    "In between" is what I got with my rental apartment in Saigon several years ago. There was a sit-down, Western toilet all right, but it had (a) no running water and (b) no toilet seat.

    A quick survey made it clear that one was to squat on the top rim of the toilet bowl, a much more challenging endeavor than your normal hole-in-the-floor version. A false move, a slippery rim, even a sneeze or a cough might send you tumbling from your perch and either into the toilet or down to the bathroom floor. Serious injury (not merely the embarrassment of the standard squat) looked like a real possibility.

    As for the plumbing (or lack of it), what we actually had here was the standard bucket and pail operation. As with any squat, first you'd wet down the toilet bowl with a pail of water, then do your thing, and then "flush" with 3 or 4 more pails of water into the toilet bowl. In fact it all worked rather well.

    As intimidating as it first looked, mastering the "rim perch" squat was not as difficult as imagined. It required focus and concentration, but after several runs that became second nature.

    In fact after a month or so of mastering the technique, it began to seem rather amusing. Because not only was this a practice that would utterly baffle the average Westerner, but also that a normal Saigonese might find it too daunting for normal use. It was a matter of pride that I had mastered this contraption that was neither Western nor Asian, but transcended both cultures.

  25. Anonymous2:39 AM

    Followup to the above comments from others:

    1) In most squats there is a hanger for men's pants and skivvies. You need to remove both to protect yourself from mishaps. Wearing sandals makes it easier to manage the whole operation of stripping one's lowers while keeping them dry and simultaneously *never putting either foot on the wet floor*, which was my big paranoia.

    2) In Nepal and out in the countryside, there is usually a shack with a wooden floor and a hole cut through it which goes directly into a big pit underneath. None of that excess water nonsense you have in all of Asia, and since there's nothing to flush, paper is quite OK. It's a squat operation but it isn't wedded to the extraneous problems of water, flushing, towels, hygeneic paranoia, etc.

    It's only when you realize that the pit underneath is periodically emptied from a lower access door that paranoia creeps in. Yes, the contents are used for crop fertilizer.

    3) When the country folks come into Kathmandu from the rural districts they often are not aware of the urban niceties such as squat toilets or toilet facilities or indeed even of toilet privacy. So it is not unusual to spot a country person squatting right on the city sidewalk of downtown Kathmandu during mid-day and amidst the auto traffic and other pedestrians to relieve the bowels. It is a completely shameless act, and there is no attempt whatsoever to find a more private spot. The city sidewalk, a busy curbside, or next to any park bench will be fine, thank you very much.

  26. Anonymous8:02 AM

    Strange what some of you are saying about squat toilets and Europe. I grew up in East-Central Europe, traveled in France, Germany, Spain and Italy, and I have never seen a squat toilet in any of those places. Not to say they don't exist, but I didn't come across them. I was born in 1968, so my experience is mostly from the 80's onwards.

    The only places I did see (and use) squat toilets was in Turkey and the Balkan peninsula, and my (also Central European) traveling companions complained as bitterly as any American would.

    In depressed rural areas in Europe people may still have non-water-closet outhouses: a hole in the ground, but with a wooden seat above it.

    I live in the US now, and some public restrooms are indeed cleaner than the average European ones, and some aren't. What is great though that in many places they are easier to find, there's more of them, and they're free. In Europe you often have to pay.

  27. Unfortunately, living in Korea from time to time I come across my old nemesis the squat toilet.
    Fortunately it is rare for me to do my business in a public bathroom rather waiting until I get home.
    I wrote an article on this and you can find it at @ . Have a look and please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks

  28. Whilst Japan may have changed and upgraded. Many places in Korea still have the squat toilets. What makes matters worse is that they do not wish to flush toilet paper away so they put their 'used' paper in a basket right next to the toilet. Luckily my trips and usage of public toilets are few in Korea. I wrote an article on it you can read more @ please feel free to leave a comment.

  29. Whilst Japan may have changed and upgraded. Many places in Korea still have the squat toilets. What makes matters worse is that they do not wish to flush toilet paper away so they put their 'used' paper in a basket right next to the toilet. Luckily my trips and usage of public toilets are few in Korea. I wrote an article on it you can read more @ please feel free to leave a comment.


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