No matter where we are in the world, one thing unites us; our mutual need to visit the bathroom. From Japan to Timbuktu, each culture the World over has its own specific bathroom customs and rituals, and getting them wrong can land you in the merde (as the French would say).
We’ve picked out some of the most unusual bathroom customs around the world to help avoid just this, so check out what to do when you visit the loo when you’re next on your travels..
We start our bathroom tour of the World in France, which cannot be ignored for its dedication to everyone’s favourite hotel room addition- the bidet. Although known for their popularity in France, bidets appear in bathrooms all over Southern Europe, and essentially allow the user to wash their bits. Users are required to sit on the bidet facing the taps and splash their desired wash areas with water, leaving themselves squeaky clean ‘down there’ to go about their business.
Those unfamiliar with bidets need to be careful not to confuse them with a toilet- they may look the same, but if you use them for the same things you may have a bit of a mess on your hands.
Toilets in Japan can leave a Westerner baffled; some looking like they’re straight out of the future, and others essentially a fancy hole in the floor (complete with foot placements). There are two types of toilets in Japan, each with their very own tricks to master:
The squat toilet is the traditional toilet of Japan, and is described as a ‘sort of urinal on the floor.’ Although most modern squat toilets look rather swish (porcelain and all), do not be fooled: they are, at the most basic level, a hole in the floor in which to do your business. Strong thighs are a must to be able to hold your own in one of these loos, requiring you to squat artfully above the loo whilst you do your business. To avoid embarrassing aim errors, stripping from the waist down is recommended- as is holding on to the ‘grunt pipe’ attached to the loo for balance.
Taking things to the other extreme is the bidet toilet, now extremely popular all over Japan. The Japanese have taken the French’s love for a squeaky clean derrière here to the next level, creating a loo with more knobs and whistles than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Many a tale can be heard from perplexed Westerners faced with one of these contraptions, but the most important function to get to grips with is the in-built bidet function. That’s right- these loos squirt your bottom with a fierce jet of water once you’ve done your business; many with adjustable settings according to sex and, erm, desired wash area.
Other features of the most modern bidet toilets include heated seats, blow dryer and massage functions. This isn’t just any loo- it’s your personal masseuse (and soon to be best friend). The future has arrived friends- and it’s in a toilet in Japan!
The important thing to know when visiting Greece is that paper down the loo is a big no-no, so think before you flush! Due to old sewage systems, many areas of Greece and the Greek islands can’t cope with toilet paper being flushed down the loo; so toilet-users are required to wipe it, and bin it. Nothing too horrendous or out of the ordinary, but be sure to empty the bin in your bathroom regularly to avoid a build up of unpleasant pongs.
The Indians like to take a ‘hands on’ approach to bathroom duties, quite literally. Most commonly using traditional ‘squat’ toilets, as in Japan, the customary way to do your business in India (and around many places in Asia) is to get stuck in and wipe yourself. Usually, a tap is available to your left with which you can fill a bucket with water. You then use this water to wet your hand and wipe yourself clean- then washing said hand afterwards. Whilst this may seem unhygienic, many around Asia see the use of loo roll as unclean, so is a perfect example of different cultures’ approaches to loo-time customs. Just be sure not to offer up your ‘wiping hand’ for a handshake!
Borneo is home to a group of people called the Tidong, who take the phrase ‘holding it in’ to a whole new level. The Tidong traditionally require a newly wed bride and groom to refrain from going to the loo for a whole 3 days and nights following the wedding- and are closely monitored by their families to ensure that they don’t cave. The tradition is said to encourage a long and healthy married life together- and you know what they say, a couple that doesn’t wee together, stays together…