Socialization and Squat Toilets

dsc_0731-2Sarah Gunther

Have you ever used a squat toilet? If the answer is yes, you’ll understand my surprise walking into a public restroom, opening up a stall, and finding a hole in the floor.

If you haven’t, just imagine if someone took a men’s urinal and laid it into the tile floor of a bathroom, put a bar on the wall for balance (sometimes) and a waste basket for used toilet paper.

My jaw nearly hit the floor and all I could mutter was “what is this”… and suddenly I didn’t have to use the bathroom anymore! But unfortunately, my body wouldn’t let me hold it in until I returned to America, so I begrudgingly used the squat toilet – many times. Every public restroom had squat toilets, and the commonality of them shocked me. Are Americans so lazy that we need to sit when we use the restroom? Or is it just more practical and civilized than squatting over a hole?

Although squat toilets are said to be more sanitary, I definitely did not feel cleaner using them. Because you are standing over the squat toilet, people tend to miss. Also, the idea of throwing used toilet paper into a small, usually uncovered waste basket made me queasy. They generally smelt awful, and were not usually clean.

As the trip progressed, my standards of a clean restroom changed dramatically. I couldn’t wait to use my hotel restroom, and even was happy to use an airplane bathroom on the way to Sanya.

This style of restroom was one of many things in China which made me realize that people live differently in different parts of the world. It is often referenced that the bathroom is the only place for true privacy – this reference was challenged to its core as I explored a shared restrooms in a hutong community in Beijing. Not only do the residents of these villages share a restroom rather than having one in their bungalow, there are also no doors on the stall.  This also challenges the American notion of personal space.  Personal space is also challenged in every-day encounters such as riding the train, or even walking down the street.

This level of closeness and human contact gives a whole new meaning to the idea of socialization.



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