How to Use a Squat Toilet in China
China is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, and this is with good reason. Tourism is well-developed at sights like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and starred hotels are usually of a high standard, despite China being a developing country. However, one thing that many people find surprising when they first get to China is the squat toilet.
The Squat Toilet
Squat toilets are not seen in most of the Western world, but in China, it's more likely than not that a person will walk into a restroom and find a toilet that is level (or, pardon the pun, "flush") with the floor. These toilets require a bit of getting used to.
Squat toilets aren't excessively difficult to use. The majority of a person's problems come from not being well-versed on how to use the toilets. Not knowing how to use these toilets can mean waiting in much longer lines for Western toilets, so a little foreknowledge is best.
Before Heading Out
It may sound surprising, but using squat toilets actually requires a bit of planning before one even leaves their hotel. Many public restrooms do not actually provide toilet tissue, so it's usually a great idea to pack a bit before heading out for the day.
There's also the chance that a restroom won't have soap or towels to dry one's hands with. This makes it a good idea to pack some hand sanitizer before heading out. Many people also plan pit stops at shopping malls, fancy restaurants, and international hotels since these places usually have Western toilets.
Using squat toilets in China may not be on a person's "top 10 list" for their vacation, but it actually becomes a part of their Chinese experience. Public restrooms are getting more and more sanitary in China, but you may need a small amount of change since many public restrooms charge a fee.
Good advice is to use the bathroom before leaving your hotel. Visitors to China will likely have to use a squat toilet at some point, but going before leaving the hotel will reduce the number of interruptions to a person's vacation.
At the Restroom
The first thing that a person should do before going into a bathroom is have a friend or family member hold their bags (e.g. shopping bags, purses) for them. This isn't so they won't get stolen, but rather, because there are usually no hooks to hang these bags on and both hands will be needed for balance.
After not forgetting to remove the toilet tissue from your bag, you may have to get in line for a toilet. Many restrooms have both Western and squat toilets, and some even have signs signifying which toilet a stall contains. It's not customary to simply hang back and wait for a stall to open, so choose one stall's line and stick with it.
The next ideal move is for a person to roll their pant legs up if they notice the floor is wet. A floor may be wet from "accidents" or from toilet maids who have the job of continuously keeping bathrooms clean, but either way, this will help a person avoid getting their pants wet.
Going in for the Squat
Squat toilets aren't terribly difficult once a person knows how to use them. Unfortunately for many people vacationing in China, it will be their first time ever using one. The first thing to remember is that, even for men, the position to use these toilets is facing forward (to avoid splashing over the waste pipe).
It's now necessary to stand with feet on either side of the squat toilet. There are grooves on each side of these toilets to help a person keep their feet in place while using it. An individual's feet should be towards the middle of these grooves and flat.
After all of the aforementioned preparation is done, a person can let their pants down and squat over the toilet. It's important not to allow clothing to touch the floor; this is true even if the place is clean and spotless.
Once you have finished your business, it's important not flush toilet tissue at some toilets. Most squat toilets and plumbing in public places in China are not designed to handle paper waste. This may seem strange for some, but luckily, there are usually waste baskets to use nearby.
I updated this article on May 17, 2013
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