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June 25, 2012 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Here we learn how to properly use a squat toilet. (via BoingBoing)

And here's a link to the broken Toilet Paper Encyclopedia, from the article. [Previously]
posted by gman (101 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome. I'd always wondered, but felt it too awkward to ask. But the article even addresses that!
posted by kalessin at 4:23 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


tl/dr:
  1. Squat
  2. Shit
posted by Flunkie at 4:24 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Missing step 3:

3. Rinse
posted by polywomp at 4:27 PM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Missing step 1.5: slip in the accumulated human waste sliming the edges of the toilet, grab the flushing chain to regain your balance, hose down yourself and the rest of the bathroom with polluted water, cry a lot, and have a vendetta against China for the rest of your life.
posted by elizardbits at 4:30 PM on June 25, 2012 [50 favorites]


hypothetically.
posted by elizardbits at 4:30 PM on June 25, 2012 [55 favorites]


4. Go back to the hotel and take a shower.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:30 PM on June 25, 2012


1. Remove cell phone from pocket.

Nagasaki University, at least when I went there, only had squat toilets. I think all of us international students got our cell phones dunked, or at least came close to it.
posted by Jeanne at 4:31 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. Find a coffee shop down the street with a regular toilet.
posted by wcfields at 4:31 PM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The first time I used a squat toilet I overbalanced and tipped backwards.

That day I realised I could, in fact, do a credible martial arts flip from my back onto my feet given enough motivation. Cracking my head on the stall door from the excess momentum was not, however, part of the plan - one cannot reasonably land on two feet with one's jeans puddled around one's ankles.
posted by zennish at 4:32 PM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


How much water is "a little cup of water"?
posted by heyho at 4:32 PM on June 25, 2012


Flunkie:
1. Squat
2. Shit


You're fuckin' kidding! Good luck with that; it's a god damn art form. Personally, how I go about it depends on how dirty the space is (I'd say "stall", but let's get real here. Often it would be ridiculous to call them that). Anyway, if it's not too bad, that's easy - I undo my pants and pull them down to just above my knees. Then I pull my pant legs up to meet in the middle, all bunched up. Finally, I squat. If it's seriously disgusting in there, I'll actually remove one flip flop, then that pant leg, then put the flip flop back on, and repeat on the other side. I'll find a place to hang my pants somewhere in there. I always bring a two litre bottle full of water in with me, unless there's a hose or water source and small bucket in there. Oh, and soap.
posted by gman at 4:35 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Missing step 3:

3. Rinse
Bourgeois decadence.
posted by Flunkie at 4:37 PM on June 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Do not wear tights. Tights + squat toilet = FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:41 PM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, gosh, this is too funny. I just had to do this right here in the good ol' U.S. of A., in a very upscale home, this weekend.

My partner and I were house hunting and the realtor took us to one that was in mid-renovation. Brand new toilet, vanity, tub, etc. I had a little rumbly in the tumbly and, despite my strong interest in waiting until we got home, just had to go.

I begged pardon for a moment to use the facilities and, 0.2 seconds too late to make the critical decision, realized that, since it was a brand new bathroom remodel, it had absolutely nothing in it by way of toilet paper, soap, etc.

Fortunately, I had been acculturated during my years of fieldwork in some African countries. Flush the toilet and used the clean water that refilled it to wash my backside thoroughly. Flush again and used the water that filed the toilet to rinse. All using my left hand. I'm such a goshdarn world-wise and adaptable pro! I thought.

Until I then realized there was no soap in the bathroom either. Followed by five minutes of intense handwashing and scrubbing with water in the sink, followed by putting my left hand in my pocket to make sure it never touched anything else until I could wash it proper.

I stepped out of the bathroom to find my partner waiting to use the facilities as well.

"Er..." I said, "No T.P." That's when he gave me that little quirked eyebrow thing he does and I rolled my eyes in the "I'll tell you later" way of response.
posted by darkstar at 4:42 PM on June 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


I have issues with the article minimizing the threat of illness to oneself and others after wiping one's bare arse barehandedly.

Part of the greater lifespan of western peoples is due to proper hygiene and the modern flush toilet's ability to propel waste far away, both of which minimize horrible bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases.
posted by Renoroc at 4:55 PM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Step one: Remove pants fully.
posted by sacrifix at 4:57 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Host: Need to use the facilities.
Me: No thanks. I've been meaning to stop excreting. Thanks anyway.
posted by Splunge at 5:04 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part of the greater lifespan of western peoples is due to proper hygiene and the modern flush toilet's ability to propel waste far away, both of which minimize horrible bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases like "butthole anxieties."

Only half joking. I am pretty happy that I have but a limited number of butthole anxeities to contend with.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:04 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Step one: Remove pants fully.

That's pretty sound advice for most situations, really.
posted by The World Famous at 5:07 PM on June 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


My first encounter with a squat toilet was at the Lord Delamere Chemondelay rest stop in the Rift Valley in Kenya, and I was the only white person there and all the Kenyan ladies were giving me knowing looks and laughing (poor mzungu) as I walked into the stall, closed the door, and then looked around in confusion. My jeans were not very stretchy, and I decided "Hey, no problem. We'll be stopping again soon, I'm sure, and that place will TOTALLY have a regular toilet. I can pee then, no need to accidentally maybe pee on my pants because I'm doing something wrong."

8 hours later, after going up the other side of the Rift Valley, crossing lots of unpaved areas, bouncing around on Kenyan highways, and generally bumping things into my bladder ... I have never been more uncomfortable in my life. It was like I was seeing everything through a sea of gold. I was the only girl on the trip, and every time the men got out to pee on the side of the road, they'd hop out and pee really quickly and then get back in the truck and be ready to go before I began scouting somewhere I could go and pee in the bushes, far enough away that nobody would see me. I was in a truck with my professor, and I was too embarassed to say "STOP! I need to pee!" But all I could think about was urination and the fanta I'd had with lunch and how big a bladder was, anyway, and why in GOD'S NAME had they not paved these roads better?

We finally got to our hotel in Kitale, and I burst forth from the steps, asked the proprietor "Choo iko wapi?!?!" and walked quickly and dignifiedly and in very small steps to the indicated bathroom. Which, of course, was a squat toilet. Reader, I peed.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:19 PM on June 25, 2012 [20 favorites]


Ahem. I understand that these articles mainly relate to gentleman and lady travelers using toilets in those situations where standing is not an option; I can provide little guidance there beyond the judicious use of bismuth subsalicylate products and the like. It may be useful for lady travelers to know, however, that in less dire situations, such as those in which a gentleman could just stand but a lady usually cannot but may still wish to keep as far away as possible from a squat toilet that is a complete horror show, or perhaps she is chary of balancing issues, there is the Urinelle.

Regardless, roll up your pant legs before you go in. You may look like an idiot foreigner but you won't regret it.
posted by Morrigan at 5:19 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suddenly feel very fortunate to have only used "long drops" for squatting purposes in West Africa. I saw the "tea kettle"-styled stalls at bus stops, but never had the need to use them.
posted by mykescipark at 5:20 PM on June 25, 2012


For those who want to practice at home.
posted by 2ghouls at 5:24 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another international bathroom tip I acquired the hard way is to never use the clean wall-mounted urinal. It's clean for a reason. In my case it was because there was no bottom pipe connected to it and I managed to fill my shoes halfway with my own urine before coming to the realization of what was happening. Yes, Singapore my black nemesis, we shall meet again. Only this time with DRY SHOES!
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:29 PM on June 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Regarding ChuraChura's experience, I will share my strict travel rule of "Take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how grim."
posted by Morrigan at 5:33 PM on June 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


I've become an expert at peeing while squatting because the nearest portapottie to a volunteer gig I do is down at the bottom of the hill - it's probably a half-mile round-trip. So, better to find a tree or some shrubs off the trail a bit. Watch for poison oak. And tourists coming up the trail. And quail. Some quail and I once scared the bejesus out of each other when I chose a tree next to a shrub where they were napping.

And once, in Paris, I discovered that the squat toilet in the cafe where I was had a light on a timer, and the timer was outside the bathroom. Who ever thought that was a good idea?
posted by rtha at 5:35 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was in a truck with my professor, and I was too embarassed to say "STOP! I need to pee!"

My life got a lot easier when I figured out that not only does everyone pee and poop, but everyone has an emergency once in a while. In my experience, not only have people always been ok when I've needed to say "Woah, can we please stop the van? NOW?", but they've actually been gracious and helpful.

Regarding squat toilets, maybe it's because I've pooped in the woods before, but I didn't find using a squat toilet to be all that big of a deal. You need to watch your pockets carefully, and there's a good reason for the right hand/left hand rules about hand shaking and eating, but really it wasn't much more exciting than that. I'm kind of neutral on sitting vs squatting, honestly; both have advantages and disadvantages, and I think my dream house would have both. But I definitely prefer toilet paper -- it's hard to undo decades of cultural lessons about touching things that I don't want to touch.

Much worse than squat toilets are regular toilets with the seats missing and/or shit smeared all over the seat. Then you have to poop and wipe while hovering, which is a lot harder than squatting. (Latin American truck stop bathrooms and that ungodly disgusting gas station bathroom in Indianapolis, I am looking at you.) Outhouses and squat toilets seem to hold up better to, shall we say, casual use and infrequent cleanings.
posted by Forktine at 5:39 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I am now a peeing-and-stuff-while-squatting expert. In fact, I get annoyed because it's frowned upon in Ohio to pee behind a tree on my walk to school. Life is much easier in a forest.)
posted by ChuraChura at 5:40 PM on June 25, 2012


I first encountered what were called "Turkish" toilets while living in Bulgaria fairly soon after the changes. Interestingly, I have never encountered one in Turkey, but often in Greece and other areas of the Balkans. There were usually Roma ladies outside public toaletna who solda few scraps of TP for wiping, but the balancing was a feat one acquired fairly quickly. I found it much easier with skirts,of course.
My then 3 year old daughter had just learned to use a regular toilet in the States so it was a whole new lesson for her to learn since the state run kindergartens had hole in the floor toilets as she and her sister called them.
My Bulgarian friends considered the squat toilets to be much cleaner than western ones, and indeed, the western ones I encountered on my travels in Eastern Europe and Africa tended to be less sanitary. Usually.
posted by Isadorady at 5:41 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


In Tokyo, my mind was blown by seeing the fashionable girls going into the squat toilets in the subway wearing tight, tight pencil skirts, pantyhose, and (literally!) 4-inch heels. The heels might even have been higher. They could barely walk in the first place, how in the world were they able to use a squat toilet?
posted by HotToddy at 5:49 PM on June 25, 2012


At Mount Shasta in California (for example), you're supposed to carry your shit out with you rather than leave it at higher elevations above treeline where it would take too long to dissipate naturally. Hikers were provided with plastic bags with kitty litter along with a big sheet of paper to poop on, amusingly printed with a big bullseye target.
posted by exogenous at 5:49 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Living in Japan, you will find squat toilets pretty frequently in any building over twenty years old or so. I lived for a year in a rental house that only had a squat toilet, so it was sink or swim. At first, it's hard to know what do do with your jeans/shorts/pants, and anything in the pockets of said clothes are in real danger of dropping right in the bowl. Also at first, I was completely unused to squatting at any time, so there's some lower-leg muscles that need to be built up before squatting is a comfortable position. A few times I remember having to stand up because my legs were burning and cramping.

You hold your clothing secure with one hand and, if you're a guy, use your other hand to direct your junk in the right direction (ladies, is this an issue, or...? Nevermind.) All that sounds complicated, and the first few times it is, but the thing about squatting is it is how nature wants us to poop. It's completely natural, and waste just comes right out. Almost never any waiting or coaxing or pushing as you would on a toilet seat. Squatting is so much faster than sitting. And as an extra bonus, especially if it's a public toilet, you don't physically touch anything! It can be a completely disgusting squat toilet, one that, if it were a Western bowl type, you would never think of sitting on, but because there's no skin contact, it won't give you the willies.

Some of my friends--foreigners and Japanese alike--who never use squat toilets. They take a bit of getting used to, but there are definite benefits to them.
posted by zardoz at 5:50 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lived for a year in a rental house that only had a squat toilet, so it was sink or swim.
NO, NEITHER PLEASE
posted by Flunkie at 5:55 PM on June 25, 2012 [27 favorites]


I've often wondered if there are population pockets across the world who have better developed quads/hamstrings/etc. than the global average because of their daily use of squat toilets. Seems like there ought to be some kind of correlation?
I'm aware of a stereotype of lower-class post-Soviet youth that involves a lot of loitering while squatting (it's even pictured in this wikipedia article). This pose is difficult for me, a most-of-the-time user of sit-down toilets, to hold for long enough to be considered a loiterer.
posted by metaman livingblog at 5:57 PM on June 25, 2012


I first encountered what were called "Turkish" toilets while living in Bulgaria fairly soon after the changes.

This is where I first encountered squat toilets, too. I was warned ahead of time, though, so when I first stepped into a public bathroom (for a beachside bar, also with old Roma ladies working for meager tips), I strode into the stall with grim determination and found, interestingly enough, that the grip-and-balance needed to maintain the perfect positioning while keeping clothes free of being soiled was like, the ideal yoga pose; utilizing nearly every muscle in my body, maintaining perfect focus and calm just to perform a simple manipulation of a few crucial muscles. For a moment there, I almost achieved total enlightenment, but then someone drunkenly banged on the stall door and I was forced to return to this earthly existence.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:59 PM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


More travel advice:
Where do I put the paper? A handy guide to the world's toilets
posted by fredludd at 6:06 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cleanest squat toilet I've used was in a public restroom in Hong Kong.

Dirtiest: Paris.
posted by stowaway at 6:09 PM on June 25, 2012


On the flip side, my dad (Indian, never left the country till...) visited me in Mexico and encountered his first toilet with toilet paper, and then told me later that he somehow didn't feel clean after the toilet paper treatment. It just doesn't feel right.
posted by dhruva at 6:11 PM on June 25, 2012


Seriously, am I the only white person that finds squat toilets not that big a deal?

1. Pull pants down to KNEES. Not ankles. KNEES.

2. Squat. Brace yourself against a stable surface if you're on a train.

3. Do your thing.

4. Wipe and/or rinse.

5. Stand and get yourself arranged.

6. Flush as necessary.

7. Wash hands and you're good to go.

I mean, there's sometimes a little tiptoe-ing gingerly around a slippery-looking area, but in all seriousness unless you have a disability this is not actually that hard. And I've been in plenty of foul bathrooms with western style toilets, so whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 6:11 PM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm a little skeptical of the "remove pants fully" advice. Firstly that would add a couple of extra minutes to the whole ordeal, which isn't great if you are in a restaurant or a bar and there is a queue forming outside the cubicle. Secondly, in some establishments it's not really an option, the floor will be filthy and wet and there won't be a convenient shelf or hook to hang your pants, plus you have to worry about getting (other people's) piss on your socks and so on. My favoured technique is a Larry Craig "wide stance", with pants pulled down to the knees (i.e low enough to open the bomb bay doors, high enough not to become collateral damage), with shirt pulled up high under the armpits and leaning forward as far as possible to get a stable centre of gravity. It's important to be able to balance without putting your hands on the wall because you might need to use one hand to hold your pants clear of the action and the other hand (if you're a dude) to make your dick point downwards so you don't piss forwards onto your pants. In public toilets there is sometimes a mix of sit and squat toilets, and the squat toilets function like a supermarket "express lane" since most people, even locals, prefer sit to squat. Master the squat and you can shave minutes off your rest stop times.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:15 PM on June 25, 2012


Sara C.: Seriously, am I the only white person that finds squat toilets not that big a deal?

No, I much prefer them when I'm on the road. Still, there are times when the process is more difficult than others. The first bad one I saw was on the Cambodian border, but there are squatters in Central Africa that make that look like a five star hotel - a single shared toilet for all the rooms, complete with used condoms on the bathroom floor, and shit piled way beyond the foot rests. To be honest though, I think the worst shit I've seen is in rural parts of China. Fuckin' troughs with no splitters or doors, which means you're in plain view of all those beside you and across from you. Meanwhile, rats are running up and down the frickin' slanted common shit pit.
posted by gman at 6:22 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a awkward, big dude who just doesn't squat well. I have weak knees, weak ankles and I will fall over in a few seconds. Squatting is really not possible for me, and I've tried.

Once I saw the lavatory on the 28 hour overnight Chinese train (a filthy squat toilet, with a hole looking down on the track), I immediately went back to my bunk, counted out the number of Imodium tablets I had with me and divided 28 by that number. I took those fuckers with military precision, let me tell you. And I made it to Shanghai, and the most satisfying shit of my life, sitting down.

But at one point, I wanted to move money from my money belt to my wallet, and I didn't want it flashing about in my small cabin (like they couldn't figure out that the westerner was relatively loaded, anyways). So I went to the bathroom, and pulled about RMB 1000 ($160) out of my money belt. I needed somewhere to put it, because my hands were full, so I put it in my mouth, for some reason. And then we hit a bump, and I must have flinched or something, because I see ten RMB 100 notes fluttering down, all of them unerringly finding the hole in the toilet drawn like moths to light as I thrash about madly trying to grab them.

Goddamn squat toilets.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 6:26 PM on June 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


I remember the first time I encountered a squat toilet. It wasn't in darkest Peru or in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. I was 17 and I was in goddamned Paris. My mom and I had stopped into a brasserie for a snack, and I had to use the loo. And when I got inside, I found that porcelain gaping maw staring back at me with its one evil unblinking eye.

I pissed and told my mother that we had to finish our snails quickly and get back to the hotel.

To this day, I still brace myself entering a toilet in Paris. Just in case. But thanks MeFi. Thanks to you, next time this happens, I'm READY!

Incidentally, I am pleased to see a "professional" suggest stripping half naked to learn, because to be quite frank, that was my inclination. I just couldn't imagine how it was all going to come out okay in the end if I was still fully dressed.
posted by jph at 6:29 PM on June 25, 2012


yeah, a lot of times, squat toilets are safer, as in more reliable, than the inevitably malfunctioning token western one. But the trickiest are the stainless steel raised squat toilets--raised as in western toilet height level--on the Malaysian trains. Both hands are needed just to hold on.

Love it when they have a hose with a spray nozzle, now that is luxury.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:30 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Often in areas where squat/floor toilets are the norm, there will be a sign in stalls with western-style toilets indicating that one should not squat perched on the rim.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:36 PM on June 25, 2012


I've often wondered if there are population pockets across the world who have better developed quads/hamstrings/etc. than the global average because of their daily use of squat toilets. Seems like there ought to be some kind of correlation?

I think I've probably asked this before, but: what about people with bad knees or balance issues or mobility problems? Are there any tips or tricks for (or, well, from) the grandmas of the world?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:40 PM on June 25, 2012


The elderly women I met in the Ivory Coast and Kenya all spend much of their time squatting while cooking and cleaning; it might be such a frequently used stance that it doesn't present a problem for the most part?
posted by ChuraChura at 6:42 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


@L.P. Hatecraft: with shirt pulled up high under the armpits

I've found it helpful to a) with a button shirt, unbutton it and rebutton the lowest buttons behind the neck, or b) with a T-shirt, haul the whole shirt front over the head and behind the neck.
posted by raygirvan at 6:50 PM on June 25, 2012


There were usually Roma ladies outside public toaletna who solda few scraps of TP for wiping

Let's talk about NYC. Way back around 1985-6? Not sure. I was on my way to work at the Empire State Building. This is after a night of tacos and margaritas. I was surprised that in my hungover state that I seemed to have no intestinal issues.

This would change. The rumbly in the tumbly began around 7th Ave, on the F train. By Jay Street it was so bad that I got off the train SURE that I would crap my pants in the worst way possible. I went up to the mezzanine between the 6th Ave lines on the lower level and 8th Ave trains on the upper level. I was actually looking for a secluded spot to take a dump. In public. On the floor. I did not care.

And of course a police officer saw me.

Cop: Whatever you're looking to do. Don't.
Me: If I don't get to a bathroom in ten seconds you're going to have a big mess to deal with.
Cop: Go to the main turnstile. There's a bathroom.

And then he laughed.

So I did. And now I understand the laugh.

My surprise at a public restroom in a NYC subway was tempered by the... interesting characters that were in it.

It was a small bathroom. Two stalls. No doors and a unrinal full of crap.

The stall near the door had a homeless guy sleeping on the toilet. The one in the back was unoccupied. No toilet seat. No paper. Gross and stained. Full as well. I flushed it. (It flushed!) I took off the bandana I was wearing. I used it to wipe the porcelain rim. Not much help there. But by then it was too late. Pants down and let it rip.

While a few bathroom folks watched and smiled. I shit you not (so to speak). I had an audience.

Me: (sweatty and cramped) Do you mind?

They walked away.

Once finished, I went into my pocket for another bandana/hankie and wiped. At this point I considered flushing them but realised that they would probably clog the toilet and flood the station. So I just threw them on the floor next to the toilet. Probably absorbing a small amount of the biological hazard on the floor.

There was no sink.

But one very sympathetic fellow went into his pocket and offered me some balled up tissues to clean up with. I politely declined.

My next stop was a payphone. I called my boss and basically said, "I have just been through hell. I will not be coming to work today." And I hung up. My voice must have been shaky and strained. He never asked me for an explaination.

I took the next train home. The whole time I wanted to crawl out of my skin and die. Once home I threw all of my clothes into a garbage bag. I took a long hot shower until the water went cold. And then took a long cold shower. I put the bag at the curb as trash.

TL;DR

I would have loved a squat toilet. And never take balled up tissue from a stranger that hangs out in a restroom.
posted by Splunge at 6:51 PM on June 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Foulest loo that I ever found (read: didn't use) was in the city of--you guessed it--Bath, England. Who knew the spreadability potential of excrement?

Oh, that's right. You didn't ask. So sorry....
posted by datawrangler at 6:56 PM on June 25, 2012


rumbly in the tumbly

Throughout my extended family this is referred to as The Rumble In The Jungle.
posted by elizardbits at 7:05 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Needs the balance tag. I've gotten better at squatting with practice, but if I've learnt one thing, it's always have a small pack of Kleenex in your bag.
posted by arcticseal at 7:12 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It can be a completely disgusting squat toilet, one that, if it were a Western bowl type, you would never think of sitting on, but because there's no skin contact, it won't give you the willies.

Do you not have a nose, zardoz?:)

It's the miasma from squat toilets that gives me the horrors! When you're down low, your hands busy with your clothes, pockets etc there's nowhere for the whiff to go from a disgusting squat toilet but straight up your undefended nostrils.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:12 PM on June 25, 2012


how to properly use a squat toilet via BoingBoing.

Oh, that's so cute. You gave your asshole a pet name.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:16 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have never had the need to use a squat toilet. However, I spend a great deal of time in the outdoors, so the need for similar skills arise. One of the most interesting discussions I've ever heard was a debate among instructors and students on my Outward Bound course about the merits and technique of wiping with a flat rock and disposing of it as a "shitput" - use the wrong technique and it could come flying back at you, you know?
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:18 PM on June 25, 2012


I taught myself to use squat toilets at the tender age of 13, an American girl visiting Russia. Our field trip chaperones (bougie Baltimore County, long story) had repeatedly warned us to ask for the toilet and not the bathroom. They did not alert us that we might not actually get a sitting toilet.

Thankfully, coming from a family of camping fanatics, I knew how to 'go' in the woods and didn't have any attachment to putting my ass on a toilet seat (thanks for teaching me to hover, grandma!).

Count me among the number who first experienced a squat toilet while I the clutches of intestinal distress. I was very glad that squatting makes the process faster.
posted by bilabial at 7:27 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I too had a rental property in Japan. An old rental property. With a squat toilet in it. I got used to it, but I never liked it. I don't think my knees could actually take it anymore.
posted by awfurby at 7:30 PM on June 25, 2012


I remember hearing of this for the first time in The Beach by Alex Garland. As I get older though, it seems more and more civilized. I would pay a substantial rent increase to live somewhere with a bidet.
posted by 256 at 7:37 PM on June 25, 2012


Ah, Soviet Russia and her squat toilets! I was there in high school with an exchange group; we stayed in Westernized hotels, but almost everything we visited during the day involved squat toilets. The other two girls on the trip tipped over sideways at the Catherine Palace and urinated on their shoes. (My roommate and I had both been forced to go to summer camp, and thus escaped with shoes intact.)
posted by catlet at 7:40 PM on June 25, 2012


256: I would pay a substantial rent increase to live somewhere with a bidet.

Get one of these; it'll change your fuckin' life. And by that, I mean, it heats your ass, it cleans your ass, it dries your ass (poorly), and it has a bunch of features I don't use - female wash, enema type spraying if you can't go, and maybe some other shit I can't remember right now. Best holiday gift I've ever received. I think the higher end ones are in the four or five hundred dollar range.
posted by gman at 7:44 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Japanese squat facing the door of the stall.
Vietnamese squat facing the real of the stall.

Dunno why.
posted by mule98J at 7:57 PM on June 25, 2012


...and I never left the house without baby wipes again.
posted by Space Kitty at 8:08 PM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


My Mission Impossible moment: been holding it through half of a class, wearing a skirt and white pantyhose, just got my period, only toilet available is a squat toilet. I gained a unique respect for Japanese ladies that day.
posted by koucha at 8:16 PM on June 25, 2012


If you run in to the trough variety (as seen here http://www.aaronswwadventures.com/2010/03/potty-talk/ ) be careful about running to the last stall in the row to try to get some privacy. Crap flows downhill, and trust me you don't want to be at the end of a trough doing your business when people keep flushing theirs right past you
posted by bpdavis at 8:20 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


So. Do people that use squat toilets stand or squat to wipe?
posted by Splunge at 8:22 PM on June 25, 2012


Am I the only guy that pees standing prior to pooping when using a squat toilet to avoid the tailgunner Joe penis-directing action that involves the mystery third hand that I don't possess?

I'd like to thank MetaFilter for finally giving me the courage to ask this shameful question.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:28 PM on June 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Fuckin' troughs with no splitters or doors, which means you're in plain view of all those beside you and across from you. Meanwhile, rats are running up and down the frickin' slanted common shit pit.

Yeah, I used one like that at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. No rats, though. But pooping in a line of middle aged Sikh ladies was pretty interesting.
posted by Sara C. at 8:40 PM on June 25, 2012


Re wiping - I wipe squatting. That way everything stays where it's supposed to be.

What I never figured out was, if you do the rinsing thing, how do you avoid being really damp after?
posted by Sara C. at 9:03 PM on June 25, 2012


It's hard to live in China (particularly in a rural area) without becoming adept at the Art of the Perfect Squat.

I knew I'd finally got it right during a long, dusty bus ride to a mountain village. The bus stopped off to let everyone use the bathroom at a roadside "rest stop" - a long, open trough in a cramped building that catered to dozens of buses filtering through the small town. A low wall with a swinging door afforded little privacy, but I wasn't shy, I had to GO. Suddenly, during mid-pee, the stall door swung open and a very old Chinese woman stood in front of me. Surprised to find a foreigner inside, she just stood and stared at me while I continued to go. As seconds passed, she was joined by a number of other women passing by and a small group started to form. The women chatted and made observational comments as I finished. After I wiped and stood, several of the women smiled and made cheering motions; another one gave me a thumbs up. It was a rich moment and I've always been a little proud of that day.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 9:06 PM on June 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


After thirty years in the Great Basin Desert, you just don't worry about who's looking or not. Pick a piece of sage brush and hold it up. If they know who you are by lookin' at your butt, why pretend your shy?

Squat toilets in Turkey were usually clean, occasionally wiffy, but clean. What bothered me more than using my hand was that sometimes the water came out of the tap kind of funky. The dirty ones we encountered were in known tourist areas, I assume because the tourists didn't know what they were doing. The toilets are not set up to handle paper, so flushing TP down pretty well screws it for everyone. And of course, every lady tourist has to carry and use a crapton of paper.

The worst toilet I've EVER encountered was in the US at a gas station. Started in, backed out, and told the DH we were going to stop down the road at the next big bush.



"How to Use a Squat Toilet" earned Bures the silver Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award 2007.

Really??
posted by BlueHorse at 9:21 PM on June 25, 2012


I would rather have to use a squat toilet every day than subject myself to one of these again.

Between the muzak in a loop that broke it partway through a bar every twenty seconds and the threat of being automatically washed down when some merciless 8 bit machine decided it was time, the turtle kept its head firmly in and I walked away utterly unsatisfied.
posted by flabdablet at 9:35 PM on June 25, 2012


Heh. Yeah. I firmly believe that those little reddish sensors are cameras. Somewhere is some schmuck talking to his buddy.

Schmuck: He's in the middle of a huge dump. Flush NOW!
Friend: Oh dude, it's so all over his ass now!
Schmuck: Wait. Wait. Let him get comfy again. There, he's doing the rest.
Friend: Flush hard NOW!
Schmuck: Did you see him JUMP?
Friend: Yeah, and now his pants are wet!

HIGH FIVE!
posted by Splunge at 9:46 PM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Between the muzak in a loop that broke it partway through a bar every twenty seconds and the threat of being automatically washed down when some merciless 8 bit machine decided it was time, the turtle kept its head firmly in and I walked away utterly unsatisfied.

Seattle used to have automatic self-cleaning toilets, but luckily I never had to use one! Those who did had nothing good to say:
"I’m not going to lie: I used to smoke crack in there," said one homeless woman, Veronyka Cordner, nodding toward the toilet behind Pike Place Market. "But I won’t even go inside that thing now. It’s disgusting."
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:36 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Get one of these; it'll change your fuckin' life.

Gman, never a truer word was spoken. I visited Japan for the first time with my then-gf almost three years ago, and the hi-tech crappers changed my vision of the future, and what true happiness could be. I threw back bottles of red wine, sake, whiskey, wasabi, curry, hot sauce, anything that came my way, carefree of the morning. I read whole chapters in a sitting. Your mother never got your infant arse this clean. When we came back we were like fucking evangelists. (And we were both really surprised at how skeptical and dismissive folks were - Americans are not comfortable with the topic). I recently bought and am now renovating my first home with the express intention of putting in one of these bad boys. Being able to get one of these wonder machines was what put me over the top in my decision to buy a house. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. If you haven't tried one and you're in one of a select few cities in the US, Toto have conveniently put together a list of Japanese restaurants where you can experience egestion nirvana. I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, try it once.

Yes, I'm aware that particular Toto lists at $6K, but I'd rather keep my aging car a couple more years if necessary. And if you can't go the whole enchilada, you can buy just the top part that can sit onto an existing toilet (check dimensions), and they're substantially less than a grand if I remember correctly. Also you'll need an electrical outlet to hook it up to.
posted by amorphatist at 11:21 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The women chatted and made observational comments as I finished. After I wiped and stood, several of the women smiled and made cheering motions; another one gave me a thumbs up. It was a rich moment and I've always been a little proud of that day.
posted by WaspEnterprises


So you'll fit right in when you visit here in NYC.
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:28 PM on June 25, 2012


Another unsung advantage of the magic Toto toilet: you'll end up having a lot more buttsecks with your partner-in-crime...
posted by amorphatist at 11:33 PM on June 25, 2012


arcticseal: "always have a small pack of Kleenex in your bag."

Flushable wet wipes. Cottonelle or Charmin. They make 10-count travel packs that will fit nicely in your purse/bag for emergencies. See also travel roll of emergency TP.

Things you never knew existed for the extremely paranoid: Travel toilet seat covers. Travel Lysol. Travel Clorox wipes. For the very self-conscious: Poo Pourri odor eliminator (other scents available on the site).
posted by IndigoRain at 12:09 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mrs hardcode and I went to a highly recommended West African restaurant in Paris. Great welcome, wonderful food.

And then I needed to "go", thankfully the emergency was my bladder. Well, when I saw the shiny, wet apparition that was the "toilet" I was ok, the smell wasn't too bad and at least I didn't need to squat.

I got back to the table and Mrs hardcode said she needed to go too. Now she was wearing heels, on which she is non too stable, and tights, which in retrospect were not a good idea.

After about 5 minutes she emerged from the ordeal, told me to pay the bill, and we went to find a bar that had real toilets :)

A friend of mine claims she's mastered peeing while standing due to spending lots of time at festivals to avoid having to "hover".
posted by hardcode at 1:40 AM on June 26, 2012


In 1986 I took a long three day train trip within China from Guangzhou (Canton) to Xian. As described above the toilet consisted of a closet size room with a hole through to the tracks below, a bar for steadying ones self was attached to the wall and on the floor to either side of the hole was the outline of a very small left and right foot.

Close your eyes now and imagine you are aboard this train. Lunch combined with the heat and humidity drives you down the aisle toward the toilette. You now close the door behind you as the train begins to gain speed. You instinctively clutch the bar in front of you place your feet properly over those marked on the floor and take an imaginary seat. Your eyes and ass are directed at the hole below when suddenly your body is tossed as the train lurches forward. As your shoulders slam against the wall and your grip tightens on the bar all hope of releasing your waste accurately through to the ground below vanishes. Now the task at hand is to just let fly and keep it off yourself as best you can.

It is all impossible and the result is that soon a volcano like heap of shit rises from the floor urine rolling like lava down the sides. Naturally by design the diameter of the hole at the top of the mound has now been reduced by half. (when will this disaster be capped?) You having witnessed the birth of this Vesuvius of human waste will return grasp the bar and only have the disappearance of the feet so confidently outlined on the floor below to ponder as you and the train keeps on a rollin.
posted by pianomover at 1:58 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've done the Royal Trifecta of squat-toiletting: In some of the train station toilets in Tokyo it's a relief to know that none of your body will be coming in contact when any surfaces apart from the soles of your shoes.
posted by gomichild at 3:01 AM on June 26, 2012


I've often wondered if there are population pockets across the world who have better developed quads/hamstrings/etc. than the global average because of their daily use of squat toilets.

I can tell you this much: once, in a Bodybalance class (being held in an international gym chain in Kuala Lumpur, it meant a class with a mix of Asians and foreigners/expats), the instructor went into the next position, which is the squat. As it was halfway into the class, we're mostly tiring out, but the Asians gleefully stayed in that position for however long it was needed (because that was the 'resting stance' after all for most of us), while the non-locals were suffering trying to balance or trying not to topple in the first place.
posted by cendawanita at 3:19 AM on June 26, 2012


Having been taught by grandma at age 4 how to navigate a stairway to a squat over a steel bucket and then proper washing techniques (without tipping over in one's toddleresque clumsiness), my moment of culture shock was a loo without a floor drain hole - in Australia, the first time I saw that in 1995. Whoa...where does the water go?
posted by infini at 7:14 AM on June 26, 2012


I've often wondered if there are population pockets across the world who have better developed quads/hamstrings/etc. than the global average because of their daily use of squat toilets.

Based on peoples experience from the gym squat rack, Absolutely:
You'll notice that in third-world countries, there will be a lot of situations where people are hanging out or working, and rather than sitting or kneeling down, they squat. They can sit like this comfortably for hours. It seems like a simple thing and can be easily overlooked, but try it some time. The average North American adult can't even get into this position, let alone stay there for any length of time.

I first noticed the impact that this posture could have on weight room performance as a side effect. In order to effectively communicate with the host-nation men that I was training, I wanted to be able to emulate their posture. If you're having a discussion with a group of men who are squatting in a circle around a map or a meal, it's a little awkward to be the only guy who has to run around trying to find something to sit on before you can participate.

That, and I dare you to try sitting down in the grass anywhere in East Africa. They have ants down there with bites so tenacious you can use them to suture wounds. It's generally best that your feet and some good, thick boots are the only thing you have touching the ground.
Biomechanically, the human body is designed to be capable of doing full Russian splits and full asss-down-to-the-ankles squats. But a lifetime of chairs and automobiles causes loss of flexibility and range of motion. The reason most people can't do a Russian Split has nothing to do with anatomy, it's because their nervous system knows they're not strong enough to recover getting out of the position w/out injury, so it won't even let the body get into it in the first place.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:23 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Squat toilets require the Asian Squat™, which my ankles are utterly unable to accomplish.
posted by Evilspork at 8:03 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regarding those long bus trips where you have scant and brief opportunities to hop out and pee on the roadside: on those days for that sort of travel I always wear either a long skirt or bring with me some kind of sash.

Pull up skirt/tie sash around waist and hold it free and clear around your legs/behind you as you do your business. It takes a bit of maneuvering but it saved me a lot of discomfort.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:53 AM on June 26, 2012


Biomechanically, the human body is designed

By whom? What evidence do you have of this design and of the notion that all human bodies are constructed according to precisely the same design?
posted by The World Famous at 9:11 AM on June 26, 2012


How are tights an impediment to using a squat toilet? Again, you want to pull things down to your knees, not down around your ankles where they'll just act as pee targets.
posted by Sara C. at 9:25 AM on June 26, 2012


After my time living in India, I actually kind of prefer the squat toilet. It just makes me feel more connected to The Act, you know? And it spares you that existential crisis of "my butt is touching something other butts have touched!" Seriously, if it is a poorly cleaned bathroom, I'll take the squat every time.

The worst, I recently discovered on the road in Peru, is sit toilets with no seats. That is a real workout, let me tell you.
posted by Hollow at 9:37 AM on June 26, 2012


For people reporting ankle trouble? Try lifting your heels off the ground. Counterintuitive but makes it easier to get low.

(learning this in yoga class also makes my brief and infrequent visits to nightclubs more fun. Nobody expects the lady who looks like a librarian in ridiculous heels to get low low low)
posted by bilabial at 9:43 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Biomechanically, the human body is designed

By whom? What evidence do you have of this design and of the notion that all human bodies are constructed according to precisely the same design?


Oh right, that's why they teach that Anatomy sub-class about "Those other kinds of people who are built differently from the humans you're studying".

*YAWN* Are we really gonna descend into pissy little petty linguistic BS over the word "design" and the implications that there may be a "designer"?

For the highly-strung types who get all twitchy about the word "design"...

I have no idea if it was either God or random evolution or the Prometheus Engineers something else. Don't exquisitely care, honestly. What I care about is the end result we're all living today.

If you're interested in the subject of human biomechanics and flexibility, check out Relax Into Stretch, page 17. Amazon Reader will let you look at it.

No, there are no special snowflake humans whose musculoskeletal systems work so vastly differently from most humans that they are biomechanically incappable of doing a full split. All it takes is hard work, effort, patience, and persistence.

Same with a full squat (and chair-bound cultures difficulty adopting the position). Not only is all that chair-time killing you, it's slowly crippling you by reducing your range of motion and physical capabilities.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:29 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: like "butthole anxieties."
posted by toastchee at 10:46 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


A quick google of academic papers suggests that osteoarthritis of the knee is very common in non-Western countries, though may more rarely present to medical personnel as it's regarded as an inevitable part of ageing. Meaning: it's just as likely that older people have joint pain every time they use a squat toilet, they just bear it. Not any magic of biomechanics or design.
posted by Coobeastie at 11:48 AM on June 26, 2012


Where running water is unreliable, a squatty potty is a hundred times better than a Western toilet. So I understand the prevalence of squat toilets in Asia and the rest of the developing world... but Paris? Really?

I understand the need for the squatty, but that isn't to say I enjoy (or am proficient at) using them. Especially in an unfamiliar country when one's body is getting used to (or not) a whole new variety of microorganisms. There's a fast food restaurant in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which has wireless internet and western toilets -- my classmates and I basically lived there for two months.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:05 PM on June 26, 2012


Nanjing, China, by Nanjing University. There was, and may still be, a bar called something like The Black Cat. It did not have a toilet. It presented what might be called a Western menu, i.e., French fries and salad, and beer. At any rate, down the alley away from the main drag was the public toilet. In the middle of a night of drinking formaldehyde-scented beer and smoking bootleg Marlboros, we made a mass visit to the toilet, my first time.

It was all in white porcelain. Floors and walls, as I recall. The room was divided by a sunken porcelain canal that made a sort of elongated "W" along the floor. In retrospect, the path of the run looked like a tower defense game, the individual excretors the structures from which the ammunition would fly.

There was a sole Chinese man there, ass down in the extended version of the squat that was the crosslegged wall-lean for Westerners. He looked over at us. Returned to his business. As we turned to ours.

What I didn't visit that particular toilet often enough to learn: Is there an etiquette to being upstream versus downstream?
posted by the sobsister at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2012


How are tights an impediment to using a squat toilet? Again, you want to pull things down to your knees, not down around your ankles where they'll just act as pee targets.

The waistband-to-crotch of the tights (the panty of pantyhose) binds your knees together, which makes squatting really difficult.
posted by gingerest at 7:11 PM on June 26, 2012


See, this is why I don't wear Spanx.

Or maybe I just have really spacious back-o-the-knee/top-o-the-calves?

Maybe I'm just a flexible freak of nature. I have never had trouble with squatting, provided I'm allowed to raise my heels off the floor. It's so easy I almost have trouble believing people who say they can't do it.
posted by Sara C. at 8:28 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


My first encounter with a squat toilet was in Bosnia, and since the restaraunt where it was had not gotten it's post-war make-over, this was fairly awful. There was no soap but thank God there was warm water. I did not have major trouble due to lots of camping trips growing up. I do advise long, fairly wide skirts for ladies. It means coverage if you need it, and do not wear tights or panty-hose.
Tight pants are very popular with young Bosnian ladies, as are suicide-stilettos. BAD idea. In Bosnia, the better places have grab-bars. Flushable wipes are terrific! They weren't on the market when I was there, or they would have filled the better part of my carry-on!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:30 AM on June 27, 2012


I have never had trouble with squatting, provided I'm allowed to raise my heels off the floor. It's so easy I almost have trouble believing people who say they can't do it.

I sometimes wonder if people have the concept wrong, if they can't squat? Specifically, you have to get your centre of gravity right - too far forward & your ankles have to work like hell to keep you upright, too far back and...I'm not sure; I guess you fall over, but I suspect that people accustomed to sitting try to 'sit' on their haunches & that leads to difficulties.

Knees a bit wide (say just past shoulder width) are a good start, to allow your torso space to lean forward a litle. Arms in front of you as much as required; you can rest your upper arms on top of your knees, and hold TP in your hands; I find that quite comfortable & practical.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:01 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


That said, I can see it being difficult to get one's center of gravity sorted out if you're obese and on the shorter side. But the number of people I know who are definitely not obese, elderly, or disabled who have this problem makes me think there has to be a misconception somewhere.

I am in no way fit, or even particularly flexible, and frankly I find squatting to be super comfortable and easy. At least for the amount of time it takes to go to the bathroom. Just do NOT at all get why so many people have trouble with it.
posted by Sara C. at 1:39 PM on June 27, 2012


I am in no way fit, or even particularly flexible, and frankly I find squatting to be super comfortable and easy. At least for the amount of time it takes to go to the bathroom. Just do NOT at all get why so many people have trouble with it.

Me too. But I've known plenty of people who just can't do it, who get stuck partway down or tip over sadly. I don't know what the difference is -- I didn't grow up squatting for hours, and I sit in the same kind of office chair as everyone else in the western world. And yet, even though I haven't needed to squat for anything other than weeding in the garden in years, I was able to drop immediately into a "hang around and chat squat" and a "getting ready to poop squat," right after reading this comment, with no issues and no discomfort.
posted by Forktine at 6:42 AM on June 28, 2012


@Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey human biomechanics and flexibility, check out Relax Into Stretch

Looks dubious, from what I can see. Contrary to your claim, we are built differently. Joint mobility is strongly influenced by genetics. Only people with congenital hypermobility can do stuff like full Russian splits without difficulty. Others may well be able to do it by insane amounts of progressive stretching exercises - stretching ligaments beyond their normal range, while building up compensatory musculature. It is not just a case of "relaxing into it".
posted by raygirvan at 12:19 PM on June 29, 2012


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