When Your Kids Encounter a Squat Toilet

There’s no getting around it in some countries; you’ll have to figure out how to use a squat toilet and so will the kids.

Warning: relatively high gross-out factor in post below.

When we lived in Japan, our house had a squat toilet but you could buy a plastic converter thing that fitted over the toilet on the floor and allowed you to sit down above it.

Your business does not go into a water pool as it does in a European toilet. It just sits there, waiting for the toilet flushing action to wash it away. One of my more vivid Japan memories is a really cold morning when I thought I was dying of a disease; my morning offering was literally steaming.

Out in town or on the highway, we looked for the bathroom stall for the disabled, which generally had a European-type toilet. I don’t see how anyone with bad knees or other malfunctioning lower extremities can get in the ol’ squat position to start with, much less maintain it for, ahem, bigger business.

And what do you do with pantyhose? Or skirts? And do your jeans have to come all the way off? (Pretty much, I’ve found.)

And you sure can’t read a magazine on a squat toilet — or maybe my technique is lacking.

Remember when Mom said to always carry some Kleenex to use as toilet paper?

Friends, it is time to listen to Mom. If there’s no t.p. in the stall of a squat toilet, there’s trouble in River City.

In many parts of the world, there is never toilet paper. You use water, poured down your bottom. God bless Frank Bures, a fearless writer at World Hum, who provides us detailed insight into this process:

World Hum travel advice guru and Vagabonding author Rolf Potts has also seen a few squatters in his day. “In places like India, and many parts of Asia,” he told me, “a bathroom won’t have toilet paper. It will have a little cup of water. Basically, after you’ve done your business, you take your left hand and wash the exit hole of fecal matter, then wash your hand. That’s why nobody shakes hands with their left hand in most of Asia and the Middle East, because that’s your a**-wiping hand.”

A Thai squat toilet with the requisite water. Courtesy Hobo Traveler.

Ah, another one of life’s little mysteries explained.

So, for those who may be contemplating a trip with the family to the domain of squat toilets, march off to the airport secure in your knowledge of operating procedures, and well-armed with something to use as toilet paper.

Kids may as well learn that not everyone around the world does things the same way, but do prepare them before you go.

Update 06 November 2006: This post and others were featured on Surfing Mama’s Blog Carnival, which has “Only stuff that matters. For mums.” Thanks!