Chengdu, China, Sichuan, Thoughts, Travel

Toilet Etiquette in China

A word of warning before reading further, if you value your toilet time (and your privacy) then this post might upset you… And, if you’re easily offended by toilet talk, you might also want to give this one a miss.

I’ve used a variety of toilets in China now, and have witnessed lots of different toilet habits here. These include: children dropping trou in the middle of the street and proceeding to do their business while a group of applauding adults surround them, or adults holding their fully clothed (by fully clothed I mean still wearing their split pants) children in a very peculiar way a short distance from the ground (or sink, or bin…) and whistling to them while they sprinkle everywhere. Then there are the fully grown adults that decide pooing into a drain at the side of the city’s busiest road is the best way to go. It’s easy to say that toilet habits here aren’t quite the same as back home.

Sit back and relax... Or quickly do your business and leave.
Sit back and relax… Or quickly do your business and leave.

I’m used to squat toilets now. In fact, I’d actually rather use a public squat toilet than a public toilet. The state of some toilets are enough to make you cry a little inside. Not to mention the fact that some die hard squatting fans insist on squatting on top of the toilet seat, leaving behind some muddy little footprints.

It’s also quite common to walk into the public toilets and find all of the cubicle doors wide open. But, don’t be fooled! Once you poke your head around the corner you’ll see people squatting their freely; not a care in the world. They could be chatting to their friend in the cubicle opposite, on the phone… you name it.

For those times you just feel like sitting, but there are only squat toilets available.
For those times you just feel like sitting, but there are only squat toilets available.

But, all that being said, I was still surprised by my toilet experience yesterday.

I walked into the toilets and all three cubicles were unlocked. I was sure that the nice little cleaner inside would tell me if people were occupying the cubicles, so I proceeded to open the doors. Of course, all three had people inside, halfway through their business…

When the first cubicle became free I, naturally, tried to lock the door, but to no avail. This cubicle was the size of a disabled toilet (but still a squat toilet) so I couldn’t do the cheeky trick of holding the door closed and doing my business at the same time. When I saw a shadow approaching I shouted: “有人!有人!”. That simply means “have person”, in other words “occupied”. But, the door continued to open. In strolls the cleaner that most definitely saw me go inside. She put her hand up as if to say “whatever” and then emptied her dustpan into a big black bag full of… “stuff” that was sprawled across the toilet floor. All this while I was squatting there helplessly. She then strolled back out… leaving the door wide open! So in walks another person that sees me and walks back out again.

Talk about an eventful trip to the toilet.

Next time I’ll not only bring my own toilet paper, I’ll bring my own padlock, too!


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