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International Bathroom Etiquette

Before Your Next International Trip, Make Sure You Know This Bathroom Etiquette

I can't stress enough how important it is to do your research on a destination before you go there on vacation. While it may be exciting to fly by the seat of your pants and wing it as you go, there's a good chance that doing that will end up leaving you with some problems. Something that I never thought to research — but thankfully my best friend did — was bathroom customs in any country we were traveling to. Not only do bathrooms go by different names in some other countries, but in some places you have to pay and some places you have to carry your own toilet paper. Don't get caught unaware next time you travel — use this handy guide from Mr. Rooter Plumbing instead.

  • Where you'll have to pay: A lot of public bathrooms in large cities in Europe (London, Paris, Amsterdam, etc.) will charge a small fee to use the bathroom. The first time I was in London, I ended up SOL in Euston Station when I had no coins to use the bathroom and my friend had forgotten to remind me. In a place like that, there's a turnstile to get in and an attendant monitoring the bathroom so you can't (or honestly shouldn't) try to sneak by. Other places without an actual gate to get in might have an attendant who should really be tipped for their work.
  • Where you shouldn't flush: You read that right — not all countries flush their toilets after every use like you might do at home. Some countries don't flush toilet paper at all because their plumbing systems are not built to handle toilet paper. Generally there will be a small trashcan near the toilet as a clue and oftentimes there will even be a sign telling you to place your toilet paper in there. This was the case in Peru when I visited and it was the first place I'd seen it. Many other countries avoid flushing toilet paper as well! Other places you might find this include some parts of Mexico, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, and Ukraine, just to name a few.
  • Where you absolutely have to flush: Don't get caught not flushing in Singapore — you could end up with a fine.
  • Where you'll need to bring your own TP: Some countries require you to carry your own toilet paper. You could run into this in places like Korea, Thailand, and China, and I experienced it in some areas of Peru as well.
  • Where you might need to squat instead of sit: It's been shown that squatting to go to the bathroom is actually great for you, so it's probably no surprise that other countries have bathroom setups for that. You might see a squat toilet in countries in Asia that are an in-ground toilet with steps on the sides for your feet.
  • Where to expect a bidet: Don't be surprised if you find a bidet in your bathroom in France, Italy, Japan, or the Middle East. In these countries, water jets are used for personal hygiene more frequently than paper products.
  • Where you should look for a sign that says something other than "bathroom": Thankfully, the image of a man or woman on a door is pretty universal language-wise, but be aware of other lingo for bathroom that you might encounter in other countries. Many European countries call them water closets, so you'll see signs that say "WC." Australia calls it a "dunny," areas in the UK and Ireland say "loo," and in Japan it's the "ben-jo."
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Mark Popovich
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