The Chinese Toilet Experience

Sasha | February 21, 2011 | Comments (11)

Using the toilet in China can be quite the experience and if you haven’t travelled in Asia before you might be quite confronted when you walk through those toilet doors.  In China squat toilets are the norm and western toilets extremely rare particularly outside of big cities.  Even western takeaway chains such as KFC and McDonalds will usually have squat toilets.

But don’t be afraid of the squat toilet, with a bit of practice, squatting will become fairly natural and lets face it when you gotta go, you gotta go! The trick with using a squat toilet is to get as low as you can, the toilets are usually orientated so that you face towards the door.  Toilets in china scarcely ever have toilet paper so it’s important to always have some handy.  Soap is also a rarity so have some handy or even better carry hand sanitizer everywhere you go.

The standard of toilets in China varies greatly throughout the country, generally the cleanest ones can be found in shopping malls.  Most public toilets have an offensive smell and are generally not the cleanest, while toilets at most bus and train stations are usually just downright gruesome. In some parts of the country particularly public toilets in local areas such as the Hutongs in Beijing, toilets may not have doors or in some cases even partitions.  In rural China particularly in Yunnan province some toilets can be as basic as a hole in the ground.

The best way to deal with the culture shock of confronting a Chinese toilet is to go in with and open mind, humor, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and a very deep breath!  And remember don’t flush the toilet paper!!! Unless you want the toilet to explode!

The toilet adventure your install for…

…the good…

Chinese Squat Toilet

If only all Chinese toilets were this clean!

…the bad…

Toilets in Yunnan

...and these aren't even the worst toilets in Yunnan province!

…a nightmare…

Be thankful that green building is not your toilet block!

…trust me, they get worse but I didn’t have the heart (and couldn’t hold my breath long enough) to take a picture!…

A Warning to Girls: If you’re travelling in China chances are you will find yourself confronted with road stop toilets, brightly lit, no partitions or doors, people squatting while texting on their mobile phones and a long line of Chinese women all curious how a western girl goes to the toilet.  It feels pretty awkward (though you’re probably the only one there feeling self conscious about peeing) but overtime you will get used to it, a liberating feeling! Though it never hurts to have an over the shoulder satchel as it can rest on your knees and act as a personal privacy screen!

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About Sasha: Sasha is a sassy Aussie lassie who is living it up as an expat in Shanghai. When she’s not teaching English or slaving away writing her next story she can be found scheming her next grand travel adventure, dancing up a storm at Shanghai’s hippest clubs and taking an uncountable number of photos of random things. View author profile.

Comments (11)

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  1. [...] squat toilet, despite it’s offensive smell it’s actually pretty hygienic and once you know how to use it you will find yourself flinching no [...]

  2. light487 says:

    I am a guy but I have a tip for the ladies using these toilets, that is the ones that don’t have doors on the stalls:

    You’ve got that little fold up umbrella that you take with you everywhere, right? Simply prop the umbrella up in front of you on the floor. It doesn’t stop people from looking over the usually low stall walls (if there are walls) but it will give you some small amount of privacy. Works for guys too, if you’re so inclined. :)

    • Sasha says:

      Thanks for the comment, what a great tip!!! I’ll admit I’ve often had my umbrella with me in these situations but never actually thought to use it as a privacy screen, who would have thought there would be so many great uses for an umbrella!

  3. Jacob Yount says:

    I’ve been here going on 9 years and pride myself in that I’ve seldom had to use a squatty potty. It’s not that I haven’t traveled or haven’t been out in the sticks (off the beaten path.. ie my wife’s hometown!), but I train my system to know (like radar) in any city, any burg, any village, where the nearest “throne” is located.

    Doing my best to keep my “squatty” numbers to a bare minimum. This was a fun post, thanks Sasha.
    Jacob Yount recently posted..Keep Your Cool-Part I

    • Sasha says:

      WOW! That’s impressive that you’ve managed to mostly avoid the squatties! I think there are a lot of people out there who wish they had that radar. You need to make a map, “Where to Locate Western Toilets in China!”.

      Thanks for the comment! :)

  4. [...] If you live in China you’ve seen them, those really helpful signs pointing you towards the public toilet just 50m away. Somehow every time I desperately need to follow that sign the toilet is in fact not [...]

  5. [...] Scarcely do you smell incredibly offensive dirty smells and scarcely do you ever walk into a public toilet and instantly want to turn and walk back out because it’s so disgustingly dirty and smelly.  [...]

  6. Ueli says:

    I am going to China on a regular base since 24 years and as much China has developed during this time, so did also the quality of the toilets (at least in the bigger cities).

    However, the good old squat toilets without partitions can still be found such at a gas station near Nantong (Jiangsu Province). There I could witness once again the abiility of Chinese in multi tasking. An elderly man was sitting there, reading the newspaper, talking on his cellphone, smoking a cigarette and well, he also took a s**t, all at the same time.

  7. Dan says:

    I didn’t think the toilets were too bad in Shanghai, which was just as well as the food was terrible! Next time I’m going back to the Cantonese heartlands.

  8. One thing to keep in mind, too, is that squat toilets are better for you physiologically. The kind of toilets we use in the West are what cause the majority of hemorrhoids and constipation. So, every time you use a squattie, think of how much you’re helping your personal plumbing at the same time!
    You’ll REALLY notice the difference as you get older. ;) (I lived in the far east back in the mid-70′s).

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