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14 Foreign Bathroom Rules Every Traveler Should Know

14. Learn What a Bidet Is


A bidet is an object of schoolyard legend in America and very little more than that. But in a lot of countries, they've realized, "hey, we clean ourselves at the end of the day with water, why not apply that principle to the restroom, too?" Whether you're comfortable with that or not, you'll want to get used to seeing it around.


13. Be Ready to Make New Friends

Africa, India, and China

Not every part of the world bears the same expectation of privacy that we do. In some rural areas, you might have to turn to a travel umbrella or a poncho if you're looking to evade prying eyes. The above urinal, for instance, can accommodate as many men as can squeeze in shoulder to shoulder.

(image via Flickr)


12. Wear Your Toilet Slippers


Cleanliness being the cultural force that it is in Japan, it's important to remember that bathroom occurrences stay in the bathroom and are never spoken of again. Leave your house slippers at the door and step into a nice pair of toilet slippers to use the restroom. And whatever you do, don't take the toilet slippers outside of the restroom. That's just horrible. Why would you do that?


11. Be Ready to Pay


In America, there aren't really any pay toilets left. That's actually due to the work of a political advocacy group called the Committee to End Pay Toilets in America that wiped (pun intended) them out in the 70s. Nowadays, we're on the honor system where shame (or a "customers only" sign) compels us to buy a small fry or a candy bar wherever we stop to pee. Other countries never had such enterprising citizens, and pay toilets are still a thing in many parts of the world. Save your coins.

(image via austinevan, CC)


10. The Paper Isn't Free Either


Pay toilets in Taiwan don't carry a fee for the bowl itself, but rather for the paper. And even if you don't find yourself paying for TP, you may wind up needing to grab a handful of toilet "tissues" outside the door before you even go into the restroom. Just pray that you have enough to see you through.


9. Bring Your Own TP


Some places might provide it for you, but you don't necessarily want to count on it. Buy your own and fill your pockets, or be ready to get creative.

(image via deanhochman, CC)


8. Get Ready to Squat

China and the Middle East

There's a big contingent of people right now saying that squatting to use the toilet is actually better for you, easing pressure on your various bodily systems and leading to faster, healthier potty-times. You may as well buy into it because odds are you won't have a choice but to use a "squatty potty" when you visit China and the Middle East. You might as well choose to believe you're getting something out of it.

(image via robennals, CC)


7. Mind Your Left Hand

India and the Middle East

As the world flattens, more and more people realize that no insult is meant by this. Still, there are many parts of the world—particularly in India and the Middle East—where shaking hands, eating, or doing much of anything with your left hand is considered unclean or insulting. If you're left-handed, well...have fun! (Do we seriously need to go over why this particular rule of etiquette is on this list?)

(image via lindsayevans, CC)



6. Use the Brush


German toilets have a "shelf." If you're a person who likes to admire your handiwork, then this country is pretty much tailor-made for you. The problem is that not every shelf toilet actually has sufficient suction to clean the shelf under its own power, which is why every German bathroom includes a brush that you are expected to use.

(image via gtzecosan, CC)


5. Use the Princess Button


If there's any culture that can rival the U.S. for the role shame plays in society, it's Japan. Naturally, they were the ones who solved the "I'm not going until you go" problem. The princess button makes noise intended to drown out the sound of whatever it is you're doing, so anxious toilet-goers can use the facility in peace.

(image via eye1, CC)


4. Admire the Luxury


The princess button isn't the only way the Japanese have used their engineering prowess in the bathroom. Their feats in toilet technology are the stuff of legend. Japanese toilets can analyze your urine content to check for illness, automatically lower the lid, warm the seat—on a schedule that learns your daily habits—and even reconfigure themselves for easier cleaning.


3. Avoid Conversation and Eye Contact

United States

This article is supposed to be for overseas travelers, but apparently not enough people know this. American restrooms are not for small talk. Keep your eyes level and straight ahead. If at all possible, leave a spare urinal between you and the next person. If there are three urinals, don't take the middle one. Everyone hates you if you do this. Do not talk—at maximum, grunt in acknowledgement of a person you know.


2. Don't Flush the Toilet Paper

South America

Not every country's sewage system is built to handle everything people try to throw at it. Just as you're not supposed to flush feminine hygiene products in the U.S., you're also not supposed to flush toilet paper in many parts of the world. Instead, there will be a bin provided. Odds are, if it's a TP bin, you'll be able to figure it out.

(image via istolethetv, CC)


1. Get Ready for Some Easy Listening


According to the International Center for Bathroom Etiquette, which collects bathroom usability tips from around the world, you should be ready to listen to music while you're in the loo. Specifically, an instrumental version of Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now" is apparently omnipresent. Our love of Bacharach notwithstanding, this seems a bit much. You should also be ready for severe water conservation methods, from low-flush and no-flush toilets to "using" a tree out back.