To sit or to squat?
By: Sarah West
When it comes to toilets, China has a variety. I know this because I lived in central China for a year and a half and traveled the country, seeing Shanghai in the east, Beijing in the north, Xinjiang province in the west, Nanning in the south and many other places. I even traveled further to Southeast Asia. The most common facility I discovered was the squat toilet, which my fellow expats and I referred to as squatty potties.
According to a recent article from Reuters, Chinese news agency Xinhua said Westerners preferred seated toilets, but squat toilets are more hygienic, considering “there is no direct contact with body.”
More hygienic? The guys at Xinhua have clearly never visited that rest stop on the four-hour bus ride from the scenic town of Yangshuo to the Longji rice terraces. The “toilets,” and I use the term very loosely here, were actually one long trough. Thankfully the bathroom was at least divided into two gender specific rooms and each stall had a wall. But the trough ran the entire length of the building and the women’s room was downstream, if you catch my drift.
I don’t think they’re referring to that rest stop on the overnight bus ride from Shanghai to Wuhan, either. The middle of the night is not a good time to squat in front of lots of strangers, none of whom feel the slightest compunction about staring at foreigners — be it in the middle of Tiananmen Square or in the bathroom. This particular bathroom had no stalls, no walls and probably no holds barred. Upon exiting, I summed up my feelings about the experience by telling my travel companions, “I want my dignity back!”
I am amused at the idea of a multitude of unsuspecting Westerners descending on Beijing and its public facilities, only to discover that things are a little more rustic in China’s capitol city than they had been led to believe.
So basically, if Yao Ming, Donald Trump and I went to Beijing, we would get to sit. Those who are only going to watch, on the other hand, should prepare by working out those thigh muscles.