Squat’s Up; A Guide to Chinese Toilets


Going to the bathroom is second nature, but when in China, you might want to think twice and enter at your own risk. Squat toilets are not actually such a hassle, if it is clear what to expect, what to bring along, and how to use them. Below are seven quick factors to consider when using public restrooms in Nanjing, or anywhere else in China.

1) The grass is not greener on the other side

When you get out of your car at a rest stop or have been walking around the city for several hours, finding a restroom that doesn’t offend your nose can be difficult. If you find the smell unbearable from the outside, chances are very good it is only worse inside. In this case, try spraying perfume on your arm to sniff instead. Or if you have nose plugs, that can be helpful. If you really have to enter, just tell yourself it’s only two minutes of your life.

2) Lines are for Suckers and for Foreigners

To line up to use the bathroom, be ready to bring out your inner boxer. Elderly folks tend to be pushy and do not wait patiently in a queue. Rather, go up to the best looking stall door and stand at attention with your nose nearly at the door. As soon as the previous inhabitant begins to turn the lock, be ready to step inside. If you choose to be orderly and wait in a line at the entrance of the bathroom, you will be stuck there until closing time.

3) A good life is like toilet paper… long and useful.

There are two certainties in public toilets: toilet paper will not be provided, and you cannot count on others to share. It is far better to be over prepared than underprepared.

4) Body Check

Before getting into position, take the time to place all of your belongings into a bag, rather than your pants pockets. Thankfully most stalls do have hooks. Do not forget to remove your sunglasses from your head or shirt collar. You will not want to retrieve them from the toilet bowl!

5) Getting Down to Business

When squatting, wearing long pants is problematic because you have to push them onto the germy floor. The best way to get around this dilemma is to roll up the bottoms as high as you can and then pull down your pants, while bunching the material together to avoid the appearance of a little “accident.” Shorts are also fairly easy, so long as they are not too constricting when you get in your thigh exercise. The best choice however are leggings, which have the benefit of being practical as well as trendy.

6) Slippery When Wet

The area around a squat toilet is always wet. Sometimes its best not to think about why, but in any case, wearing flip flops is a bad idea. Your feet will be wet and flip flops lack good traction. Even if you are confident about your aim, you still want closed toed shoes because sometimes the porcelain is not pristine.

7) Bring Your Own (Soap)

Chinese bathrooms do not typically have any form of antibacterial liquid, even in an office or university building. Always have hand sanitizer ready to go. Or, depending on your level of germophobia, maybe bring soap (in your scent of choice), hand wipes (to pat down your legs and shoes) and hand sanitizer (for when you just feel super grossed out). If all of this gets to be too much, remember you can always heed the call of nature; find a dark alleyway or a large object with obscuring properties. Or, the timeless and fashionable option of split pants.

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