Monday, February 7, 2011

100 Days in Thailand :: Squatty Potty 101 (and other potties around the world)

Okay friends.... remember when I promised to be honest and vulnerable with you? And when I said I'd be sure to share every detail of my experience in Thailand with you? Well, what I have to tell you today is, rather..... embarrassing. It's one of those disgusting things you swear you'll never tell anyone. (Someone remind me, WHY did I promise to share all these details on my blog?!) That's right, it's time for me to tell you all about my personal experience with Squatty Potties. (Oh boy... I am SO going to regret this!)

For those of you who've never traveled overseas, you've probably never heard of such. You probably think the only kind of toilet there is, is the toilet that's in your bathroom right now... or a urinal. Or perhaps, you've heard reference to "the good ol days" back when people used a little contraption called an "outhouse".

But friends, there are SO many other kinds of potties in the world! The kind we use at home is called a "Western Toilet". Though I've also seen it referred to as a "W.C." on bathroom doors overseas. (not 100% sure what that stands for, but I'm guessing Western Commode.)

Then there are the Western Toilets overseas, which come with a handy sprayer for cleaning. The sprayer looks just like the kind you'd find on your kitchen sink back home, but instead of spraying off your dishes, you spray off your bum when you are done with your business! (which is why you may or may not find toilet paper in these places - they assume you will use water to clean yourself).  It's the same idea as a bidet, only without a separate fixture.

You may also find an "electronic toilet" while traveling. I happened upon one of these in the Tokyo airport, and was rather overwhelmed by all the buttons available! I had the option of using the bidet to wash myself (sooo not happening in a public restroom! ew!), a warmer/dryer to dry myself, music to listen to, and a flushing noise (which I pushed because I thought it actually flushed the toilet - only to find it just played a recorded flushing noise. Not sure what the point of that button was?) But don't worry - if you don't push any of those buttons it pretty much works the same as a regular toilet. Here's a photo of an electronic toilet I found online....

In Africa, you will likely use a "Long Drop", which is just a fancy word for an old school outhouse. It's pretty much just a long, deep (smelly) hole in the ground, but they usually have a cement area (about the height of a toilet) to crouch over - or if you're REALLY lucky they'll have a "real" toilet seat! (I would suggest wearing a scarf or bandana that you can pull over your nose/mouth whenever you use one of these.)

But all of these options pale in comparison to the Asian Squatty Potty!

Every time I've entered a bathroom here I have PRAYED that there would be a western toilet inside the stall. And I got lucky for a while.... every place I went at least had ONE western toilet available. (If you are traveling, be sure you check every stall!) That is, until a few days ago when my only option was a squatty.

I was completely intimidated at the idea of using this kind of potty. Somehow I managed to have never had to use one during my month in India, and I had no idea how to even begin! And although I've been camping a couple of times before - there has always been a bathroom around (either that or I didn't drink anything!) so I've never even "squatted" in the woods. Well, all that changed on that fateful day in Thailand....

Luckily, our friend Candace was with us and she gave me a crash course on how to do my business. I listened very intently, then bravely entered the stall....

.... where I promptly PEED ALL OVER MY OWN FEET!!!

Yes, I know. DISGUSTING. There was much whimpering and whining through the stall door as I surveyed the damage. At that moment I was VERY thankful for the trough of water available for "flushing" the toilet (because I needed it to pour all over my shoes to wash off the pee!) I lamented my inability to use the squatty and asked Candace what I'd done wrong. "Um... did you face the wall?" she asked? No - I had not. That MUST have been the problem!

I thought I had it all figured out and surely on my 2nd attempt (a few hours later) I would have this thing mastered! Good thing since my squishy, wet shoes were ALMOST dry....

I bravely went in and tried again - this time facing the wall. And again - with Rusty and Candace giggling sympathetically - I came out with squishy shoes! UGH!  :(

EPIC FAIL. It was NOT my day friends! 

Luckily, there was a small market nearby where I was able to buy some cheap rubber flip flops (that wouldn't be squishy if they got wet). I named them my "bathroom shoes" and pretty much embraced the fact that I was going to have to pee on my feet for the next 3 months (well, anytime I had to use a squatty that is). *sigh. Oh how far this pageant girl has fallen! I was VERY unhappy but tried to "grin and bear it" because I know God called us here for a reason. But then, on the third try, I FINALLY GOT IT RIGHT!!! Praise the Lord!

So, now that you're laughing at me (or, with me, as I would like to think) - it's time for me to share my advice on "how to use a squatty potty" for any of you who might ever end up in Asia!

#1 - ALWAYS have some toilet paper in your purse or backpack. I have never, ever seen any TP in a squatty potty stall (though I did see some for sale for 5 Baht outside one bathroom - but that is not common!)

#2 - It's best if you wear shoes that can get wet/be rinsed off - at least until you get the hang of it! Trust me on this one :(

#3 - Upon entering the stall, pull down your pants and gather everything at your knees - don't let your pants drag the ground or they will get wet (Candace's advice!)

#4 - Stand on the squatty (you will put your feet where the little ridges are on each side - see the photo above) FACING THE WALL. If the squatty is level with the ground and you can put your feet a little farther apart, I've found that helps.

#5 - Squat down as far as you can. The lower you can get, the less "splashage" there will be. Think "catcher's stance". If you can hold to the wall in front of you a little it will help steady you. Take it slow - you do NOT want to fall because usually the entire squatty area is wet and dirty (from being stood on/peed on/"flushed"/rinsed off).

#6 - Do your business and wipe but don't throw the TP in the squatty! The sewer systems can't handle it. Instead, throw it in a small waste basket nearby (or outside the stall).

#7 - Use the basin of water beside the squatty to "flush". There will be a little dipper floating in the water - use it to pour water down the squatty 2 or 3 times (use your own judgement) until it is well "flushed". You can also rinse your feet off with the same basin of water if your squatty experience was unsuccessful :(

And TA-DA! Now you know how to use a squatty potty! I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial and my humiliating personal experience (which I'm sure I'll regret posting in about 5 minutes....)

Your turn! Anyone else have an embarrassing overseas bathroom experience they'd like to share? If so, comment away!


  1. Lessons learned...WC is Water Closet...for some reason.

    Try to never touch the walls or floor. Ever.

    Best toilet I've experienced: In Mozambique, the villagers were expecting us so they modified one of their outhouses (grass hut built around a hole in the ground) by cutting a hole in the seat of a plastic patio chair. A toilet with armrest!!

  2. Clinton that is HILAROUS! Thanks for sharing!

  3. That is too funny! Practice makes perfect! :)

  4. I experienced the squatty potty when I visited Europe in 1985. They were everywhere on the continent. Fortunately I had good knees then.