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Even dirtier - Chinese toilet habits

Even Dirtier - Chinese Toilet Habits


Apart from the germs spread by spitting and blowing your nose everywhere, there are other things you have to contend with in China. Perhaps the vilest of these are the toilet habits of the Chinese, so vile so that they deserve a chapter to themselves.

Some may argue that these are cultural differences. But I beg to differ. There are cultural differences that can and should be tolerated, and there are just plain nasty habits that hark back to an era of primitiveness when we still walked on all fours. China has squat toilets and Western style toilets. The squat toilets are traditional and are a cultural difference. But the toilet habits of many Chinese are not. They are extraordinarily dirty. Sometimes, I think even a dog has cleaner potty habits than many of them.

A toilet in Chinese countryside is usually a harrowing experience and one you will unfortunately remember for the rest of your life (unless you're Chinese). First, the smell: you can usually smell a Chinese toilet from far off. When you enter, you may run back out. What greets you are a row of rectangular holes in the ground and all around them are strewn lumps of stale feces and used toilet paper. There are no doors on the stalls, sometimes, even no partitions between the holes. But those are just the very sometimes when you’ve eaten some of China’s finest prepared laxatives, prepared in a dirty restaurant by dirty people. So you quickly glance around, then run back in, clutching your aching stomach in agony. You very gingerly step towards the toilet, taking utmost care not to step on any stale shit or used toilet paper and do your business.

If you are lucky, you will use the toilet in privacy. But if you aren’t, some Chinese person will enter, see you, a foreigner squatting and start giggling. If you’re in a school, then you may very well die of embarrassment when the kids see you and not only giggle, but beckon their friends, loudly proclaiming, “Waiguo laoshi shang cesuo” – Foreign teacher using toilet, and the whole lot come running in and trying to see if your bottom is blue in colour.

Yet, I feel the behaviour of the kids is tame compared to the animals whose are so primitive they can’t defecate into the toilet and throw toilet paper in the toilet or wastebasket provided for the purpose. You start asking yourself if they know what a toilet is to be used for in the first place. What is wrong with these people? Is this how they behave in their houses? Do they like to see stale shit on entering the toilet? Or do they get woozy from the stench and accidentally position their rear ends wrongly.

City people will claim these are dirty countryside habits but this is a blatant lie. For two years, I lived in a provincial capital in China's northeast. I worked in a modern high rise building on the eleventh floor in the most cosmopolitan area of the city. You could smell the toilets when you got off the elevator, despite the doors to the toilets being shut. The act of going to use the toilet was filled with apprehension, because 75% of the time, when you entered, the toilet was unflushed by the last occupant and full of reeking shit. Judging by the amount of shit, sometimes it was the last 2 or 3 occupants. On many occasions, I almost puked. And even in the squat pots, they spit on the floor, not in the pot. So when you go in and squat, you're staring at frothy spit in front of you.

Children learn bad toilet habits from young. They will literally stoop and pee or defecate on the street, despite there being a public toilet 10 metres away. The vast majority of Chinese children have never worn a diaper. Instead, they have a big slit that, when they stoop down, opens and allows them to pass whatever. Or if it’s a baby, the mother will hold the baby up, and indecently open the baby’s legs as wide as possible. Once I was on a train and there was a toddler who wanted to use the toilet. Rather than take the child to the toilet 5 metres away, the mother opened a bottle and had the child pee in that. Have some of these people no shame, no sense of what is decent and acceptable to civilized people? Really, what do these people think sometimes? Is there shit in their heads as well as in their lower parts?

The state of Chinese toilets is the one thing most repulsive to foreigners in China. And this is the thing I most cannot understand about China: the toilet habits of not all but so very many. I can understand the lack of privacy - Chinese people grow up with the community and family so they do everything together, including using the toilet. So to them it doesn’t matter if there are no doors. But for the filthiness, there is just NO excuse. When I went hiking about the countryside in England, I came to a conclusion that humans are different from animals. Animals shit everywhere and don’t care. Humans, on the other hand, have a sense of decency, self respect and an appreciation for hygiene. 

Chinese people are human right, so why can’t they realize that the sight and smell of shit that’s weeks old is repulsive? That toilet paper thrown everywhere is unsightly and disgusting? Really, you don’t have to have a brain to realize this. But like obeying traffic laws, littering and queuing, this is just another example of the Chinese state of mind where common sense and what is practical and beneficial to the society takes second place to uncivilized impulsiveness, selfishness and stupidity. And dirtiness.


What is this lady thinking???!!! There's a restroom less than 10 metres away. But TIC: This is China. Kids will stoop on the street and use the toilet and no-one bats an eye.





The boys' toilets in a Chinese school in downtown Changchun. In most countries, this school would be shut down for health and safety reasons, the stench being so pungent that your nose and eyes buwn and start to water within 15 seconds of entering. But in China, this is a good school. Poverty is not the reason - the school has enough money to revamp the toilet system 10 times over if it wanted. So what is the reason: stupidity and dirtiness. China may be advancing but attitudes remain deep in the gutter.





The real China. Most toilets, most days. What is so hard about flushing the toilet? Is this Chinese culture?




To the next chapter: Impoliteness

Rants About China  
  Updated April 10, 2008



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