Travelling in a foreign country is bound to provide a few culture shocks that’ll throw you right out of your comfort zone, and perhaps none moreso that been greeted with a strange-looking toilet. To the uninitiated, a squat toilet can be a scary thing, but to those in the know it’s the perfect way to poop. Here’s how to use one, and why you might not look back after you do.
Regardless of where you’re travelling in the world, and whatever types of toilets they have there, there are a number of essentials you’ll want to keep in your bag for when nature calls. For starters, toilet paper.
Many toilets in Thailand don’t use toilet paper to clean up, instead using the “bum gun”. So, you’ll need some toilet paper handy if you prefer this method of cleaning and to dry yourself afterwards if you choose to use the bum gun.
Second, make sure you’ve got some hand sanitiser ready for cleaning your hands afterwards. More often than not, toilets won’t have any soap for cleaning, and you’ll feel tonnes better after a potentially traumatic squat toilet experience knowing your hands are germ free.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: some of Thailand’s toilets are in a such a disgusting state that they make the famous “Worst Toilet in Scotland” scene in Trainspotting look like a pleasant comfort break.
With that in mind, don’t head to the first toilet you see. Toilets at motorway rest stops and gas stations can be particularly foul, so it’s wise to survey the area and find a toilet that’s a little more inviting than the one that was used by someone with particularly bad aim.
With squat toilets, there’s a multitude of things that can go wrong. From splashes and misses to waste and wetness contaminating your clothes, it’s wise to heed the old adage of Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
If there’s a bum gun, use it to hose down the area until it’s comfortable enough to go in. If you’re not confident with your technique, you may even consider taking off your pants and keeping them in a safe, dry place. After all, nobody wants you to get back on the bus with pants that are wet, especially if you don’t know what’s caused it.
The squat toilet itself is simple to use — usually, there are grooves on the sides that not only indicate where to put your feet, but also provide an extra level of grip to prevent any unfortunate falls. Once standing in the appropriate section, begin your squat and, well, go about your business. Aiming can be tricky, but you should have some general idea of how things are going to turn out.
If you haven’t squatted since gym class, make sure to be careful about how your approach your squat, and take a second to appreciate the fact that you’re effectively multi-tasking — exercising and going to the bathroom at the same time. What a way to keep up with your new year’s resolutions.
If you’re using toilet paper, you probably already know how that works — just make sure to put it into a waste basket, rather than into the toilet itself.
If you’re using the bum gun, check out our handy guide to how that works.
If there’s no paper and no bum gun and you’re left with simply a bowl of water, don’t panic. It’s a similar concept to the bum gun, but without the exciting high-pressured jet of water. Scoop the water in one hand and gently clean the affected area, before making sure to clean your hands thoroughly. In a similar vein, make sure you’re leaving the toilet in a fit state for others to use. If you’ve missed the target, try to do something about it — the bum gun is your friend in this situation.
Congratulations! You’re now proficient at using a squat toilet — something you’re bound to be including on your CV. In all seriousness, there are a number of benefits to going to the bathroom in the squatting position, from faster and more complete toilet breaks to preventing straining and nerve damage. While it’s not for everyone, it’s popular around the world for a reason, and many who try it learn to love it in time. It might be daunting, but if you follow these tips, you have nothing to be afraid of.