Friday, January 4, 2013

Expat Life: A Bit of Useful Information for the New Year





Those of you who were reading this blog last year at New Year may remember that, as a New Year's gift to my readers, I provided some good advice about not scheduling flights to the US less than 48 hours after returning from Thailand, based on my own unfortunate experience. 

While this advice was not wise or soulful, I think we can all agree that it was practical. 

It is in this spirit of practicality, then, that I would like to continue the tradition of  providing my readers with a useful (and lavatory-related) tidbit of advice with which to start off the new year - specifically for my female readers who may someday find themselves in Seoul.

It is this:  

Although Seoul is an extremely modern, high-tech Asian city, when it comes to the matter of toilets, there are still many places where the traveler will run across an Asian-style squat toilet, or what is often referred to as a "squatty potty," which I have mentioned in previous posts.

These facilities are technically much more hygienic (the user never touches it - you even press the flush handle with your foot) although they take a bit of getting used to.  Some Westerners prefer to avoid them if possible, although many of us don't care either way.

Most newer buildings (and all apartments that I have seen) have Western-style toilets.  However,
you may still run across squat toilets in public facilities - parks, subway and train stations, some museums and government facilities.

So here's the deal:  in many of these washrooms, the user has a choice between a Western and and Eastern-style experience, and may choose her preferred fixture by observing markings on the doors of the stalls:
Western-style toilet within


squat-style toilet within


Yes, gentle readers, the doors are marked to indicate the types of toilet you will find in the stall.  Since it never occurred to me in a million years to give more than a fleeting glance at the door of a toilet stall - except to notice whether or not the lock said, 'occupied.' - I had been living in Seoul for almost a year before I became aware of this.  I am not proud of my lack of observation, but at least I know now, and can pay it forward.

I have no idea if these symbols are used in other parts of Asia - if so, I haven't run across them. But if you are female and find yourself in Seoul and have a preference one way or the other, at least you'll know what the symbols mean and can make your choice accordingly.

You're welcome.

Happy New Year.  









9 comments:

Naomi Hattaway said...

We found mostly squatters in Delhi ... and we find both in Singapore - however the signage all depends on the location. I'll have to pay more attention to the signage and will update you. Thanks for the useful information ;)

MsCaroline said...

Naomi - ha, my pleasure! Thailand was mostly squatters as well - especially out in the country/public venues. I don't remember looking for signs - most of the time there was one toilet and no choice anyway... would be interesting to see if there are choices in other countries, though. Keep me posted, and Happy New Year!

Trish Burgess said...

The sign for a squatty potty would have confused me, it looks a little like some kind of cot or pram with a canopy!

happy New Year, MsC! I did comment on your previous post a couple of days ago but it has disappeared! X

BavarianSojourn said...

A very valuable tip indeed! I know which one I prefer using when the option is available! :D

broken biro said...

I used a squat toilet in Sumatra that was adjacent to hot springs and they'd channelled natural hot water to run through, providing a constant hot flush! You don't get that in the Cherry Tree Centre, Liscard. Thanks for the 'heads' up ( see what I did there?)

MsCaroline said...

Trish - That's probably why it took so long for me to make the connection..I think it looks a little like a shark's fin, too. And I did read your comment - I got it in my email, but it was really odd - when I went to the blog, it wasn't there. I checked in all my folders, as well. No idea where it could be! I will say, though, after reading your comment, I went back and looked at the photo again with new eyes!

Stacy said...

All the while, it was staring you in the face! I've had a few things like that over the years so I am glad to hear I am not the only one. :)

In Malaysia, there are both kinds and sometimes the doors do show a picture but most often you just have to keep opening stall doors till you find the toilet you prefer. There are tons of signs with a silhouetted person squatting on a western toilet though, with a big red line through it. Please don't squat on the toilet seat! And, yet, can't tell you the times I went in to find shoe prints there.

The best tip I can give anyone traveling in Malaysia, is carry a packet of tissues in your pocket or handbag. Most likely, there will NOT be toilet paper. (And as a bonus, you can use it to chope, or save, a table at a hawker stall.)

MsCaroline said...

Emma - Yes, I do, too - too bad it took me so long to figure out there were options!

BB - Oooh - the 'hot flush' sounds fabulous - much better than Thailand, where you have to use a scoop and a bucket of water. Oh, and nicely done with 'head' - you really do have a gift, you know! ; )

MsCaroline said...

Stacy - I've actually seen the 'don't squat on the seat' sign in a couple of places (Thailand comes to mind) but I've never run across footprints on the seat! Toilet paper: my mother is NEVER without tissues in her handbag, and I am positive it is a carryover of all those years we spent in Asia. Here in Korea, there's almost always toilet paper - but it isn't always flushed. There's usually a trash can next to the toilet that you throw the used tp into as well as the other usual stuff. If you go to the toilet in a restaurant on a busy night, you run into overflowing bins in every stall. I think you need to write a post about saving tables with toilet paper though - that's pretty intriguing!