Ankara, Turkey, April 2012
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How to use a Turkish Toilet and other squat toilets all over Europe, Asia and North America
We camp a lot and usually carry our own toilet paper. We are not too picky about the smallest room. But still – I personally would not sit down on any gas station’s toilet seat.
In most parts of the world this is not even necessary. We got introduced to the squat toilets in Turkey, where they are called Alaturka. A squat toilet usually is a small hole in the floor, sometimes with a flap over the hole, and two surfaces for the feet left and right of it. They vary a lot, as we have used very different ones in Europe, Asia, and North America. Your instinct will show you how to use the Squat toilet – lead the waste from the body into the hole – but there are some tricky details I will now introduce you to.
It starts entering the room. Usually there are separate stalls to provide privacy in public restrooms. In many Chinese bathrooms there are walls, but no doors, so you may want to pick the furthest stall from the door. That means you might walk past other people using the toilet on your way there, but nobody will walk past you, unless they had the very same idea of course. Sometimes there is one long ditch that runs from the first toilet to the last. That’s when you may want to ditch the privacy and rather not have other people’s pee and poop gliding past underneath you. But these toilets are getting pretty rare. Most public bathrooms we have visited had had a single hole and a single stall for each and every visitor.
The first thing I remembered getting confused about in Turkey was a pair of beach slippers. How could anyone forget their shoes in the bathroom? Then I found out that the slippers belonged there. Visitors exchanged their house shoes for them and changed them back after finishing the bathroom deeds. This way the germs would stay where they belonged: in the bathroom. I recommend you to leave your shoes as much in the way as possible. After a longer session, when you have already gotten comfy in your bathroom slippers, you might forget to change the shoes back until you see your shoes outside the door. It has happened to Roberto. He did not recognize he still had them on and entered the living room to continue his tea.
Now let’s talk about the squatting. Place one foot on each side of the hole and slowly squat down. If you lean slightly forward it’s a little easier to keep the balance, but don’t point your knees forward, they must face up. You may even want to hug your own legs once you squatted all the way down. Your entire shoe soles are supposed to touch the floor. The position can we very exhausting if you only stand on your toes, plus you may lose your balance easier. Some elderly people have told me that they liked to tie a belt to the wall or door, so they can pull themselves up easier after their deed is done.
If you are not one of the most flexible types, you may want to do some dry training outside. Squat down, stay, stand up.
Where exactly do you squat? For a number one you want to aim right into the hole. Otherwise the porcelain may return a nice and warm spray of pee right back to you (angle of entry equals angle of reflection). Sometimes that means facing the wall rather than the door. Just check the position of the hole, the angle of the porcelain, as well as the angle of the sewage tube. For a number two just see that your poop will be falling right into the hole. Sometimes you may want to do your number one, turn around and then continue with your number two.
So you’ve managed to squat down and empty yourself. Now it’s about cleaning yourself. What do you do if there’s no toilet paper? Well, usually there is something else:
- If there’s a tap with a piece of hose you have two options: If you are in training you may try the faster, but riskier option. Press the hose closed with your thumb, so that only a little opening remains. Open the tap and you’ll have a nice and strongly pressured spurt of water. Aim that right towards the dirtiest parts and there’s no need to even touch yourself at all, although it will be faster and cleaner if you help with your left Hold the hose with your right, clean yourself with your left. If you aren’t trained in this way of cleaning, you may want to consider removing your pants, undies and socks before you begin. Sometimes the hose has a pretty heavy pressure. If you are not in training and there is some kind of a container nearby, a bucket, a jug or a cup maybe, you can also continue like this:
- If there’s a bucket, you can fill it up with water and use that water to fill up a smaller container, like a cup, a bowl or a little jug. Without any toilet paper you use your hand again. Use your right hand to splash the water towards your butt. Clean yourself with the left hand and repeat as often as necessary. Don’t worry if you end up all wet, that’s why you have removed your clothes before.
Now you may want to get dry. Again there’s two possibilities. Wait a minute or two shaking your butt dry, or bring a little paper to dry yourself. If you do use paper, make sure to throw it in the bin rather than the hole, as these type of toilets often clog rather easily. If there was still poop on it, that means a) you did a poor job in cleaning yourself and you may want to repeat the procedure, and b) if there’s a basket without a lid, you may want to wrap the dirty paper into an extra square of paper before you toss it in the basket.
Now you’re clean and dry and ready to get going. Getting back up after a longer session may be hard for some elderly or less flexible people. A friend told me how he usually removed his belt, tied it to the wall or the door and used it to let himself down and pull himself back up.
If there’s a flush you may use it. Otherwise just fill up the biggest bucket or jug you can find, and clean the inside area. Especially in Southeast Asia it’s common to also clean up the area around the toilet, sometimes there is a squeegee you can use to dry the floor. That’s one of the reasons, why Southeast Asian bathrooms are often very damp.
Once you’ve practiced your squat position and your water throwing skills you will see that the squat toilet is the most practical thing!
- Cleaning yourself with water is way more hygienic than cleaning yourself with paper. Think of a slice of bread with nutella. If you use paper, you can scratch off some of the nutella, but with water and a good rub, you can get it all. And you can wash your hand with soap afterwards.
- Squatting down is the most natural position for your poop to flow out easily. You hardly need to squeeze!
- There’s no need to sit. Often public toilet seats have urine drops on them, but in a squat toilet you don’t touch anything with your legs or butt.
- No water will come splashing back towards your butt when a bigger piece falls into the toilet, as there is no water in the hole.
- Chances are that people do not remain on the toilet much longer than necessary, so no need to hurry people who enjoy their newspaper, they will be done in no time.
You’ll see, give it a try and after a while you may seriously be thinking about changing your own toilet at home into a squat toilet too. Enjoy!