Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pottying in Shanghai!

If you are squeamish, get easily grossed out, or get annoyed by toilet humor, please do yourself a favor and stop reading this post. Please know that I do not intend to offend anyone, but I do feel a strong need to educate my readers on the good, bad and ugly of Shanghainese toilet culture. 

I have been mentally composing this post for quite some time.  I was just waiting for the appropriate time to post this information.  After having to teach the word, “poop”, to a second grade student, and reprimanding a fourth grade student for drawing a steaming waste pile under a monkey, I felt it was time to face the music.

The good news is the student understands the concept of usually, sometimes, and never!

Like most things in Shanghai, toilets are very diverse. 
Often times when I need to go outside of my apartment, I find myself praying, please Lord, let the toilet I am about to see be a good one.  Or at least let it have a clean seat.  About 70% of the time, He delivers.

Some upscale restaurants and apartments that cater to Japanese tenants have very high-end toilets.  These toilets sport buttons that will allow your bottom to be warmed and cleansed while or after doing your business. 

This is an example of a Japanese toilet console.  I thought universal remotes were complicated.  Source: Wikipedia Commons
I have never had the opportunity to use a Japanese toilet, and am not sure that I would know how to program my desired settings if I did get an opportunity to use one.  Props to the Japanese; at least you can sit while doing your business, and you will emerge from the bathroom feeling fresh and clean.

Many Chinese toilets are very similar to the good old western toilets I was trained to use 33 years ago.  Since Shanghai wanted to prove its status as an international city a few years ago, many establishments have installed western toilets.   Fortunately, our apartment has this type of toilet.  The only confusing part of my home toileting experience is deciding which button to push. 

When do I push each button? PS, don't press both buttons at once.  The water will keep running.

FYI, both buttons do the same thing, so I just push either one when I am finished and go on my merry way.

Unfortunately most schools and older buildings have the most disgusting, confusing type of toilet…the squattie.

Introducing the squattie.  Chinese folks like them because they are hygenic. 
The first time I encountered a squattie was on Easter Sunday at McDonald’s in Xuhui.  I walked in the stall expecting a toilet, and much to my surprise, was greeted with porcelain, urinal like object in the floor.  I had no clue as to what to do, and felt like I was two years old again.  I needed to be squattie trained!

Many questions flooded my mind.  Do I stand?  Do I sit?  Will I clog this thing if I flush toilet paper?  Where is the toilet paper?  Will this thing handle solid and liquid waste?  Do I face the door or the wall when using it? 

To make matters worse, I didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone these questions.  All toilet related matters are discreet in my culture.  By some miracle I did what I thought I needed to do, and did not splatter myself (thank God!).

This is one of my workplace squatties.

Fortunately, I was semi-squattie trained as part of my job orientation.  The direct quote from one of my superiors was,

“About the toilets… you need to get used to them.  This is China.”

As a service to you, dear reader, I will share my limited squattie training wisdom.

Question #1: Do I stand?  Do I sit? 
Standing or squatting is fine.  DON’T SIT!

Question #2: Will I clog this thing if I flush toilet paper?
I don’t know, but don’t risk it.   Be like a native and throw TP and other personal hygiene items in the trash.

Question #3:  Where is the toilet paper?
Many times, it is non-existent.  Fortunately many stores sell multipacks of purse sized tissue pouches that are similar to Kleenex.  Stock up on these frequently and bring a pack to the restroom when you gotta go.

I thought these were only meant for blowing your nose...

Question #4: Will this thing handle solid and liquid waste?
Liquids are fine, but the jury is still out about solids.  I know it is a good idea to make friends with an establishment that has a western toilet if you work in a squattie only environment.  One of my teacher friends mentioned she made friends with a local restaurant owner across the street from her school just in case of emergency. 

Question #5: Do I face the door or the wall when using it? 
It is a matter of personal preference.  Just don’t splatter!!

As a bonus tidbit of information, carry hand sanitizer.  Soap may not be readily available when you need it.

I hope I have covered this topic as tactfully as possible.  Mom, if you are still reading this I am sorry if I have embarrassed you.  To everyone else, I hope this post hasn’t been a waste of time. J