Telling my story about a French toilet in Spain, and reading about a similar toilet in India, and remembering similar toilets in Taiwan—well, I saw a pattern. Seeing a pattern, one looks for a Greater Truth.
Here is the greater truth: Squat Toilets.
The Greater Truth is that the “squat toilet” can be found all over the world. Just google squat toilet and you’ll see I’m right. China, Japan, Turkey, India, Bangladesh…you get the picture. The squat toilet is a general fixture in the Orient.
So why do they have squat toilets in France and Spain? Okay: Spain was occupied by the Moors for 700 years. The Moors were North African Muslims, and Islam is “oriental”. Perhaps squat toilets thus moved north from the middle east to the Moors to the Spaniards and north to the French. But who knows? Is there a standard historical work on toilets?
It is a great mystery. I mean, the French pride themselves on being civilized. They have their “ooh la la” language and Parisian fashion and the world’s absolute best bread in the baguette. They have their fancy wine and cuisine. They have their well-educated political elite and ultra-sophisticated attitudes towards just about everything in the universe.
But they have squat toilets.
Not everywhere, perhaps. Your hotel room in Paris likely has a sit-down toilet (it also likely has a bidet—but that’s another story altogether). But go to a a normal bathroom in a normal restaurant in a normal town and you might very well have to use a squat toilet.
This is the French Mystery. Why would a country which could create something so civilized and perfect as a croissant not wish to perfect and standardize basic hygiene? Is French culture all about outward appearance—well-dressed, well-coiffed, and perfumed on the outside, but psychologically indifferent to any advances in shit-removal technology.
Here in Germany things are different. I have never seen a squat toilet. But EVERY toilet, public or private, has a toilet brush nearby—which you are expected to use. That’s right: in Germany, whether you are at a train station or an airport or a gas station or a campground, you can expect that the toilet you use will be relatively clean. Because after you flush you ARE expected to look at the toilet bowl and use the brush to brush away any remaining shit-streaks or particles so the next person doesn’t have to look at them.
Germany, in general, has the cleanest public toilets of any place I have ever been.
Which I find to be one of the nicer things about Germany.