The bathroom – and (yes, we’re going there) particularly the toilet – is a place guaranteed to make apparent the differences between nations. Check out some of the curious distinctions between us all.
You probably don’t give a moment’s thought to the practice of flushing paper down the loo, but this isn’t what happens world wide – even in the places you might expect to have the plumbing for it, such as Greece. If you’re about to set off on your travels and want to check before you go, take a look at Where do I put the paper? A handy guide to the world’s toilets, a fabulously useful guide by Matt Kitson.
We’re not counting ourselves out of the oddness, of course. The British habit of putting a carpet on the floor of the bathroom seems weird from the perspective of mainland Europe. However, we’d say it’s pretty much completely out of style here, too, with most of us sharing the opinion of our near neighbours these days. With underfloor heating on offer, cold feet aren’t a convincing reason for carpet anymore, after all, and it certainly doesn’t work in a wet room.
We’re not saying this is weird, but cleaning, er, afterwards using a bidet toilet that washes where you need it is the norm in Japan (seen from there, we’re the ones who are odd because we use old-fashioned toilet paper). In fact, Japan has loos so hi-tech they can dry you following the wash, lift and lower their own lids, check your blood pressure, get rid of the pong, play music, and coddle you with their heated seats (choose the desired temperature).
Benny Lewis of Fluentin3months.com shares a Brazilian tradition: ‘It struck me as incredibly odd, but the first question Brazilians would ask me whenever I arrived at their home was always if I wanted to have a shower! This wasn’t saying anything about my BO, but something that is customary to offer any guest who is visiting you in Brazil, including if they are not staying over.’
We can only think that fishing in the toilet is a regular enough occurrence in Russia to deserve a notice telling people they shouldn’t do it. This was shared by Canadian snowboarder Sebastien Toutant @SebToots from the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Bathing in the sauna comes naturally to the Finns, and if you want to fit in you should be open to the experience. ‘The feeling of being slapped on the skin with a bundle of soft birch leaves in the heat of the steam room can be a pleasant therapeutic experience,’ explains This is Finland.
Gillian McKeith might have made poo inspection briefly fashionable – or at least talked about – in the UK, but we’d venture to suggest that immediate flushing is more usual. In Germany and Austria, though, toilets sometimes incorporate a shelf so you can perform this type of health check. We’re not putting money on this becoming a trend in the UK.