Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This Post is Dedicated to Jane

I feel like the only appropriate way to follow up my dick post is with a discussion about Korea's toilets. Having visited China, the toilets here don't seem as bad as they did when I arrived but they're still pretty weird.

A good blogger writes about what they know, so here's the low-down on the toilet in our bathroom. Our bathroom is Korean-style, so the first difference is that the seat is slanted so water from the shower trickles down the drain (or to mess with us when we've been drinking). If you look closely at the left-hand side of the seat you can see the next difference.

To the right of the commode is some disgusting Korean mould.

That, dear readers, is a built in seat warmer and bidet. We keep ours off most of the time, but in the middle of winter I felt like a Queen sitting on a heated toilet seat. A Heated Toilet Seat! How luxurious. If you happen to visit, I've handily labelled the buttons for you.


Bizarrely (yes, more bizarrely) we also own what I think is a remote control for the toilet with extra buttons. I'd decode it for you but I've already spent an embarrassing amount of time on MS Paint this evening and I have a cold, damnit. 

I don't know what the 5 means.
As you may have spotted in the first picture, toilet enthusiasts, there's also a huge sticker covered in instructions inside the lid. Someday I'll put it through Google Translate but until then I won't be smoking or riding on the toilet just to be safe. I also won't be showering fully clothed. It will make the toilet sad!


I spend 40 hours a week at school, and the toilets there are a little different. At my main school there are Western-style loos with an even more dazzling array of bidet buttons (I read once that you hit the right combination and you'll go to the moon). There also appears to be a rule that only ONE toilet roll is allowed per cubicle per week, and once it's gone you are forced to spray water up your butt. In the winter time, this is a better pick me up than a strong coffee. 

Image thieved from here because I am afraid of getting caught emerging from an
elementary school bathroom with a camera.
To the right of the bowl is the main reason I don't like Korean toilets. Apparently the Korean plumbing system can't process toilet paper - leading to mass cloggings, ughhh - so Koreans put the used paper in these bins. Over winter, the smell hasn't been too bad but as everything is beginning to thaw out, the stench is returning. Say it with me: GROSS.

At my small rural schools there are only Asian squat-style toilets. They look like this:


Squat toilets apparently have many benefits - from a practical purpose they are cheaper, use less water and they are easier to clean. They can also help with cleaning the rest of the bathroom - a friend of ours was in hospital for a few days, and the cleaners used the squat loos as a bucket - dipping the mop in and swiping the floor. According to my BFF Wikipedia they have health benefits too - they're easier to use when pregnant, they help you poop faster and regular use can reduce the severity of hemorrhoids - everything I've ever wanted in a toilet!

BUT They're stinky, as there's no water in the bowl to cover the smell, and for those more used to Western toilets there's the dreaded splashback. Pooping in a squat toilet is not recommended for Westerners who don't know their bowels as well as Asian people do. It pays to wear closed-in shoes when using these bathrooms as the floors can be really unpleasant. Just yick.

Most of the public toilets in Korea have Western and Asian-style, usually there's a sign on the door to let you know which is which. Toilet paper stinginess extends outside of my schools - instead of a roll in the loo with you, there's one affixed to one of the walls in the bathroom complex. You have to tear some off in advance and carry it in, or keep a pack of tissues on your person at all times. I told my coteacher that all bathrooms in New Zealand have a dispenser in each cubicle and she had the same expression on her face as when I used a heated toilet seat for the first time. Surprise and pleasure.
Cartoon from the EXCELLENT www.ROKetship.com 
Many of the bathrooms will not have hand dryers or towels, and even fewer have hot water. It grosses me out but most of the girls at my school do not wash their hands after using the facilities, and give me strange looks as I hunch over the taps. This could be why I have my seventh cold in seven months. 

Although I will do a lot for this blog, I haven't been able to photograph the Mens Room for my dear readers. That is not to say that I don't know what they look like - I am an expert! This is because a large portion of Mens Rooms are exposed to the public, there isn't a door or a bend in the hallway to hide the line of Korean men urinating. Once a week at least I catch an eyeful on the way to the ladies. Tom tells me that the lavs at one of his schools have a charming (unfrosted) view over the playground. Below is an improvised representation of a urinal Tom swears he saw at a service station just out of Buan. 



The fan is standing in for the urinal, and our kitchen is standing in for the bathroom itself. Imagine Tom is a Korean man, mid-stream. Another oddity is that many urinals here are filled with ice. I don't know why, the internet tells me it's to reduce odours but it's not working.

One last note: If you go to a Noraebang, a restaurant or even a cafe, often the bathrooms are unisex. This means that there's a urinal next to the sink and a stall in the corner, and at 3am under the influence of Korean Snakebites, you will have to push past a drunk Korean male on your way to the WC. Korean men just aren't allowed to pee in private. 

If you're interested in reading more about toileting in South Korea, check out the blog dedicated to Korean Commodes here. Jane, I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I liked writing about it. 

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