Close encounters with the Chinese toilet


This is easily I think, the best or among the best toilets in China. This should be a tourist attraction in itself.

Feel like a bird on a branch as you do your thing on the potty with all of Shanghai spread out far beneath. Right at the top of the World Financial Centre in the heart of the business district in Shanghai, this is the toilet with the best view in town.

With full length windows, you can admire the view on the can – all to yourself too, without jostling with the crowds at the glass windows outside on the main observation deck. Plus short of a helicopter zooming past, no one else is likely to see you too since there are no other buildings as tall as this one in the near vicinity.

But perhaps more important to me than the jaw-dropping view, is the fact that this is a toilet with a door.

Yes in China, I take toilet doors very seriously.

Because in just 4 days in China, I realise that toilet cubicle doors are either (a) missing (b) half the height of standard toilet doors elsewhere in the world or (c) available but not closed when used.

Before the trip, I heard the horror stories – from others who lived to tell the tale – about the communal open loo, the use of brollies in public toilets with (you guessed it) no doors, the strategy of doing your deed upstream as opposed to downstream because yes, everyone’s shit gets flushed downstream to you sooner or later, and so on. But at the back of my mind, I was sceptical: half of that has to be urban legend and the rest pure exaggeration, right? It’s a civilised nation – how bad can it get?

Day one of arrival in China – we meet the guide at a shopping centre in downtown Shanghai and visit the loo for our first loo break in China since we got off the plane. And what do I see? Toilet doors, yes – but half the height of normal doors, barely tall enough to conceal the bits and pieces. Plus one specific cubicle had a door that was broken – with an occupant busy with a big job. Not a local Chinese but a caucasian woman. I thought she would have baulked at using the toilet – I know I would have – but I guess when in China, do as the locals do and she unflinchingly did the deed. In full view of the rest of us waiting to use the loo.

My second encounter came at a restaurant’s toilets. Granted this place was not the poshest of restaurants but I was flabbergasted to see a well-groomed, elegantly dressed Chinese lady in a cubicle squatting, openly pooing and talking to herself. She was warmly encouraging her body to get on with it. “Come on!” she went. “Let’s go!” This time, there was a door but she kept it open. Like witnesses at a car wreck, you know you really shouldn’t gawk but you can’t help it – it’s right there.

So here are some quick tips on using the loo in China:

1) practise squatting. Yes, the vast majority are squat loos – which physiologically actually makes for more effective bowel movement. But if your knees are like mine – spoiled by years of sitting on the can, practise the squat.

2) practise the tippy-toe squat or crouch-squat – because sometimes the floor is kinda icky.

3) BYO – bring your own toilet roll.

4) do not throw your soiled tissues in the pan. The bin full of soiled tissues in every cubicle is there for a reason – use it. Some cisterns don’t take the paper clog very well.

5) I can now officially say – brollies are useful in more ways than one. Who knew you could use a brollie in a loo? Just note that the balancing act of brollie, plus tippy-toe squat, and toilet roll can get a wee bit tricky.

6) learn to ignore the pink elephants in the loo – the others who are vocally and enthusiastically going about their business door or no door.

So with all that, you can imagine my happiness at discovering the toilet at the World Financial Center in Shanghai. Clean, dry, stocked with toilet paper, state-of-the-art Japanese style can (believe me no one else does toilet cans as fantastically as the Japanese but that’s another story)

I leave you with another picture of the view from the Best Toilet Ever in Shanghai, China.


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4 Responses to Close encounters with the Chinese toilet

  1. finorgan says:

    A brilliant post and a real eye-opener about how things are done differently in China.

  2. prechienannygoat50 says:

    Thankyou for sharing this.

  3. nadia says:

    I couldn’t help but share this on Facebook!

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