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World Toilet Day – Toilets Around the World

Posted on October 31, 2016

In recognition of World Toilet Day, which takes place on the 19th November, this month we’re looking at the varieties of toilets – or lack thereof – that you will find around the world.

What is World Toilet Day?

World Toilet Day is a global campaign to raise awareness for the staggering 2.4 billion people across the globe who don’t have access to good sanitation facilities – in particular, the 1 billion people who in this day and age still have to defecate in the open. Poor sanitation is unhygienic, presents huge health risks and should not be an issue that we are still tackling in 2016.

How do I take part?

If you would like to participate in this year’s campaign, there are three ways you can do so:

Be a sharer – On 19th November, open your doors to those less fortunate than you and grant others access to your facilities. Make sure your toilet is clean though!

Be an artist – Whether you’re adept at oil paints or the best you can offer is a stickman drawing, art can be powerful in many forms. Put aside some time to share just what having a clean, safe toilet means to you.

Be a thinker – Take some time out from your day to consider life without toilet access. While doing so, get in your best ‘Thinker’ pose, take a photo and post it on social media to help spread awareness.

Doing our part: toilets around the world

To do our part in raising awareness for World Toilet Day, we’re putting together a guide to the different varieties of toilets around the world and the varying hygiene measures we all have available to us. Read on to find out how different your bathroom habits could have been if you were born elsewhere in the world.

The standard issue Western toilet

Arguably one of the most widely used toilet variations in the world, the classic porcelain toilet is used predominantly in the Western world. It is mounted at a comfortable sitting height of about 15-16 inches high and has a toilet seat to increase comfort. This variety of toilet has an easy flush activated at the turn of a handle and toilet roll is supplied, as well as a scrubbing brush to keep the toilet clean.

The German washout toilet

Predominantly used in Germany but also popular in Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands, the washout toilet is similar in design to the Western porcelain toilet except that is has a built-in shelf where faeces lands before flushing. This makes it easier for the user to inspect their bowel movements, which is often used as an indicator of health.

The Tibetan squat hole

In Western Tibet, the toilet facilities can be very basic. Here we have a simple squat hole dug deep into the ground. There is no toilet paper, no flush, and although the area is walled off, there are no partitions whatsoever so privacy while doing your business is very unlikely.  

These toilets can get very dirty, and it is not uncommon for the locals – especially women in long skirts – to simply urinate wherever they see fit rather than visit these facilities!

The European toilet and bidet

The Europeans have an extra sanitary step in their toilet facilities; accompanying a porcelain toilet is a bidet that is used to wash yourself after you have used the toilet. The bidet is similar to a mini sink and can also be used for other purposes, such as washing your feet. The bidet is popular in many European countries including Italy, Spain and France, as well as parts of Latin America such as Argentina and Brazil.

The Japanese traditional squat toilet

The Japanese toilet requires you to squat very low, which is not a position that a lot of Westerners are used to. While it can feel uncomfortable, it is often thought to be a more natural position for our bodies to be in while passing faeces. These toilets are considered to be very sanitary as they don’t require any skin to come into contact with the toilet. The main thing to remember when using this type of toilet is to face the right way! Although the water would seem like the logical back of the toilet, it is actually the front. The shelf at the back, which is what you should be squatted over, has a similar shelf design to the washout toilet.

The Japanese mod-con toilet

On the  other end of the spectrum is the Japanese modern electronic toilet. This facility has just about every feature you could wish for, including a light, a built-in bidet and a heated toilet seat. With this toilet, you can choose between using toilet paper or the bidet function for your preferred sanitary measures. It is also built in the style of a Western porcelain toilet to make it more easy to use for visitors and lessen the impact on users’ knees and leg muscles. This high-tech toilet shows just how far Japan has come, not only in regards to toilet facilities and sanitation, but also in technological advancements.

The Asian squat toilet

The Asian squat toilet is similar to the Japanese squat toilet, except the Asian variety tends to have more of a ‘seat’ to place your feet either side. There is no toilet paper, and usually there is a large bucket or a built-in water trough for you to scoop water up to clean yourself with – in public toilets, there is often a water pipe to be used like a bidet.

The Cambodian river toilet

In some of the poorer areas of Cambodia, toilet facilities are very restricted, and in some areas river toilets are used. A river toilet is simply a small hut elevated over a river for privacy. The floor of the hut is removed, except for two planks of wood to squat on. Your urine and faeces drops straight into the river below and is washed along with the current. This is very unsanitary and can potentially lead to many nasty illnesses, especially if the contaminated water, or fish from the river, is consumed.

The Netherlands public toilet

Amsterdam certainly are doing their part to make sure that no one gets caught short while out in public! Public toilets, free of charge, can be spotted around the city, but they’re certainly not one for the shy! These urinals really do put the ‘public’ in public toilet, but it’s a better option than no facilities at all, and will stop unlawful public urinations becoming a common occurrence. There are also some more discreet varieties for both men and women to do their business.

The Chinese doorless toilet

The Chinese squat toilet is similar to the Tibetan variety, albeit a bit more sophisticated. They tend to be constructed out of a more robust and easily maintained material for hygiene purposes, although doors, and in some cases toilet dividers, are still missing.

The Kenyan flying toilet

In Kenya, toilet facilities can be so limited that residents have to practice open defecation. The faeces is then collected in a plastic bag – similarly to how you would clean up your dog’s muck – and then discarded into ditches, on the roadside, or thrown as far away as possible; the practice that gave this toilet habit its name. This unhygienic practice can lead to contamination and many health problems.

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