Bathroom Etiquette Around The World So You Can Know Before You Go

Toilet etiquette around the world
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Know before you go. In every sense of the word.

Navigating local customs while traveling internationally can be tricky. It can be hard enough to figure out things like when to tip, or whether it’s polite to shake hands with a stranger wherever you are. But it’s even trickier when it comes to figuring out the appropriate etiquette when using public restrooms.

Depending on what country you’ve chosen as your destination, you could be walking a fine line between a polite, everyday citizen — and an uncouth tourist.

While most people in foreign countries give tourists a pass for not knowing bathroom customs, it’s still a good idea to study up on what to do when nature calls when you’re out and about. Before you start packing for your next trip, Mr. Rooter Plumbing has provided some bathroom etiquette know-how for the next time you travel to a foreign country.

Now, you can be on the go like a local.

London, Paris and Amsterdam: You pay-to-pee.

In these large European cities in particular, it’s common to pay to use public restrooms, even if they appear to be free. If there’s no cost to enter, there is likely a cost for toilet paper or a tip dish for the bathroom attendant. A word of warning: Sometimes the attendants will put big bills in the tip jars to confuse tourists, but don’t worry, a small tip equivalent to between $.50 and $1 is sufficient. But of course it’s always better to use local currency.

In Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan: Get ready to squat.

Squatting to use the restroom has been shown to be healthier and more natural for the body, which might be why some countries use in-ground toilets with steps on each side to place your feet. If there is a pedal to start running water or a bucket to wash down any waste, be sure to use it. These types of toilets are common in many Asian countries.

Do not flush if you’re going to these countries.

The worst thing you can possibly do in a public restroom is cause a blockage. No one wants to be that person. And some countries do not have systems that can break down toilet paper easily, so it’s customary not to flush.

While Americans in particular are used to flushing their used toilet paper down the pipe, they must break that habit if they are traveling to Turkey, Greece, Beijing, Macedonia, Montenegro, Morocco, Bulgaria, Egypt and the Ukraine in particular. Restrooms will have special waste bins to place used toilet paper.

BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper) if you’re in China or Korea.

There are a lot of countries where bringing your own toilet paper is a custom, particularly in China or Korea. It’s often customary to bring your own since public restrooms may not always be well stocked. It’s just good thinking ahead to bring a pocket sized pack just in case.

In these countries, every day is a bidet.

A bidet, which features water jets for personal hygiene after using the toilet is often used in France. The personal cleansing method is also common in any place that has limited availability of paper products, and societies choose water for safer and better cleaning. Some places where the bidet is most popular include Italy and Portugal, Japan, Argentina, and Venezuela.

Know the lingo.

When you got to go, you got to go, so there’s no time for a language barrier. Familiarize yourself with local lingo when asking for the bathroom. In European countries like France, Germany, and the Netherlands, ask for the “water closet” or the “toilette.” In Australia, it’s called a “dunny.” In the U.K., look for the “loo.” And in Japan, find the “ben-jo.”

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles