Embarrassing tan lines, losing your camera, delayed connections, running out of mosquito repellent… there are so many things to stress you out while traveling that going to the toilet really shouldn’t be one of them.
In a quick poll of my friends, using a squat toilet was one of the things they were most worried about before traveling but it needn’t be so.
I ain’t gonna lie ladies, many squat toilets you’ll find are gross but definitely not all of them. In fact, the majority of the ‘cons’ in the case against squats are mental and social. We might be put off by crouching awkwardly over a ceramic hole in the floor, but imagine the positions reversed – if it wasn’t completely ordinary to you, wouldn’t you be disgusted with the idea of going “cheek-to-cheek” with a total stranger in a public bathroom? We travel to experience different cultures in all their forms, so (if you’ll excuse the pun) there’s no need to get your knickers in a twist about this.
- If you don’t have the hyper-flexible hamstrings that everyone in Asia seems to have (which allow you to go straight down into a flat-footed squat) practice the motion before you travel. Remember proximity to the ground is the most important thing to avoid splash-back; do what you need to do.
- It doesn’t particularly matter which way you face: I heard some advice saying “don’t turn around” but I always faced whichever way that something to help me balance was in easy reach of.
- Adopt a wide stance if you’re a novice.
- Clothing wise, jumpsuits/playsuits are a BAD call especially if you’re in a squat with no doors. Skirts are obviously the most convenient but if you’re wearing pants, roll up the legs a bit and hold everything together around your knees for the greatest splash protection.
- Don’t wear nice shoes. Tennis shoes or boots are the easiest to balance in and avoid splashing.
Practice strategic tunnel vision and breathing through your mouth. In China the plumbing wouldn’t support flushing toilet paper and sanitary towels were preferred to tampons, so wastepaper baskets got pretty grim pretty quickly. Which brings up our next point: Mind over matter. It’s not what you like, it’s not what you’re used to, but it needs to be done.
Other Things to Keep in Mind:
- Not all squats toilets have doors. This can be a big barrier to overcome but, seriously, no-one’s watching you. Face away from where the door should be or keep your eyes down if you’re getting performance anxiety.
- Floors will often be wet. This is from frequent sluicing with water by attendants to keep everything clean not some kind of horrendous overflow situation.
- Bring your own toilet paper or save tissues and paper napkins from meals.
- Antibacterial hand gel is a must.