Taiwan is a developed nation and Taipei a very modern, developed and adapted city. This being true, there are still some things from the past that have hung on culturally. The restroom and habits of using it are no exception to this. This article will guide you through the restroom process in Taiwan and, about what to expect so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises!
One of your first big surprises when in Taiwan will surely come when you are in a rush and step into the bathroom only to see a hole in the ground. Congratulations, you have just had your first encounter with the Squatty potty. The squatty potty is a normal acquaintance for most Taiwanese, however may take some getting used to for others. When you run into your first one, don’t freak out, just try and do your best.
You will mainly run into this type of receptacle when you are outside of the main city, in smaller unknown areas, or small restaurants. Use you best judgment and don’t get thrown off. If you are eating in a back alley night market restaurant and run into a squatty potty, you should be expecting it. On the other hand, well established restaurants, buildings, and other places usually have western type facilities provided. In fact most restrooms and buildings in Taipei are now equipped with western style toilets in both men and women restrooms. Typically, when walking into most buildings you will find a combination of both squatty potty’s and western style toilets available.
The Squatty Potty Culture.
There is still reminiscing of an old cultural belief that sitting on a toilet was unsanitary and appalling. This is surprising to many in a sharp contrast that many westerners think of the squat style toilet as a more primitive and unsanitary system. Just one of the interesting cultural treasures you are sure to uncover while here in Taiwan! Although this type of method and custom is still very prominent in the country, many Taiwanese have now become accustomed to using western style toilets and they can be found in most places.
Another interesting cultural characteristic in Taiwan is the bathroom cleaners. We are grateful to have them here, as the public toilets do tend to maintain a certain standard of cleanliness, however sometimes this comes at the cost of a slight surprise. Gentlemen, if when using the restroom and a woman walks in behind you, don’t be alarmed, chances are it’s just the cleaning lady. That’s right, there is no sex discrimination when it comes to public restroom cleanliness here! Many of the public toilet cleaners are women and they do not hesitate to finish their job if the facilities are in use. Just carry along with your business and try not to smile and laugh to hard, this is a normal thing for you now!
No matter what kind of toilet system you run into, there is one thing you need to be sure you are absolutely aware of. Taipei is an old city and the sanitary systems used are still quite outdated. Because of this, it is most common to NOT FLUSH YOUR TOILET PAPER. There is wastebasket provided next to every toilet and its not there for show. If you use toilet paper, put in into the wastebasket and NOT INTO THE TOILET. The paper WILL clog the toilet and drainage and cause huge problems for everyone. Just simple fold your used toilet paper and discard it in the basket. Your cooperation will be appreciated by all!
Carry around a small package of tissue for emergencies. It is not uncommon to run into a poorly maintained restroom if you are outside of the downtown area, and even more common if you are traveling outside of the capital Taipei.
Sometimes Restrooms may charge you a fee for usage, or charge for toilet paper. If this is the case, there is usually a wall-mounted vending machine that you can purchase is from. Something to think about before rushing in and getting stuck in a smelly situation (literally). Don’t forget, ALWAYS CHECK THE TOILET PAPER BEFORE USE!!!!
Check for hooks. Sometimes stalls have them, sometimes they don’t. If you have valuables with you that you don’t want to put on the floor, check for a hook on the back of the stall door or wall. If its not there, it may have fallen off. Head to the next stall and hope for better luck!
Hand sanitizer and/or Hand Soap. In addition to poor maintenance and lack of toilet paper in bathrooms, sometimes the soap dispensers get over looked. It’s a good idea to have a small portable bottle of hand sanitizer or soap with you just in case. This can be a great way to kill off germs from just being in the city all day too!