I recently received pictures of a new public toilet abroad, the walls of which are totally transparent from inside (for the user) but which looks as if it has mirror walls from the outside. The thought-provoking question was, “Would you use it?” My American architect friend responded, “I would hate to use it at night when it would have to be lighted up.” This had not occurred to me…but what I noticed in the picture was a drinking fountain set just above the toilet bowl…and that got me thinking about cultural differences. In the East, we always associate toilet with uncleanliness, and we would never dream of drinking out of a water fountain set above a water closet. When our toilets are usually dirty, and indeed, are often open fields, the association with lack of cleanliness and hygiene is too deeply ingrained. Even my own friends, who know rationally that the same water comes out of the taps in their kitchen as well as their bathroom, would hesitate to drink the water in the latter location.
Water v. paper is another major cultural difference between the East and West. “How on earth can anyone clean themselves with these pieces of paper?” yelled a relative who went to live with her daughter in Toronto. I personally cannot do without water,either…I usually make do with one of the plastic yogurt tubs! Wet wipes seem to be a compromise that may still leave many unsatisfied (and perhaps unwiped!)
One habit which I would like my compatriots to learn from the West is the practice of washing hands after using the toilet…I am sure there will be much less disease if this were adopted. But this, alas, also requires a lot of water, which we have very little of…I dream of the day when my country will have clean public toilets…. and when we will stop having open toilets on trains, too….!
But as long as I live, I am destined never to get used to ONLY toilet paper, and will always be…“Little Lota”!