America may be a melting pot, but we enjoy very little diversity in terms of our toilets. When you hit the john anywhere under our stars and stripes, invariably you’ll encounter a Western-style seated toilet or a urinal. When we broaden our view internationally, we encounter a cornucopia of bathroom cultures -- from washing to wiping, and sitting to squatting. Whether you’re preparing for a trip abroad or simply curious how the other half lives, we’re breaking down toilet culture from Texas to Timbuktu. Keep your hands and butts inside the vehicle at all times, and bidet we go!
Bidets can be found around the world, and they are most popular in Portugal, Japan, Argentina, Venezuela and Italy. Nowhere is more psyched about bidets than Italy, where they have been legally required since the 1970s. Now, more than 97% of Italian households have a bidet function.
While a TUSHY bidet attachment gives you a delightful, directed stream right to your keister, full-blown bidets are separate from your toilet. They’re a kind of toilet-like basin without a lid, featuring water controls. How do you use one? Well the name gives you a hint. “Bidet” is derived from a French word for “pony” because, well, it’s meant to be straddled. Each time you use the toilet, pop over to the bidet with a dedicated booty soap. Get the temperature right, like you would at a sink, and ride the pony facing the same direction you would on the toilet. After you’re wet, lather, rinse and pat dry. You can use a dedicated towel to dry off. C’est bon!
The “Turkish” Toilet
Folks in Western Europe know the squat toilet as an “Indian Toilet” or “Asian Toilet” because of their popularity in those regions. But the squat toilet really gets around. It’s also found in sub-Saharan countries, like Kenya or Tanzania, as well as parts of Russia and the Balkans.
Wherever you find the squat toilet, the idea is pretty simple: have hole, will poop. The toilet may be made of porcelain or metal, with a stand for your feet. You drop trou, squat and let gravity take its course. You may have an option to flush, or there may be a bucket of water nearby to help you freshen when you’re done.
China & Tokyo’s Toilet Revolution
If you visited China a few years back and you think you know what it’s like to poop there, you definitely don’t. Since 2015, China has spent more than $3 billion dollars renovating their public poopers. It’s more than halfway through an effort to revamp more than 125,000 public bathrooms. Now? Lavish loos abound. Public bathrooms are baseline cleaner and more available. Some tout high-end construction, with features including marble walls, wood paneling and wi-fi. And, of course, toilet paper.
Meanwhile, Japan is already world-famous for their high-end, high-tech toilets, pioneered by Japan’s leading toilet company called TOTO. More than 50 million of TOTO’s most popular toilet have been sold since 1980, making a movement of, well, cleaning up movements. TOTO’s cult-favorite toilets come equipped with a bidet attachment, an air dryer, heated seat and deodorizing functions. The highest end models of Japanese-style high tech toilets include foot warmers, illuminated panels and music.
While Japanese high-end toilets are common in private homes, until recently more than 40% of public Tokyo toilets were previously of the squat variety. In advance of the 2020 Olympics, the government pushed for a similar public toilet make-over as in China. The facelift for Tokyo floor poopers is underway. More than 300 toilets have been renovated so far, with many squatters being replaced with the high-tech variety.
Deuce Notes from The Field
We’ve covered sitting and squatting, and the high tech toilets of the present. There are a few remaining pooping patterns you’re unlikely to encounter, but deserve a mention:
The Actual Field
Unfortunately, about 15% of the world’s population practices open defecation, meaning they go to the bathroom in outdoor spaces. And 4.2 billion people, more than half the global population, lacks safe sanitation. Via World Toilet, the United Nations is working to bring basic sanitation to every person on our planet.
The Last Continent
Have you ever wondered how people poop in Antarctica? In this video, National Geographic follows ice-cold Antarctic scientists as they construct poop tee-pees and perfect their bucket aim. Spoiler alert: heat warmers are not included.
The Smart Genius Toilet
In a laboratory at Stanford University, toilet culture is finding its future. A team of Ivy League scientists have created a smart toilet that evaluates your waste to detect illness. This at-home stool analysis is not a new idea - the concept began more than 15 years ago. But it will be a while before you have a de facto doctor in your home bathroom.
Wrapping Up: Around the World in 80 Bidets
The grand toilet tour has come to a close. We hope you enjoyed your stay. We’ve seen bidets, squatty potties, high tech Japanese TOTOs and the real toilet of the future. It certainly makes us happy for the TUSHY we have at home already. And while squatting is actually the healthiest pooping position, pooping acrobatics aren’t for everyone! If you want all the benefits of squatting while you get to sit on the john, check out The TUSHY Ottoman. It’s like having a hint of a Turkish toilet at home. Bon voyage!