Poo Preference: Is Beijing Shifting Away from the Squatty Potty?
For some foreigners, the first time spending the night somewhere that squatty potty is the only option can be uncomfortable. Depending on your poo preference, it may be a bit difficult to “drop the kids off at the pool” that morning. Recently, I came across this struggle when staying at a friend’s home, who, strangely enough, happened to have a squatty potty as their home’s sole option for relief. It had been a while since I had made the attempt – but at some point during the month that I was staying with my friend, I may have finally gotten used to this way of taking a poo.
But since I first dropped a load in a Beijing squatty potty some eight years ago, I can’t help but notice that they seem to be slowly disappearing (or at least have become much less common).
Whether you prefer to sit or squat, there may be some changes coming to a WC near you. Slowly but surely, Beijing’s public toilets are shifting away from squatters as part of public restroom reforms, despite the supposed health benefits, citing needs for better accessibility as well as becoming more welcoming to tourists. (Some readers may recall that the city launched a public restroom rating system, which has since been discontinued)
Despite my first experiences with it, I'll be sad to see the squat toilet phased out (even if it never fully departs from the city – it's hard to imagine the hutongs without squatters, for example). I vividly remember my first sight of this seatless toilet and feeling the gears turn in my head as I tried to figure out exactly what I was supposed to do with it. I wondered, should I take my pants all the way off? How low do I go? Which way do I face? How do I flush? Some more private details also popped into my head that I won’t go on about; but overall, my first run-in with this lowered latrine had me strategizing ahead of time for about as long as I actually used it for.
Since my first overseas trip to China, I have now encountered a ton of different style toilets in different places around the globe (yes, I’ve strongly considered Googling, “How to use a bidet,” a few times when encountering some very intricate toilets, and I’m sure there are many other types that I have yet to come across; but the universal squatter seems to best emulate the original way to take a number two, allowing us to adopt the same position that our forest-inhabiting ancestors used to.
Even as it faces endangerment in its own native land, while this crouched style of waste removal has been having a moment in the West trend followers come to learn about its health benefits. Everyone from Dr. Oz to the experts at Web MD, and even some celebs like Howard Stern, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Curry all give a standing ovation to the squatting method. Whether it's squatting down over a genuine in-the-grounder or getting those knees up with some assistance from a specialized stool, many experts are beginning to change their minds about sitting on the porcelain throne.
But that’s not the only change happening in China – Shanghai has recently rolled out its first public restroom accessible by QR code. This smart public toilet is said to prevent crimes, keep people from loitering, and eliminating other safety hazards. Though of course, it’s not clear to us if Beijing has a need to import this idea, as loitering has never been much of an issue in Beijing’s public toilets.
Whatever the toilets of the future may bring us, it seems that the unending arguments about sitting or squatting, or wiping or rinsing aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Weigh in on the debate in the comments below.
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Image: Joey Knotts