Dirty Squat toilet.Part of my job is to prepare people for toilets in China.  

Don’t be jealous.

Many a Western style traveler now have a killer party story to tell because they were caught off guard in an Eastern style bathroom.

The odors alone are generally enough but that is never the end of the tale (no pun intended).  There is also the issue of the missing toilet paper in most public restrooms.  My absolute favorite bumbling foreigner stories of all time involve grown men who went into a stall wearing socks and came out wearing none.

(pause here until that last sentence makes sense)

The most crucial bit of forewarning, though, is that sometime . . . somewhere . . . you’ll be out and have no choice . . .

You’re gonna’ have to use a squatty.

I’ve even worked up a helpful training tool to help newbies remember the key steps.

1.  Pause — don’t rush into this.  Do you have tissue?

2.  Observe — Scan the stall.  Is there cleanup that should happen before this begins? Is there a hook to hang your jacket on?

3.  Only Halfway — Which (without intending to be crude) has to do with your trousers and the distance between your waist and your shoes.  Simply put, don’t drop em’ to the floor.  It never ends well (no pun intended).

Pause — Observe — Only Halfway.  It’s a bit of an acronym for easy remembering.

You’re welcome for that.

A foreigner’s first time using a squatty is a rite of passage — it’s a magical moment when you prove that you didn’t just come here for the stuff they put in the brochure.  No, no — you are a mover and a shaker (no pun intended).

HOWEVER — The standard Western reaction to the experience of the Eastern toilet is typically handled tongue in cheek (pun intended a little bit).  We’ll squat if we must but in the back of our minds it’s ridiculous and frankly uncivilized.  There is smirking and joking and (at the very least) light hearted mocking because THESE PEOPLE haven’t yet figured out the right way . . .  the proper way . . . the Queen’s way of doing their business.

It’s little more than a glorified, porcelainized version of pooping in the woods.


sb-squattyConfession time — I still snort laugh a little every time I go into a Chinese Starbucks bathroom and see the sign that says

“For your safety, please refrain from squatting on the toilet seat.”

That’s just funny.

Mostly because Starbucks is the poster child for all things Western and yet someone in the top office had to concede that they needed to take quick action, presumably because some poor soul had slipped and broken his collarbone complaining that there was no sign warning of the dangers of squatting on a Western toilet.

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

Here’s the thing.  We joke.  We laugh.  We even question the sophistication and development of cultures who do things differently from us . . .

Until we realize that they are right.

One of the hottest new products in the Western world right now is the “squatty potty.”  Not the ground level Asian sort but the pooping unicorn, as seen on Shark Tank sort that brings your knees up and converts your Westie to a squatty instantly.

(if you’re one of the eight Westerners who haven’t seen this video yet, give it a click)


Someone from our side of the globe has finally argued both convincingly and hilariously that squatting is best practice.

Who knew?

I mean except for the rest of world.

It’s a complex cultural phenomenon isn’t it?  When THEY (whoever they are) say it, it sounds ridiculous but when WE say it, it’s genius.

rp_Split-Pants-257x300.jpegIt would be one thing if it was only one thing.  But it’s not.

Few outsiders who come to China are not, at some point, overwhelmed by the the sheer number of toddler tushies that they see out and about in the public square.  “Split pants” are just what they sound like — quick easy access because when babies gotta’ go, babies gotta’ go.

Consequently, parents and grandparents are often seen on the sidewalk, squatting their little ones while they make a mess worth stepping around.

It’s ridiculous.  Messy.  Disgusting.

But Elimination Communication (which is exactly the same thing) — Now that’s just genius.  That’s the phrase that was coined when a Westerner spent time in India and Africa and came back with a “brand new” potty training method that focused on parent-child bonding, zero diaper rash, months faster results and an end to landfills once and for all.

The concept has taken off in the West and been the springboard for numerous more trendy (and pricy) lines of the exact same thing that has been common practice throughout much of the world for centuries.

Who knew?



photo credit: bbc.com

Maybe, the most prominent recent example of “it was stupid until we thought of it” has been brought to us by 23 time gold medalist Michael Phelps (and numerous other Olympians who jumped on the cupping train).  He taught us in Rio that gigantic hickeys aren’t always a bad thing.

Confession time — I’m a lot like Michael in that (and only in that) I too have had my back covered in these enormous, suction induced bruises.   I even wrote about it several years ago in:

How NOT to get 28 Enormous Hickeys on Your Back 

My stance was, “stay away children . . . stay away”  — but I’m not too big to admit when I’m wrong.  In fairness however, I wrote from my own experience back when it was THEIR idea . . . way before it was OURS . . .

and covered by CNN

and BBC

and the New York Times

and Reuters

and Fortune

and Men’s Health

and NBC

and Business Insider

and Huffington Post

and now The Culture Blend — which is known for flip flopping on the issues.

But come on . . . who knew?

It makes for an interesting conversation about cultural skepticism and credibility and trust and the depths of interpersonal interaction across a plethora of dividing lines.

It’s also funny . . . to talk about toilets and pooping unicorns.

How about you?

Have you noticed anything that was a horrible idea until someone from your side of the world convinced you otherwise?



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