Dare to Ask: Question is a real 'loo-loo'
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
I heard that Turkish toilets are literally a porcelain hole in the ground. Do
women over there use these, too? Also, are "sit-down toilets" like those in the
United States considered weird?
Anne, 23, Iowa City, Iowa
It seems to me, not only in Turkey but also in Russia, Italy and Thailand,
that public toilets tend to be porcelain-lined holes in the ground. Some even
have raised brick-shaped steps to put your feet on. I guess these are easier to
clean. Once I got used to squatting that far, it was OK . . . sort of like going
in the woods, but with walls around you.
Jim P., 44, Dallas
"A porcelain hole in the ground" is popular in Morocco as well, and I've used
such a toilet many times. I think this is cleaner than a "Western toilet" (or
whatever you call the one with the seat, bowl and flush). A good toilet will
come with a faucet and bucket to wash out what you did. Women use these toilets
just as much as the men. I would suggest wearing a skirt and hiking it up.
Either way, just try to make the same position you would on a "normal" toilet
(hover). Anyway, you'll likely find many "normal" toilets in Turkey, probably
more in cities and places where a lot of foreigners come. That's how it was on
the other extreme of the Mediterranean.
Teresa, 20, Macomb, Ill.
Eight weeks into the new year and we're just now doing a
bathroom/toilet-related question? Maybe if we'd found Bob Cromwell sooner, we'd
have done the deed by now.
Cromwell has a handle on this international commode stuff. He jiggles it
every chance he gets, updating his 10-year "Toilets of the World" project at
www.cromwell-intl.com/toilet/ whenever he plumbs other cultures for new throne
(If you go to his homepage at www.cromwell-intl.com/, you'll find links to
his other areas of expertise, from computer security to signal analysis. Do we
need to tell you which area of his site has attracted worldwide media
Cromwell says he's not loopy for loos. He's just well-traveled and has
chronicled differences in toilets because it interests him.
In-ground "squat"-type toilets are predominant in Asia, the Middle East and
parts of Eastern Europe, he notes, theorizing that those are older parts of the
world and, well, squat toilets are an older design.
"It looks like a shallow sink put in the floor, with foot pads on either
side. It's plumbed-in like a typical toilet. For the water it's either a raised
tank, or a short stub of garden hose, with a faucet next to it. Sometimes the
whole bathroom drains into the toilet; even the shower drains into it" -
creating a tidy bowl, we presume.
While it's true toilets over there are different, it doesn't mean they're
weird, or that ours are, either, he said.
And while one could argue our "sit-down" privies are easier on the knees,
squat toilets are potentially more hygienic, as no body part touches the toilet
when in use, Cromwell added.
"People from over there, the first time they see a Western-style toilet, they
must be horrified, or possibly confused."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. email@example.com. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his