Squatting In Shanghai

Shanghai Toilet


Imagine: After a Shanghainese gastronomy (see: CNN’s 40 Shanghai foods we can’t live without) of roasted duck, Xiaolong baos, frog legs and stinky tofu, chances are that you would probably feel your stomach yearning to answer the call of nature; especially after trying the stinkiest and weirdest dishes of Shanghai for the very first time . You are in the middle of a busy street, panicking because you desperately need to ‘LET IT GO’. Finally, you find a public toilet but with no toilet bowl and individual cubicles with doors, “Oh, the horror! Is this ‘well’ even for humans?” Well, the answer is: “Yes and you have no choice so… squat on!”

Most expats or tourists in Shanghai find the ‘squat toilets’ as one of their biggest culture shocks. In a cosmopolitan and well-developed city where a lot of people reside, I would have expected more sanitized and well-maintained toilets. However, I think that the existence of these ‘traditional squatting toilets’ are somehow a representation and a form of respect for old beliefs.

Apparently, despite the toilets’ dirty facade lies a belief that touching toilet doors, seats and latches actually contaminate you with bacteria, which explains why most don’t have cubicle doors. Also, many toilets don’t have water and soap because of the belief that washing your hands with cold water when it’s cold outside will get you sick. In essence, the whole idea is not to come into contact with anything at all to stay clean and bacteria-free. (Read more on: Expat Toilet Experience)

Well, this is definitely not on my bucket list but it would be quite an uncomfortable yet rewarding experience, especially having to overcome the filth and unfamiliarity of the place. I guess as a space progresses, beliefs are things that remain untouched by the physical development of space and therefore, could somehow affect what things of the past that stay and changes.


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