Friends, it’s time to face the toilet topic. I have no doubt that each of you have your own array of bathroom stories, whether you live overseas, have travelled abroad, or have just happened upon a sketchy rest stop in good ol’ USA. When you gotta go . . . you gotta go.

Before I moved to Southeast Asia, others informed me about “squatty potties,” the standard toilet situation in this region. A “squatty” looks like a toilet seat on the floor, with the bowl part submerged into the ground. Rather than sitting on the seat, you just squat (obviously).

My first time using a public squatty potty was in a mall. I had been in the country for barely two weeks, and I was shopping with a new national friend who waited outside while I entered the restroom. I locked the stall, squatted, did my business, and stood up to flush. I looked around and . . . uh, hmm . . . no flusher. Unsure, I tried to decide which would be more embarrassing: leaving the toilet as-is, or asking my friend how to flush.

A few days prior, I learned “polite toilet language.” Similar to the American “Number-One” and “Number-Two” system, people in this country say “throw the little water” and “throw the big water.” I didn’t ask why; I just leaned the phrases and moved along.

I glanced around the toilet again looking for something—anything—that resembled a handle or lever. Then, my gaze fell to a tub of water in the corner. A small plastic bucket was floating on top. “Hmm,” I wondered out loud. “Throw some water?”

Nervously, I used the bucket to scoop some water from the tub, and tossed it into the squatty potty bowl. “Was that big enough to be small?” I threw an extra splash of water, just in case. I washed my hands, exited, and continued my day as though I had squatted-without-flushing every day of my life.

Later, I recounted the story to my roommate, who told me I had done the right thing! Who knew? When in doubt, it might help to think through local phrases. An expression’s literal meaning might hold the very clue you need in a situation!


Any interesting bathroom tips from your country? Does your country have ‘polite toilet language’ when speaking about the bathroom?



Photo credit: Tracey Elizabeth