(Image credit to Giorgio Trovato from Unsplash)

Opinion

Column: Beware the Squat Toilet

Toilet seats. What a blessing we have to be able to have something to sit on when doing our “business.” On the comfortable and cold seat, one can enjoy a novel, scroll through Instagram, watch YouTube videos, make a phone call or even fall asleep, all of which can not be done when squatting.  As…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/elenacupid/" target="_self">Helaine Zhao</a>

Helaine Zhao

September 28, 2021

Toilet seats. What a blessing we have to be able to have something to sit on when doing our “business.”

On the comfortable and cold seat, one can enjoy a novel, scroll through Instagram, watch YouTube videos, make a phone call or even fall asleep, all of which can not be done when squatting. 

As a California resident, I don’t get to see my grandparents in China often. Therefore, the occasional trips to China are always precious to me. For the entire summer break, I get to enjoy delicious food, completely forget about homework and school, spend hours in a large building with several floors of cheap stationery supplies and accessories, wander through the large flea markets just outside the house, and most importantly, spend time with my grandparents. 

However, among all of the excitement about going to China, there was always a tiny needle that pokes at my excitement, which dampens the enjoyment of the trip. 

That’s right, the toilets. The squat toilets to be exact. 

Even after several years of going to China, every time I see that hole in the ground toilet, my face is still filled with disappointment and maybe just a hint of disgust.

Squat toilets are very common in several Asian countries, including China, but squat? You want me to squat while using the restroom?

As an Asian American with Chinese heritage, I am not proud to say that I cannot do the Asian squat, meaning I cannot place my heels down onto the ground when squatting. If I were to do so, the result would be me rolling over like a ball and risking the possibility of falling into the toilet, which would most definitely be a lovely sight.

However, it’s not just the squat toilets. Did you think squatting on the floor was the worst part? Oh no, no, no. . . that is way too naive. In some places, it is not just the squat toilets, it is the doors, or more accurately, the lack of doors.

During the humid summer in Anshan, China of 2018, my grandpa, sister and I walked down the busy streets from our house to a large park a mile away, the 219 Park. 

It wasn’t a short walk, and we finally reached our destination after encountering several cars and motorcycles honking at each other for unknown reasons, a person selling tiny white bunnies near the sidewalk and several freezers packed with very appealing ice cream bars. 

After we arrived, my sister and I came to a unanimous decision: we needed to go use the restroom. Luckily, there was a restroom in the front of the park, and from the outside, it looked like one of those restrooms at a campsite. Not exactly the most ideal, but usable. 

However, it was no longer “usable” when we walked in. Yes, there were squat toilets, but on top of that, there were no doors. There was no door to enter the public restroom, but there were no doors to cover each individual stall and the people inside. 

Why were there no doors? How could there be no doors? At once, our urge to use the restroom was immediately extinguished as my sister and I exchanged a grave glance and whipped around, leaving the place as soon as possible.

Is it even a restroom if there were no doors? That one experience scarred my memory of China restrooms forever, but the fact that we got to eat snacks while sitting in a boat on the lake in the park afterwards did soften the days. 

However, was that the worst experience I had with China restrooms? Oh no, it only gets worse.

Going back to the squat toilets, young and ignorant I had forgotten to use the restroom before leaving the house to go eat lunch outside during an incredibly humid summer day.

The restaurant did not have strong air conditioning and staying in the cramped room was very uncomfortable. While we were waiting for our food, I left the room with my sister and went down the stairs to find the restroom. If the air conditioning in the dining area was bad, the restroom had absolutely no air conditioning.

And, the sight of those holes in the ground only added to my annoyance. I entered a stall, which fortunately had doors, and squatted down. After spending over a month in China, I had gotten a little more accustomed to squatting, but the heat must have gotten to me because when I stood up, my legs suddenly weakened and I lost my balance.

When I found it again, my feet were no longer dry. Yes, I stepped right into the toilet. The only thing that I would say was fortunate on this very unfortunate day was the fact that the contents in the toilet were wet, only wet.

I groaned as I immediately pulled my leg out of the hole, my entire face scrunched up in utter disgust. Afterward, I had to lift my leg up to the sink to wash it and mind you, my legs were not very long at 11. The whole experience was horrific, and I lost my appetite afterwards, wasting a delicious meal.

China is a beautiful place, and not a single one of my trips to China has ever been a bad experience. However, if I were to give you one necessary piece of life advice, it is to always use the seat toilet in the hotel room or house before going out. 

Trust me, “the squat” is one experience you do not want in your lifetime.