Before I came to Korea, I had heard about the toilets: that there were some type of Eastern toilet, essentially what I now refer to as a “squatty potty.” So I had this fear in the back of my mind that this toilet would be part of my demise and that it would be everywhere and the traditional western toilet I was used to would be forever out of my life. Fortunately, my fear was a bit on the irrational side and I still have my western toilets. ❤ However, no one warned me about the more disgusting aspect of almost ALL toilets in Korea: toilet paper is expected to go in a trash can beside the toilet (not actually into the toilet).
In Homes The first place I used a toilet in Korea was in my friend’s apartment in Seoul. Their bathroom was pretty sweet, not gonna lie: a bathtub/shower combo, and a western toilet. They quasi-warned me that their bathroom might not be typical in Korea because their apartment is actually pretty expensive and the U.S. government pays for the rent (her husband is USAF). I found this to be pretty true when I went on to my next location.
Hotels, Dormitories, and ApartmentsThe second place I stayed in when I came to Korea was a hotel, and it was first time I was actually in a place where there was no bathtub. However, this hotel was fairly fancy because it had a separated standing shower (complete with a door!). The dormitory I then stayed at for orientation was the first time I saw the lack of formal shower, and instead a ‘showering area’ of a bathroom: just a shower-head on the wall on the other side of the toilet. Most foreigners are in an apartment where the shower head is attached to the sink. (I think two of my friends have a bathtub and I’m SOOO jealous. I would kill for a bath. 😦 ㅠㅠ) All of our apartments have a standard ‘Western’ toilet, but one of my friend’s actually has a bidet toilet seat.
Public Restrooms and Schools I actually saw my first bidet toilet seat in a public rest stop. The public rest stops on the long road trips and bus terminals have pictures on the outside of the door that indicate if it’s an Eastern toilet or a Western toilet. When I first came to Korea, I tended to use the western toilets (I still have yet to use a bidet). Now, I tend to use the Asian style because they tend to look a little cleaner.
BarsDepending on the bar depends on what kind of restroom/toilet area you’re going to see. I must say, there are many interesting experiences that can be had in bar restrooms in South Korea. Sometimes there are clear signs and areas where the men’s and women’s toilets are. However, sometimes there is only 1 room. When you walk in, there is a urinal and sink and then a door/stall for a western (or eastern) toilet. It is expected that you leave the main door unlocked if you’re going to use the stall. Also, many men leave the main door unlocked as well in case anyone needs to use the additional stall. Needless to say, this can lead to some awkward situations: passing by someone at a urinal or, if you’re like me, waiting in the stall for the man to finish up his business.
Permanent Port-a-PottiesThis is something I’ve only seen in Korea. These are permanent establishments where there is no running water and it’s basically a port-a-potty. The women’s restrooms are equipped with an “eastern toilet’ but it’s more or less an oval hole in the floor…and sometimes you can see the grass a few feet below you. There is also a “urinal” shape for men, but they don’t get a whole door…just half door that covers their legs and back (depending on height). Be warned: they reek to high hell and typically have no toilet paper.
In JapanOn a side note, I had to laugh when I was in Japan. On the wall of the public toilet was a poster with directions on how to use (and NOT use) the western toilet.