7 Things to Know Before Needing a Chinese Toilet

Chinese toilets

Like I write in A quick guide to Chinese toilets, there is no way you can avoid visiting a Chinese toilet while traveling around. So I have prepared a list over the things you need to know before you actually need it. Some of these things in the list are actual solutions for field service companies to use. Keywords: Toilet paper and squatting positions. Good luck.

1. Always have plenty of tissue in your bag, see my special post about this. Even if you are the type that can hold for a day. You might not need all of it yourself, but someone not as foresighted as you definitively will. Most public restrooms don’t have paper, and the restrooms that have it; the quality of the paper can be questionable at best. So bring enough.

Squatting in China
Start practicing early!

2. Before actually needing to go, practice squatting. How do your knees and hips feel? One thing is to get down, but can you get up? Gracefully? Most toilets in China are still only a hole in the ground, and should you for some reason not be able to sit like this for the time needed, you must have a plan B. Some squat toilets have a handle on the wall to hold onto, but as a general rule you can not rely on having anything to help pull you up.

3. Always keep your eyes on the floor and watch your step. Holes in the ground have their pros and cons. You are happy to squat because you don’t want your sensitive, delicate skin to actually touch anything. On the other hand, it can be hard to aim. Apparently also for those who have done this their whole life. As a rule I seldom wear flip-flops when traveling in China. Just saying.

4. Follow the instructions on the wall. If a sign says, “No shitting,” please don’t. It will be very embarrassing. The bin next to the toilet is not only for feminine products, you should also put the used paper here, Chinese plumbing is very fragile. If a sign is only in Chinese and without a drawing (believe me, I have seen a lot of, hmm, interesting interpretations of the above message), just play safe by doing as little as possible until you are back in the safe arms of your hotel room.

Standing in line for the toilet in China
Practice standing in line

5. If you enter a restroom with many stalls at the same time as a big group of older Chinese ladies, you have to get ready to fight for your right to pee. The norm is NOT to make one orderly queue, so that everybody gets his or her turn in an orderly manner. Rather, you queue up in front of one door and hold your place until it’s your turn. Stand with your elbows out and arms ready, so that you can firmly push them away when they sneak in front of you. Because they will, remember these women have survived famines and revolutions and have developed serious survival skills.

For more tips on standing in a Chinese queue, read more here!

6. You might want to get your friend to go with you. It’s good to have somebody to hold your bag and jacket, watch the door that can’t lock, get paper from the paper rack that is hanging on the wall outside the toilet stall and generally be a good friend when you need it the most.

7. Don’t expect to wash your hands in warm water with a nice, creamy soap after you’re done. If you are lucky there will be water (cold) and a  watered out soap. That’s why antibacterial gel, wipes and creams are your friend.

Christine Surlien

Christine has studied Chinese culture and language extensively. She has spent two years at The People’s University of China in Beijing, done five years of Chinese studies at the University of Oslo, and has her masters degree from Hong Kong University. She has been associated with KinaReiser, Norway’s leading agency for travel to the The Far East, for a decade. She was also employed at the administration of the Norwegian Embassy to China for two years, before relocating to Washington DC with her diplomat husband and their two children.

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  1. I kinda knew most of this, but the way you describe everything in detail puts a new perspective on it!! It’s not on my immediate list of places to visit, but it’s great to know and be prepared!!

  2. Goodness, but I hadn’t even thought about what traveling to China and using their loos might be like. Like Lana, there are definitely some tips I’m never going to forget. We are so blessed in the US, but I’ll never complain of European toilets after this. Still giggling about the not wearing flip flops tip!

    1. Yes, the flip flop tip can come in handy!

  3. This article will come in handy for a friend’s daughter and son who are travelling to China soon. Thank you. I am likely NEVER to forget some of these tips!!

    1. Ha ha, I’m glad to hear my tips are memorable 🙂 Hope your friend’s kids will enjoy their trip 🙂

  4. […] For how to best prepare for your toilet visit, please check out my seven tips on what to think about when you need a Chinese toilet. […]

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