Saturday, March 8, 2014

Potty Talk

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe went to one of the five cafés on Place Monfort – the square in the center of town  - for lunch and, before we left, I went to the bathroom. The trip is a common occurrence given my age and the elasticity of my bladder. Anyway, it made me think of the differences between restrooms in the States and in France.

The first big difference is that in France, the bathroom is NOT the toilet room. Most of the time, the toilet room is separate and, if you are lucky, has a sink for hand-washing (we don’t). The French explain that the bathroom is for bathing. The toilet room is for toileting but NOT for toiletry which occurs in the bathroom.

So, when you are in a restaurant, you ask: “Où sont les toilettes.” Always asking where the toilets (plural) are, but when you get directions and arrive at the toilettes, there may be only one. But you can never ask : « Où se trouve la toilette? » Because « la toilette » refers to doing your morning time in the bathroom in front of a mirror (faire la toilette).

There is a big difference between toilet rooms in the states and here. In France, most toilets offer a two-button flush: one for light, one for full flush. The second difference is that French restaurants don’t seem to have to comply with ‘handicapper accessible’ to the extent that American restaurants must. I believe that most toilets in French restaurants are NOT handicapper accessible. But then, most restaurants are not handicapper accessible - unless the handicapper/chair user wants to sit outside – assuming that the handicapper/chair user was able to negotiate the lack of curb cuts, narrow sidewalks, etc. Note to self: write something about handicapper accessibility…

Another difference is that the French are much less puritanical than we, so, there might be a toilet room for men but the stand-up options are visible to the women who might be walking by… (It is not very different from the denizens of men who ‘water plants’ along the roadways.)

Whether it is a small café or a big restaurant, the “Dyson” hand drier is the “le top” (new French word). It is so much more efficient than the slow, old air dryers. I don’t know how it compares ecologically with the restaurants that continue to offer hand towels…

Oh, BTW (aka ‘by the way’) I almost forgot that there are many toilets in the restaurants that do not have a toilet seat. I don’t know whether it is because they have decided that one more thing to clean is ‘over the top’ or because they have decided that a toilet seat makes it so comfortable that one might choose to remain there longer than necessary. Whatever the reason, few “toilettes” have seats…


  1. Love reading your posts! I was waiting for a mention of the no toilets seats! Makes for very uncomfortable toilet visits! Unless you learn to "hover." Also, once we were in a small town in Provence. They did offer a "public" restroom ... was a hole in the floor. Tres intereste!

    Thank you for these wonderful glimpses.

  2. I think you'll find that two button toilets are beginning to appear in the US. Surely, among those more conscious of the water challenges we have or will have.