Sunday, November 21, 2010

Better Left Unblogged?

I hesitate as I write this blog. The idea came to me several weeks ago, but I've debated to myself whether or not it's really a bloggable topic. I've finally decided to just go ahead with it. This is partly because no other ideas have descended upon me. It's also because I'm still separated from my camera. We've been apart since Halloween. It's possible that all of November will pass un-photographed.

Now time for the disclaimer: this blog is about bathrooms, mainly public, in Russia.

A few differences in restroom culture are immediately apparent upon arriving in Russia from the US (many of these differences also apply to Europe more broadly and other areas of the world as well, but I'll only talk about Russia).

First off, most public bathrooms charge a fee. If you patronize a restaurant or cafe, you don't pay for the toilet, but otherwise, you'll probably have to shell out 15-30 rubles (50¢ - $1) to use rather uninspiring facilities. Here's the entrance to a public toilet in downtown Moscow:

But there's actually something unique about this public toilet. Zooming in on the sign, one can see that below the section reporting the hours of operation is a section announcing that it's a "free public restroom." I still almost can't believe what I read, and am tempted to go back to this bathroom to see if perhaps I had momentarily stepped into in a rip in the space-time continuum.

Of course there are ways around paying for public toilets, such as finding a nearby McDonalds or Starbucks.

The biggest bathroom shocker for me was the stand-up toilet. I've been told these are quite common in (parts of?) Asia, but I came across them for the first time in Russia.

Many of these are pay toilets. They're particularly expensive and unsavory at train stations.

However, when there is a toilet seat, standing is frowned upon:

Most toilets place the flusher on top of the water tank, not on the front side like we're used to in the US.

I took the last picture because of the mildly amusing pun in the brand name of the toilet paper. If you speak Russian you get the pun right away and if you don't speak Russian it would probably be the most unexciting thing you've ever heard, so I won't bother explaining it☺

Speaking of toilet paper, it is a big no-no to flush it in public restrooms. I can't remember the last time I was in a stall that didn't have a sign respectfully requesting that I not flush the toilet paper down the toilet. I find the practice rather foul and try not to think about it.

And with that I'll close my first and (so help me God) last blog on toilets.


Christine said...

I'm glad you blogged this, and yet... Maybe feeling a little bit TMI. What kind of people require payment for standing up to pee? Isn't that called a bush?

Julia M. said...

Yeah, but you don't want to pee in a bush in the middle of Moscow. Pay toilets are standard all over Europe. I'm not sure why... I'm also not sure why they won't just drive automatic cars, but anyway...

Yeah, I think the blog was TMI. But it's part of the culture, so there ya go.

I also think I misused the word "uninspiring" in the blog. It just felt right at the time.