Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Needless fuss over tourists' preference for toilets

By Li Yang (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-21 09:48

Needless fuss over tourists' preference for toilets

Some media outlets in Hong Kong recently reported that many tourists from the Chinese mainland damage or soil Western-style toilets in US national parks such as Yellowstone, Grant Teton and Jackson Hole by squatting on them to relieve themselves. Although the reports provide little detailed information, they accuse mainland tourists of improper behavior while traveling overseas.

Not flushing a toilet after use or squatting on a commode, or Western-style toilet, to relieve oneself is indeed unhealthy behavior. But like many cities in China, especially tourists spots, that started equipping their public lavatories with Western-style toilets along with the squat toilets after launching reform and opening-up, Western countries too should stop being "condescending" toward people from the East and start providing squat toilets in their public and restrooms to cater to the needs of tourists.

The use of commodes started in the 1800s in the United Kingdom, where the advent of indoor plumbing and water closets made it possible for households to afford the more expensive toilets which only royal families and the physically challenged used before. In British department stores, however, special footstools became a popular commodity when people grudgingly accepted the Western-style toilet, because they could rest their feet on the footstools while sitting on a pedestal pan to imitate the squat posture.

Rich families in the British colonies around the world started using commodes over the following decades despite its health drawbacks. Yet it is still deemed a "modern" way of life distinguishing the advanced and enlightened West from the backward East.

Many physicians blame commodes for the high incidence of many serious ailments of the colon and appendicitis in Western or westernized societies. Humans, like the other primates, around the world used to relieve themselves in the squatting position before the Victorian Age. Even today infants instinctively squat to relieve themselves.

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