Friends, we need to take a moment to talk about toilet paper. Not the hoarding. The avoiding.
Because despite Australians' newfound passion for TP, it's actually pretty gross when you think about it. Yes, we're all used to our Western method of post-bathroom cleansing, which involves large wads – folded or scrunched – of this increasingly rare commodity. In a lot of countries, however, that's considered quite disgusting.
These are the countries in which a shortage of toilet paper will never be an issue. In these places you can hoard all you like – most people don't need it. When there's a ready water supply, there's no issue with the tissue.
So if you're thinking of travelling once things calm down a little, and you'd like to avoid any toilet paper panic, these are the spots to head.
Oddly enough, there actually has been an outbreak of toilet paper hoarding in Japan recently, despite this country being at the forefront of paperless hygiene. Anyone who has been to the Land of the Rising Sun will be familiar with the whizz-bang gadgetry of a Japanese toilet, which involves two separate bidet streams (front and back, thanks very much), and occasionally even a jet of hot air for drying the nether regions.
(And if you'd like to transfer this technology to your home life it's possible to buy one here in Australia. Check them out at various online stores. All you need is a water source and a power point.)
South Korean toilet culture is much like Japan's: you'll find a mix here, depending on where you go, of old-school squat toilets and Western-style sitters. Many of the Western ones have taken their lead from Japan, with push-button bidets built in, meaning you won't have to worry too much about TP. Some public toilets do provide paper, though it's often outside the cubicle, forcing users to either guess how much they'll need beforehand, or carry an emergency stash on their person.
The "bum gun". Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Thailand – as with much of Southeast Asia – is very much a water-based hygiene society. You'll find water here delivered in various ways. At its most basic there will be a jug or pail of water next to the toilet. Mostly, however, you'll find a hose with a small trigger, known among the expat community as the "bum gun". Thais swear by this as being far more hygienic than toilet paper, and after giving it a whirl – and figuring out how not to drench yourself in the process – you will have to agree.
Almost 1.4 billion people surely can't be wrong. In India, toilet paper isn't really a thing. You rarely see it, unless you're in a hotel or an expat's home. For the rest of the country, it's water all the way. Quite often that's just a jug next to the squat toilet, which can make for some tricky manoeuvres for first-time players. Remember, left hands for ablutions. In more modern facilities you'll often find a bum gun or a built-in bidet. Luxury.
Photo: Getty Images
Here's an interesting one. Plenty of people will remember their first stay in a French hotel room, walking into the bathroom and thinking, what's with the little sink on the floor? That's the bidet, very much an established and cherished part of French bathroom culture. I've always been a little weirded out by these contraptions, given they're separate to the toilet and require waddling around the room with your pants around your ankles. But these have always been symbols of sophistication in France, and when in Rome – or Paris – especially in these trying, toilet-paper-scarce times, you do as the locals do.
It's standard practice in the Muslim world to wash yourself with water after having gone to the toilet, rather than using paper, which is why in the Middle East you'll find TP a rarity. In the countries that make up this part of the world you'll often find either a jug beside the toilet, similar to India, or a bidet shower – the aforementioned bum gun – clipped to the wall beside you. Again, this can be a challenge of dexterity and balance for unfamiliar users, but it makes complete sense when you think about it.
This is another Southeast-Asian country where water cleansing is the norm, usually via the use of the famous gun. Look for it hanging on the wall next to the toilet – there's a very good chance it will be there. Paper is occasionally provided in Vietnamese toilets, though this is usually for pat-drying purposes, rather than the whole shebang. Again, give this method a try. You might find you prefer it.
Have you visited a country with different toilet hygiene to Australia's? Have you tried the local way? Where has been the most interesting?
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