Bathroom Etiquette in African Countries

Bathroom Etiquette

If you are planning on taking a trip to an African country, then you probably need to know some traveling etiquette. One of the least thought of but important protocol is how to properly use the bathroom in these countries. Many people fail to realize that using the bathroom in other countries is nothing like using it America. Squat toilets are common throughout Africa, and it is just what it sounds like, a hole in the ground with a pan to stand upon instead of a toilet bowl.

Squat toilets might be a bit intimidating for those who are not comfortable with a lot of squatting and bending, or those with bad knees and hips. The most common locations with squat toilets include restaurants, bus, and train stations, as well as low budget hotels. Check out these 8 bathroom etiquette rules when traveling in African countries.

  1. Enter the area with the squat toilet. You will find a bucket or small bowl for your use, be sure to locate the water supply. If the squat toilet is not filled with water, you will need to do this yourself. Locate the footrests for the squat toilet, and put your feet on them. You usually will be turned away from the squat hole.
  2. Keep your clothing items from hitting the floor. If your clothes touch the floor, most likely they will become soiled. It is best to remove your pants or underpants before using the squat toilet. The floor of the area is usually wet, from backsplash of water as well as those who do not have a perfect aim.
  3. Remove items from back pockets. If you have no notion of removing your pants or underpants to use the toilet, be sure to remove all items from your pockets. You do not want to play “seek and find” in a squat toilet for your belongings; it will be an experience you will never forget.
  4. Get into your best squat position. If you are unsteady on your feet, look around for something to hold onto. Most times there is no sink or towel bars to hold onto. It might take a lot of practice to get a perfect aim, or to just to “assume the right position.” However, in this instance, you will have to believe – practice makes perfect.
  5. Cleanse with water. After completing your task, use the bowl in the room to cleanse your private area. If you don’t have a cloth with you, you will most likely be using your hands to help rinse and clean your body. It is a good idea to keep hand sanitizer with you as well.
  6. Do not flush your toilet paper or other paper products. Squat toilets do not have the same plumbing that exists in the United States. The plumbing is more sensitive and might even be nonexistent. Using paper is sure to cause a blockage. Just find a trash can to dispose of it. Water is usually provided to help flush the toilet. Pour it in the pan, so that it moves around and cleans the bowl.
  7. Refill squat bowl with water. Out of courtesy to the next person who enters the squat area, refill the bowl before you leave. Some places will usually provide you with soap or towels, but just to be sure, carry around your own at all times.
  8. Leave a tip for bathroom attendant. Don’t forget the toilet attendant, if there is one. They are usually there to help those with the initial shock of seeing a squat toilet, as well as having to go in and clean up a messy situation.

Not all bathroom experiences are squat toilets in Africa. However, you will have to find upscale restaurants and hotels to find a bathroom with toilets that flush.