It’s happened to every American who has ever traveled to Germany, Austria, parts of the Netherlands and perhaps even Eastern Europe. It’s a horrifying moment. You get off the plane… you go to your hotel… you head to your room, and can’t wait to drop off all your bags and take a shower. Once there, you decide to visit the bathroom… and then you see this monstrosity:
This, my friends, is a German toilet. It’s more or less the same as an American, British or Canadian toilet, but for one bizarre feature: the “poo shelf”. When you do #2 in der Fatherland, your poo comes to rest on the shelf in the middle of the toilet. There are two reasons the Germans designed their toilets this way: 1) it doesn’t cause embarrassing “splashes”, and 2) it allows the German to examine his own poo, enabling him (or her) to make sure everything’s A-OK “down there”.
Which is all well and good, but using these toilets is nevertheless frightening for most Americans.
First of all, since the poo is only swept off the shelf and down the drain when you flush, the toilet does nothing to contain odors when you’re doing your business. You’ll be able to smell each and every fragrant molecule as you poo. It’s disgusting.
Also – and it’s kind of hard to tell from the photograph – but the shelf isn’t nearly as deep as it appears. If you need to take a… uhhhh.. “substantial poo”, there’s the terrifying prospect of your poo building up and touching you on your ass. As it is, you need to be deft with the wiping hand, ‘cos your fingers will only be millimeters above a nasty pile ‘o poo.
And when it’s time to flush… oh Lord! Hopefully, the poo will sweep off the shelf and down the drain on the first try. Or it might stick in places, which causes a bunch of “panic flushing”, which in turn sets the mind off into international travel etiquette: “Do I leave it like this? Do I keep flushing? Do I wipe it off with tissue? Oh God, the travel guide doesn’t say anything about this!”
Oh, and if you’re a dude, just go ahead and sit down… the amount of “splashback” with these toilets is unbelievable.