Somethings are just inevitable and one of them is the toilet, lavatory, privy. It is so inevitable that it is well positioned in almost every nook and cranny of every state.
Using a toilet might look basic and common but you are in for a bunch of surprises if you’ll be traveling from America to Europe, or the other way around.
To break the ice for you, here are 6 major differences between American and European toilets.
“The After” Cleaning
Did you know that Americans go through more toilet paper than anyone in the world? In American toilets, you get to find mounted toilet paper for “the after” cleaning. There are also more sustainable toilet paper options available. European toilets on the other hand make use of bidets – a low oval basin or a standalone fixture near the toilet that sprays water, which people can use for cleaning their genital and anal area. You must note that not all public toilets make use of bidets. And it’s not surprising: these require more space and investments, so it’s much easier and cheaper to install just a compact toilet specifically designed for a small bathroom. Bidets are mostly found in homes and hotels. Lastly, if you are visiting places like Spain and Italy, you might want to carry around a small packet of tissues as most toilets don’t use toilet paper – this is something you rarely get to experience in US public toilets.
Single Flush vs Dual Flush
American toilets make use of a single handle flushing system while the European toilets feature the dual push flushing system. The reason for the dual push system is to help conserve water. In flushing an European toilet, the first push button (or partial push or small button) is to flush down liquid waste while the second push (or big button push) is to flush down solid wastes. American toilets on the other hand feature a single handle for flushing the toilets both solid and liquid waste.
Siphonic versus Washdown flush system
The general assumption about flushing is that the force of the water pushes the waste product down to the sewer system or a rural septic system. But guess what? That is not correct. Only European toilets use that flushing system – this style is called the washdown flush system. American toilets use the Siphonic flushing system.
For the American toilets, there is a long and narrow reverse ‘S’ or ‘P’ trap with two ends. One end is connected to the toilet bowl and the other end is connected to the drain pipe which is underneath the toilet bowl. The aim of the technical design is to create a siphoning action when flushing. The siphon is so strong that no matter how heavy the waste product is, it gets ‘siphoned’ out with the water. At the end of the flush, there is a gurgling sound signaling the bowl is filled with water and ready for the next flush.
For European toilets, the washdown flushing system uses the weight and the gravitational force of the water to flush out the wastes. It is also technically built such that the pipe behind the toilet is almost twice as wide as that of the American toilets. This wide pipe technique ensures washdown toilets are relatively clogged free.
Unlike European toilets, American toilets make use of standard toilet bowls and urinals in restrooms. These urinals are arranged in rows and have partitions that are similar to the ones built by One Point Partitions. The partitions offer privacy for users when easing themselves. Urinals in European toilets are different and offer no privacy as they are built to accommodate several men at once. European toilets are straight up on the wall, can accommodate several men and has just one drain. For European lavatories, they have a lot of interesting options. The first is the Squat toilet. The Squat toilet is common in the eastern and southern parts of Europe. Instead of the standard sitting bowls found in many American toilets. Squat toilets make use of a hole nicely placed on the floor with ceramics that offer good grip when the user ‘squats’ to use the toilet. Squat toilets come in variations. There are some that make use of the standard flushing system and there are some that make use of bucket and water technique.
The spaces/partitions in American toilets provide a privacy that comes with reservations. The toilets make use of One Point Partition style of partitioning which has exposed foot and top gaps between the toilet stall doors and frames. This is way different from what you get to see in European toilets.
Almost, if not all public American toilets are free to use. Most European toilets on the other hand make use of coin-operated toilets along the streets which are generally more sanitary.
Surprised that there is so much information you didn’t know about toilets? Toilets are inevitable particularly if you are a tourist. So when preparing for your next trip, be sure to carry extra packs of tissues or a few extra coins in case nature tries to catch you off guard.