Shower, toilet and paper: why the rest of the world considers toilet habits of the West strange
For people living in Western countries, a morning shower, using toilet paper and a toilet is a matter of course. But from the point of view of most of the rest of the world, such habits are something strange. And not very hygienic.
Back in 2010, scientists from the University of British Columbia pointed out that research in the field of psychology has a major flaw: they are based on data collected exclusively in a Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic (and very strange) society, writes Air force.
The authors of such studies for some reason believe that their findings are applicable to people anywhere in the world. But, as university scholars have discovered, members of Western society are actually the least representative if we want to make any generalizations about all of humanity.
From the point of view of the rest of the world, they are strange. In many ways. For example, in what is discussed in today's article.
“We Arabs, when we go on a trip, must be sure that there are always three things with us - a passport, a thick bundle of cash and a portable bidet,” the Egyptian comedian Basem Yousef joked, speaking in Britain in June. At the same time, he brandished a fake hose with the so-called shuttle (a crane controlled by pressing a finger. - Note translator) and was amazed: “I don’t understand what: you guys live in one of the most developed countries in the world, but when it comes to your ass, you are far behind.”
Many will agree with Youssef. The habit of wiping in the toilet, which is characteristic of Westerners, (instead of washing yourself) seems mysterious for those who live, for example, in India or the countries of the Middle East.
Water cleans much better than paper. Of course, modern toilet paper is still not fragments of ceramics (they were sometimes used by the ancient Greeks) or corn cobs (used by American colonists), but water is still more tender.
Residents of many countries end their visit to the toilet by washing. Including in some states of the so-called Western world, for example, in Finland or Argentina. But in France, to which we owe the word "bidet", this habit is gradually coming out of use.
Still, the West relies heavily on toilet paper. Her big fans live in the USA and Britain. It is these two countries that are most influential in everything related to modern toilet culture, architectural historian Barbara Penner notes in her book “The Dressing Room”.
In fact, Anglo-American toilet trends at one time so widely spread around the world that in the 1920's it was called "sanitary imperialism."
However, these trends are not pervasive. For example, they prefer to use water in many, mainly Muslim countries, since in Islam water is recommended for purification. (However, the Turkish Supreme Religious Council in 2015 issued a fatwa allowing Muslims to use toilet paper if there is no way to use water.)
And the famous modern Japanese toilets, striking in their manufacturability, provide the opportunity to both wash and dry.
Australian government official Zul Othman has investigated how people in different cultures view toilet behavior. Othman found out that some Australian Muslims adapted Western style for themselves and use toilet paper, followed by washing from a jug with water or using a portable bidet.
The same thing happens in countries with non-Islamic populations. Asta Garg, an Indian data analyst working for the last two years in the San Francisco Bay area in the USA, says that at first she unsuccessfully looked in all the toilets for a familiar plastic jug with an elongated nose, and in the end she had to go for this accessory to a household goods store belonging to her compatriots.
“Some Indians switched to toilet paper,” she says, “but many of us remain committed to water whenever we can. And when here, in the USA, I go to visit my Indian friends, I can almost always expect that in their toilet I will find a plastic water bottle or a special jug next to the toilet. ”
Speaking about the western habit of toilet paper, Zul Othman told how one of his classmates in Sheffield (England), when the toilet paper was over, used an 20-pound bill instead.
The family of the podcast and rock musician Kaiser Kuo moved from Beijing to the United States three years ago. Kuo recalls how he was struck by how much toilet paper Americans spend (which confirms the status of the United States as the state that consumes such paper more than anyone else in the world).
Astu Garg is also puzzled by the use of toilet paper. “And you don’t immediately understand that you can then throw it right into the toilet,” she says. - Because of this, the sewer is clogged. I have the impression that every fourth toilet is clogged. ”
Toilet paper is also widely used in China (after all, paper was invented there). But it was American manufacturers and advertisers who aggressively promoted this paper in the 20th century.
For example, the British in the 1970's used much more rigid paper than the one praised by the Americans. But America won here too.
The Kuo family has found a compromise for themselves - toilet paper combined with wet wipes.
On the toilet or squatting?
This family also found a compromise on another controversial issue: use the toilet or oriental toilet?
In China, during the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 BC), both were adopted, with regional differences. But in public toilets across the country, the squatting method dominated.
Today, according to some estimates, two-thirds of the world's population does just that. Nevertheless, in the West they stubbornly sit down on their faience throne, although it is recognized that the squatting pose is more convenient and logical for this important matter.
Most British women admit that they have to go to different tricks, just not to touch the seats in public toilets. With a squatting pose, the problem is removed.
And from the point of view of anatomy, a squatting position facilitates the process, relieves excessive tension of muscles and intestines.
The Americans turned a long toilet seat into a leisure activity form. There are many books on the market - especially for reading in the toilet (short stories, riddles or jokes). Kaiser Kuo is surprised: “In China, parents tell their children: do not read on the toilet! Earn hemorrhoids. ”
The Kaiser Kuo family came up with an option with a small stool on which you can put your legs while sitting on the toilet. “It mimics a squatting pose,” Kuo explains with a laugh. “My wife invented this brilliantly.”
Several companies are already hastily monetizing this invention, offering such toilet benches for the western market. Garg also has one.
Another solution to the problem is to offer people a choice. Some countries have toilets with or without toilets. According to Otman, in his homeland in Malaysia in public toilets, usually a third of the booths are equipped for those who prefer an eastern toilet - a squatting pose. But, we note that mainly water is preferred, not toilet paper.
Bathing methods also vary from culture to culture. “In the West, there is a tendency to take a shower in the morning and do it every day, which in itself is strange,” reflects Elizabeth Shaw, a sociologist from Lancaster University, studying the habits of electricity and water consumption.
At one time, these habits were greatly influenced by the post-war boom when different types of soap were advertised. Even American soap operas got their name precisely because they inserted a lot of such advertising.
Today, the idea of using different soaps for different purposes - one for the face, the second for the body, the third for washing - gradually leads to the idea that you need to wash more often.
Daily showering is a recent invention, Shaw points out. A couple of generations ago in Britain, it was standard practice to take a bath once a week.
Of course, in many regions of the world and now (as in Britain decades ago), water supply is unreliable, and people simply do not have the opportunity to wash often.
But the ubiquitous availability of water is not the only factor influencing these habits. Frequent bathing is a common thing in such very poor countries as, say, Malawi, many of whose inhabitants are poured out of a bucket two or three times a day, despite constant interruptions in water.
Many people in Ghana, the Philippines, Colombia, and Australia also take a bath or shower several times a day. It does not mean washing your hair every time. In some cultures, foot washing is also accepted.
Dousing actually saves water - compared to a high-pressure shower. Moreover, this custom has only an indirect relation to the hot climate: for example, some Brazilians take a shower several times a day, even in winter.
Today's morning shower partly reflects people's desire to better structure their day. (Current Westerners believe that they have less time than before, even though their working hours are shorter. This is partly because their day is tightly planned.)
In addition, it is believed that the shower makes you more presentable in the eyes of others. He, of course, is no longer in order to wash away the dirt and sweat, as before, because the nature of the work has changed - today in the West there are much fewer people engaged in manual or agricultural labor.
From a hygiene point of view - is it so important to take a shower daily? And when is it better to do it - in the morning or in the evening?
It should be borne in mind that frequent bathing in the shower dries the skin and hair (and this has already caused many women to wash their 1-2 head once a week).
As for the morning or evening shower - there are different opinions. Some insist that the shower invigorates in the morning and sets the mood for work. On the other hand, an evening bath (as is customary, for example, in Japan) helps to relax before going to bed.
Of course, different countries have different customs, so the trends described here are not universal. From the history of hygiene, we know that not one such habit remains in the culture forever - everything changes with the development of technology and culture itself.
Perhaps in the future, people in the West, showing their commitment to environmental protection, will decide that they need to wash once a week. Or replace your modern shower with the bucket-mug method.
Perhaps someone who sees how citizens of other countries use the bidet will install it at home.
It may seem that toilet and bathing habits and customs depend on common sense, but they are more shaped by social conditions. In the end, everyone has to learn how to use the sauna, bidet or shower. And how to go to the toilet, parents show us at the most tender age - and not because it is more convenient, but because they themselves are so used to it.
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