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 we always have three things - a passport, a thick wad of cash and a portable bidet,” joked the Egyptian comedian Bassem Yousef, speaking in Britain in June. At the same time, he brandished a fake hose with a so-called shattaf (a tap controlled by pressing a finger. - Note translator) and was surprised: “This is what I don’t understand: 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 flushing. 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 falling out of use.
Yet the West relies heavily on toilet paper. Her big fans live in the United States and Britain. It is these two countries that are most influential in everything that concerns modern toilet culture, notes the architectural historian Barbara Penner in her book “The Dressing Room”.
In fact, Anglo-American toiletry trends were so widespread throughout the world at the time that they called it "sanitary imperialism" in the 1920s.
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 have switched to toilet paper,” she says, “but many of us stick to water whenever possible. And when here, in the USA, I go to visit Indian friends, I can almost always count on finding a plastic water bottle or a special jug next to the toilet in their 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 realize that you can then throw it straight down 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 AD), both were adopted, with regional differences. But public restrooms across the country were dominated by the squatting fashion.
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.
Americans have turned long sitting in the toilet into a leisure activity. There are many books on the market - especially for reading in the toilet (short stories, riddles or anecdotes). Kaiser Kuo is surprised by this: “In China, parents tell their children: don't read in the toilet! You will earn hemorrhoids. ”
The Kaiser Kuo family has come up with an option for themselves with a small stool on which you can put your feet while sitting on the toilet. “It mimics a squatting position,” Kuo explains, laughing. “My wife made it up 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 differ from culture to culture. “In the West, there is a tendency to shower in the morning and do it every day, which is in itself strange,” muses Elizabeth Shove, a sociologist at Lancaster University who studies the habits of consumption of electricity and water.
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 their 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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