Fun with Chinglish- Restroom Edition

Going to the restroom in China can be an adventure. During our 10 years of living and traveling here, we’ve just about seen it all. Squat pots are the least of our worries (in fact, I’d far rather use a squatty than a dirty western toilet). Many public restrooms are simply a shared trough separated by half walls…and no doors. A nice country rest stop has continuously running water through the channel. A more rustic version might have a clay pot that slowly fills with water and dumps occasionally through the trench, washing away most of the waste. Others just have a ditch that slopes slightly downhill into the pig pen in the back. It definitely makes one question their future pork consumption.

Two of my favorite restroom stories actually happened in one night, on a trip on a night bus from Shangrila to Dali. To start out with, the bus was one of the most malodorous places I’ve ever been trapped in my life. My friend told me that it was full of a particular people group who traditionally only bathed three times in their lives- when they were born, when they married, and when they died. Bless their hearts, apparently none of them were very near those desirable events. They crawled into their berths and kicked off their shoes, belched and aired themselves until it was truly a thrilling relief when they started smoking (and that is saying something, because I’m allergic to cigarette smoke).

I settled into my berth, comfortably stretched my six foot frame into the three feet of bed space, and determined to make the best of the 8-10 hour adventure. Imagine my relief when, four hours into our trip, the driver finally stopped at our first rest stop. Gulping great lungs full of fresh air, I staggered through the darkness towards what appeared to be rudimentary outhouses perched on an embankment. Strange, I thought I could hear water rushing somewhere. Fishing my penlight out of my backpack, I entered the rickety enclosure and stumbled to a stop before a hole in the floor. Shining my flashlight down, down, down through the opening, I could make out a raging river 30 feet below. Good thing I was prepared and packed that flashlight! Otherwise, in the darkness I could have easily fallen through that “toilet” into the frothing waters beneath…unless my western hips had saved me, in which case I would have certainly given my family something to talk about for years to come. “Remember that time we had to fish Joy out of the “toilet” on the way to Dali? She was stuck in it, tight as a cork. Ahhh, good times.”

Another four hours into our journey, we pulled into a small village in the middle of nowhere for our second and final rest stop (that driver must have had a bladder of steel). When I asked a local where the nearest W.C. was, he replied with a shrug “We don’t have toilets in this village. There’s an alley over there you could go in.”

Well okay then. That was definitely a new experience for me, but I was pretty desperate, so I was willing to give it a try. Using my trusty flashlight, I picked my way through the piles in the alley until I found a secluded corner. Trying to shut off my inhibitions, I prepared to do my business…until I heard skittering rats in the rubbish all around me. Nuh uh, no way was I foolhardy enough to go any further at that point! I grimly determined that I would wait until we reached a “proper” restroom (and by this point, my definition of that was extremely loose) if it killed me.

Perhaps you can understand now why I appreciate the following Chinglish restroom signs so much. They’re an indication that someone cares enough to make the business of using the necessary as pleasant and polite an experience as possible. For that, I’m truly grateful.

Here’s a clear, well-appointed sign showing the location of the latest facility…

…which on closer inspection is best used by people whose diets are a bit deficient in fiber.

Perhaps they should eat their Wheaties.

This attempt at political correctness falls just a tad bit flat, although I’m sure they didn’t mean to be insulting…

…but at least they’re equal opportunity.

Once you reach the restroom proper, it’s always good to know how to utilize the facilities. First, if you’re lucky enough to have a door, then you should…

I’ve never been all that mechanically inclined, so any explanation is appreciated.

For those used to using squatties instead of their western counterparts, this admonition might cramp their style…

…but I cannot imagine that even the most die-hard smoker would find it pleasant to take their cigarette break in the toilet.

Talk about a dirty habit.

The next sign I just find thoroughly confusing.

What does it mean? It wasn’t an electronic toilet. I find the idea of a “flush and run” or a “run and flush” for that matter, to be a bit disconcerting.

Finally, you know that you’ve come up from the world of alleys, troughs and squatties when you are invited to…

I can only surmise that this is a very luxurious experience. However, I personally am happy to settle for something with a light, no rats, and even (gasp) toilet paper.

So next time you take the opportunity to utilize one of your western restrooms, just remember the wise advice from your eastern counterparts- turn the little round lock, don’t step on the closestool or smoke in the toilet, and hurry to have flush. And for those days when you want to treat yourself a little special- have a spa for your rectum!

16 thoughts on “Fun with Chinglish- Restroom Edition

  1. Though the idea of a spa for one’s rectum sounds off-putting, the face of the woman on the ad looks as if she is greatly enjoying it. What about the bathroom we used in the park that when we stood up we realized that there were windows right in each stall at level with what may have been short women’s heads but for us were around the level of, uh hum, the moon? And all the Chinese ladies were standing around the window watching us, pointing and laughing? That was special, too. All these years, so much bathroom humor. Leaves one unwilling to ask, “What next?”

  2. Without even knowing the details (or wanting to), my heart is filled with compassion for each and every person that works at “the spa”.

    • What a great part of your story Heidi. Are you still friends with them? After reading all the comments I had to go back up and re-read the post. The comments are fantastic too. I mean really, people. The shaving legs comment made my skin crawl. Ugh. Loved this one. Can’t wait to read more!

    • O natal chegou!!!O melhor momento é quando estamos felizesE somos sorrisosÉ quando doamos o melhor de nós mesmosNa infinidade do ombro amigoE o abrigo?É ser “momento” de poesia.Um FELIZ NATAL para todos meus amigosSejam apenas felizes!!!Auxiliadora RS (Só pra você)eMarcos Alderico (Poesias Partidas)

  3. Joy, Richard and I laughed Soooo hard, especially because we have also been in some of these kinds of “funny later” experiences ourselves. I remember one time in the middle of nowhere in Western China, I asked for the location of somewhere to “go.”. Through out trusty translator, I was then asked, “#1 or #2?”. Seriously?? I reluctantly admitted it was #1 and was then led to a grassy area behind some large rocks which was COVERED with, you guessed it – #2!!

    • That’s it exactly, Sharon! So many things we go through we look at each other and say “one day, this will make a really great story.” The more bizarre the experience, the better the story later. :)

      What I didn’t say was that on a subsequent bus trip (on which I got very, very sick), we had a flat tire and were stuck by the side of the road for 2 hours. One of my little sisters had to do her business beside the bus, and Dad afterward had one of my brothers stand beside it and tell others walking around “Please don’t step here, my sister just pooped.” To this day, I think that is one of the “best” translating jobs ever! Gotta say, I’m kind of glad I was sick for that one, haha!

    • You’re “cracking up,” Laura? You’re such a punny person! :) Haha! Try not to imagine the scenes too hard…you might be scarred for life. 😉 Glad we could give you a chuckle, though.

    • I am really enjoying the theme/design of your site. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility problems? A couple of my blog visitors have complained about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any ideas to help fix this issue?

  4. “Come in a rush,
    Leave with a flush”
    is how one sign translated “Have to hurry to have flush.”
    Laughing out loud reading this.

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