Toilets: You're doing it wrongWe tend to lend a lot of letters to the discussion of using toilets in China here at Lost Laowai. We have Erika’s post delivering some truths about the Chinese lady’s room, which continues to rack up rather heated comments three years after being published; as well, we have Travis’ humourous account of the first time he used a squat toilet.

I suppose it’s because it is a vulnerable moment in most every day that can be exploited by the foreignness of the country more than most things. I have yet to have a conversation with an FOB laowai that didn’t revolve around their methods for avoiding public toilets. Granted, part of the reason is surely the filthy state most are in, but the main reason is the awkwardness and anxiety that many Westerns feel when forced to squat.

Lets face it, a lot of us are willing to sacrifice a bit of butt-cheek hygiene for the sake of familiarity, comfort, assured balance and knowing proper aim-to-target trajectories.

But, science says you’re doing it wrong.

How the colon works
How the colon works

The above image illustrates how your butt works. The key is that puborectalis muscle that wraps around the lower part of your colon. When you sit with your legs at a 90° angle to your abdomen, it only partially relaxes, requiring you to add additional pressure to get the job done. But by squatting you change that to about a 35° angle, which fully relaxes Mr. Puborectalis and eases the business.

Who cares?

Well according to this article, as well as the video below, the way we poop might be leading to increases in constipation, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, and colon cancer. Changing our posture, they say, could have a more drastically positive effect than eating a high fibre diet.

But don’t worry, there’s no need to give up your apartment’s Western toilet, or your fear of public squatters. As the video below shows, you can have the best of both worlds, simply by adding a stool (ahem) to your bathroom.

Now while the above video is for a product, the Squatty Potty, 20 RMB at the local supermarket can net you a little foot stool that while not “engineered to mirror the angle and efficiency of natural squatting,” should do the job.

Now I realize that this post has only the loosest thread connecting it to the topic of “China” and “Expats in China” (which is sort of the mandate of the site), but reading about the above made me think about how we tend to reject the strange things we encounter after moving here, and find justifications for those rejections that often run to the largely baseless assertions that the Western way is “better” or “more advanced”. Now it’s got me wondering what other aspects of living in China that I’ve written off as unhealthy, awkward or silly but are actually good for me. Please say chuar and cheap beer.

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  1. I doubt there is much of a market for squatty potties in China and Chinese may laugh at the concept but knowing this does give me more more respect (all hygiene issues aside) for the common Chinese toilet 🙂

  2. My problem with the chinese toilet is not the squatting part, actually I had noticed far ago that’s easier to do the business in that position. My problem is with the hygiene. I do have a chinese style toilet in my apartment in China and I had found it gets dirtier than a western toilet, and I have to clean it more often. So public chinese toilets are… just to disgusting and smelly for me to use.

  3. thats amazing. It figures it would be better, china and all its history even knows how to take a dump better then the rest of the world. I’m still not going to convert though, squattie potties get nasty

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