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One of the things that affect everybody, whether you’re a local, or a visitor, is that ya gotta go. Or as the French say, “Faire pipi.” Although people readily discuss bodily functions in France, going to the can is something where a little more discretion is called for. It’s not something everyone wants to talk about, but let’s face it, everyone’s gotta do it – except for the French. Or at least it feels that way to me.

(A head’s up: This post refers to bodily functions. The images are taken in public spaces, and they’re things you’d see on the streets in Paris. So for those with delicate sensibilities, you might want to come back in a few days, for the next post.)

For many years, Polly Platt’s book, French or Foe, provided guidance to those of us who were planning on moving, or spending a lot of time in France, deciphering and explaining some of the cultural differences. Topics like smiling, taking up space, and tips on what words will open the magic gates of customer service, were part of her seminal guide.

One that I was most curious about, prior to my departure, was that it wasn’t advisable to use the bathroom when you’re a guest at someone’s home. Times may have changed, but I still seem to be the only one getting up from the table, or making a pit-stop in the loo, before heading home from a party.

I used to drink a lot of water, but I stopped as I learned there are few places to get rid of it. Which possibly the popularity of le café express, rather than a more leisurely, and generous (albeit more costly), café alongé. As I get older, I find myself needing to find more and more for them, without a huge amount of success, which may explain why Frenchmen tend to get a little, uh, creative, with where they go.

I haven’t gone against a métro wall yet, but It’s only a matter of time before I have to resort to a more Depend-able solution to meet my needs. Perhaps that’s because I was never trained to ‘go’ at certain times, like these strict hours posted at a local elementary school. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I could hold it from 10:33 am to between 3:50 pm and 4:03 pm.

One of the reasons that it’s not common to use the bathroom in someone’s home is that the French tend to be a little more private regarding their homes, which is why behind an ordinary-looking door in Paris, lies a magnificent courtyard or a resplendent garden. You also don’t get an extensive home tour when you walk into a French person’s house or apartment, whereas in America, the kitchens, bedrooms, and – yup – even the bathrooms, are open for inspection.

I’ve learned to prefer the French way, which means you don’t have to clean your entire home when you’re having guests because no one will be snooping around your place. Unfortunately I have the only partner in France who didn’t get the memo that bedrooms are off-limits, because he likes to take people on the tour, including our bedroom, which I’ve learned to clean up before a dinner party because I don’t want people seeing my pajamas bunched up on the floor, twelve chapsticks on my nightstand (because, God forbid, I wake up in the middle of the night and one isn’t there…) or seeing the galaxy of creams, ointments, pellets, and pills lined up in the medicine cabinet. (Although few are shocked, because I’m not alone.)

In spite of Polly’s warning, I do use the bathroom, because I figure the alternative is more embarrassing than asking. But when you’re out-and-about, you’ve got to plan your pit stops on your way from stop A to stop B, because if there’s too much lag time, you don’t want to find yourself caught in a slippery situation.

Some men take matters into their own hands, in spite of some heavy – and sharp! – discouragement.

And some cities have been painting the spaces between walls and sidewalks with hydrophobic paint, discouraging people by redirecting the stream back to where it came from.

But I’m not there yet (and I like my shoes too much), so do my best to find a proper place to go, rather than resorting to urine sauvage. However, things are often hors service…

…or otherwise unavailable.

Making me need to scramble for an alternative.

A number of tourists say to me, “I just go into a hotel or café pretend I’m a guest…and waltz right into the bathroom!” Well, I must not look like a tourist anymore because I’ve been scolded for doing that. Living like a local isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so that’s out of the question.

Out in the countryside, it’s a little easier. (And I don’t mind ducking behind a tree, which is obligatoire for Frenchmen, who get to rekindle their love to nature by using it, as nature attended.) Unlike Paris, even in the smallest of villages, there’s usually a public place to “go” that’s just as bucolic as a stroll through the woods.

In the big city, bathrooms are still such are a commodity that you pay to use them, especially in train stations, at the Louvre shopping center (…€1,50!) and Printemps department store (€1,50), which infuriates the locals, too. One online reviewer called it une scandale.

I guess this is the next generation of Madame Pipi, a profession that is dying out. (This profession may be the reason why it’s also considered mildly impolite to ask people in France what they do for a living.) These women are, or were, responsible for making sure things were clean and papier hygiénique was there if you really needed it. Which, while spendy, we all can agree is not the time to be haggling over the price.

As a public service, the city of Paris has taken to putting open-air places to go in places where young people gather, where young people do what they normally do: Drink beer. And to do what people do when they drink a lot of beer. But lest you think they’re sexiste, a French company has come out with a male/female model that may help our lady friends not so reluctant to remain hydrated, too.

In some cases, women do get a pass, which I guess is reason to jump for joy. Cafés will let pregnant women use the restroom. But no matter how hard I try to push my stomach out – and the older I get, the less I have to work that hard to do that – I’ve been banished from using bathrooms unless I have a drink at the bar first. Which starts the cycle all over again.

But with several verts initiatives being implemented by Paris, in a move to make the city lovelier – and greener, a company called Uritroittoir came up with a plan to “civilizez les pipis,” and be ecological at the same time, by providing open air recipients for the pipi sauvage, which composts at the same time.

Personally, I applaud this move. It seems to be working and you’ll find men lined up outside the train stations, making Paris greener, and cleaner. Now I’ve gotta run, because I’ve got a train to catch. But first…




    • becky

    These small cultural differences do keep things interesting! Here Northern Germany, every home I’ve been into has a small guest bathroom right at the entry, and there is no taboo about using it. (Thank goodness, or me and my small bladder would be in trouble!) As in France, private spaces are generally off limits, unlike the tour of the whole house you get when first going into someone’s home in the US. I’ve been here almost 6 years and I have yet to see some of the parts of the homes of people I would consider “good friends”. I too have gotten used to it, and blissfully close the bedroom doors if the rooms aren’t tip-top (ahem, most of the time – especially the home-office) when we have guests.

    In public places, we too have a “Madame Pipi”: she is called a “Klofrau”, and she generally keeps things clean, for which I’m happy to fork over 50¢. Most train stations and rest stops on the Autobahn have the ubiquitous “Sanifair”, and for 70¢ – 1€ you get not only a reasonably clean bathroom, but the “fun” of watching the toilet seat spin around in a circle as it gets automatically cleaned after each use!

      • Antonio

      We were a bit taken aback after having spent a lovely week in Paris. On the ride to the airport for our return the driver suddenly pulls off the road, stepped beside the car and urinated (facing oncoming traffic, no less). Charming.

    • Taste of France

    Many homes in France also have a WC séparé, often next to the front door, as Becky notes. I have lived in France for 13 years and usually am the only foreigner in our social group. In that time I’ve been given a tour of everybody’s house and have waited for other (French) guests to use the loo at dinner parties. My French friends seem to break all the other “rules” of dinner parties, too, like what you should bring as a gift. It makes me think that some of these “rules” apply to the Parisian bourgeoisie and are ignored by regular folks in the sticks.
    I remember pissoires all over Paris on my visits in the ’80s. They seem to have been done away with but you can find them elsewhere. My tiny village has two locations. The smaller the town, the cleaner the public WC.
    The compost version is brilliant. Pee is full of phosphorus, which is necessary for plant growth. Planet Money recently did an episode about it.

    • Emma

    Only in Paris and big cities, you have to pay to use a café bathroom.

    On our first cyclotour in France, I was surprised, when asking if could use the bathroom in a small town café, to be answered a kind “mais bien sûr Madame” with a great smile. A welcome change from grumpy Parisian waiters.

    And you are right for pee schedule in elementary school. Asking to go to the bathroom during a lesson was a very very big thing, something you considered carefully, event à 7 ou 8, to avoid being scowled, or punished for you “insolence” or cheekiness

    • Mel

    I must say I can relate to this post on so many levels – from the collection of lip stuff on the night table (mine is Burt’s Bees) to the constant cycle of thirst and toilet-seeking in public places. But although I’ve lived here for more years than I care to admit, I did not know that it was actually ‘taboo’ to use the loo as a guest; I am incapable of visiting any home without checking out the plumbing so have probably offended countless French hosts over the years. Thanks for the pingback to my post about Madame Pipi by the way!

      • Emma

      I am French, from a conservative family and was never advised to avoid bathrooms, but it can be sometimes weird as many apartments have the toilet in the bathroom. Especially the 2 or 3 bedrooms units.
      We remodeled and old warehouse (à small one 80 sum) and the contractor told us that a separate toilet with a small basin was very rare in small spaces in the city.

        • David
        David Lebovitz

        I think the word of “bathroom” can be slightly different in French. Most American homes and apartments just have a bathroom (with a toilet) although in Europe, it seems to be more common. (Perhaps to protect the family’s private space?) However Victorian homes and apartments in San Francisco often had separate toilets and shower/bathrooms.

        I know in larger homes in the U.S. people sometimes have guest bathrooms, specifically for guests where there’s nothing personal in them. However since apartments in Paris are so space-challenged, I don’t think there are many of those here : )

          • romy

          Being an architect who worked in Algeria, France, USA and other countries, I have been stunned that some American clients want an enclosed WC in the master bathroom without a sink. Where do you wash your hands? I like better the Muslim layout, where there is always a tiny sink, the religion requires it. But the “pipi” problem in Paris is atrocious. Years ago my old disabled mother had to go often and not only I had to pay to park my rental car, but also walk to try to find a restroom.

        • Ellen Anthony

        My New England (USA) 1890’s small-city house has a “bathroom” with bath/shower, sink and toilet in one small space. I think this is the most common configuration here. At some later date, someone added a toilet-only room in the cellar, perhaps when they added 2 bedrooms in the attic. This keep all of the pipes in one area, except .. the kitchen …

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I think it’s probably become a little more acceptable than in the old days, when Mme. Platt wrote about it. But still, I don’t see people using the WC when I’m a guest at other people’s homes. However a majority of time, I’m a guest at a friend’s house so it’s okay. (Or perhaps they’re just used to me?) Thanks for the good post on Madame Pipi – when I first heard that term, I sort of understood why it’s also a little impolite to ask someone what they do for a living, in France, when you first meet them ; )

    • Chione

    We’ll be traveling to Paris and Lyon this spring and have wondered the best way to approach this issue. I’ll have an 8 and 6 year old and the youngest has a perpetual need to use the restroom. If anyone has advice or suggestions on the best way to find these hidden facilities, I am all ears!

    Merci beaucoup!

      • Dana

      During our recent visit to Paris we came across several public WCs, all spacious, clean and free of charge.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      There are the Sanisettes (sidewalk toilets) which are mostly in the touristed or busier parts of town. They’re listed on the city of Paris website. Some are often out of order, or being used; each person gets 20 minutes in there, so there can be a wait if they’re working.

        • Chione

        Merci! I will look into them. We are excited to visit and explore Paris. =)

        • Liz

        I shudder to imagine what a person would be doing in a Sanisette for TWENTY minutes.

      • Joe

      …stay home!!
      …which is what I agonizingly ponder prior to every next delightful trip to Paris and France. Now at 80 and the beer and wine so delicious in France, the risk/reward ratio of the visit (and libations)is sadly inverting — to my advice above. [I wish I was just kidding.]..Whatever, good luck.

        • Chione

        Thank you Cyndy — I’ll bookmark both

      • Amy

      We found cafés rather forgiving for children. We’d buy a quick drink at the counter and shuttle the young kids to the restroom. Have a blast. Love both cities!

        • Chione

        Thank you Amy — I’ll keep that in mind!

      • Pamela

      There is an app called ToiletsInParis

      • Emma

      You always can try asking a café for your boy. We used to do that with my son in law when he was small, and were allowed to do it quite often.
      Lyon should be easier.

      • anne

      Another tip is to get the museum pass, it gets you into many museums for free and the use of their bathrooms!

    • Brittany

    This must explain why we saw, on four separate occasions, men urinating in the middle of the road, next to a sign, on a tree, and along the Champs-Élysées during our trip to Paris a few years ago. And I thought all the pet waste on the UWS was unpleasant! My husband and I have joked about it ever since- at least now I understand why they couldn’t use a more private setting!

      • june2

      I will never understand how grown men, functional enough to be able to ‘make it’ in a major, modern, urban city, feel perfectly entitled to whip it out and freely urinate where ever they please. It is shockingly indecent. This is common in Tokyo too, and it literally blew my mind to see well-dressed business men doing this IN PUBLIC.

      If I had the courage, I would LOVE to lift my skirts and squat next to every business man I see peeing – hey, solidarity is literally a bitch ; ) sorry not sorry

        • Hope Anderson

        I grew up in Tokyo at a time when public urination by men was even more common. I never got used to it, particularly as my neighborhood (one of the fanciest in town) had a defacto public men’s toilet–a gravel pile that sat unused for a decade. I used to dread passing by, which I had to do in order to get to a friend’s house, because a man was usually peeing there. To be fair, I also used to see women squatting in ditches, but that was on the outskirts of town and far less common. Nevertheless, I found life in Japan far more pleasant and civilized than anywhere else, and still do.

          • Tommy

          Pee on rocks? No Toto toilet?

        • Julie Hock

        I agree with you. It‘s a man‘s world still!!!

    • Bebe

    Priceless! And I must be French because I loathe the notion that guests would expect a home tour. One of my favorite things about a two story home…even though those 16 stairs are more of a challenge than they used to be. I’m always a little suspicious of those who want me to tour their homes. Seems a bit show-offy…

    Thank you for another unusual and entertaining read, David… You can use our powder room as often and as much as you wish… XO

    • Bebe

    I once had an emergency in Normandy. A mushroom omelet did not like me or vice versa, so I had a sudden need for more than a pipi. In the middle of a lot of bucolic scenery, but far more was needed. Spotted a hospital sign. They were very kind about taking me in for a little while!

    • Francine Goldman

    A great article! Many years ago when my husband and I traveled through Europe by car,, I thought of writing a book titled “Bathrooms I have Known as young and naive, didn’t know what to do when encountering all manner of places to relieve oneself, especially the hole in the ground with two footprints to place your feet.

      • Bebe

      On an epic 24 hour train trip from Tsingtao to Shanghai in 1986, I found the “facilities” amounted to a hole in the floor of the train with metal footpads on either side. Pretty exciting to see the tracks and earth whizzing by as one whizzed…

        • David
        David Lebovitz

        I was on a train back from Normandy and all the bathrooms were closed and locked. The conductor just told everyone they were hors service, or “out of order,” which was strange that all of them would be broken at the same time. And was a fairly long journey and people were not happy : 0

          • jill

          That’s outrageous.

            • Bebe

            That was a First Class train in China!

        • Tommy

        We are going on a 3 week trip thru China in April, we are taking a train to Hong Kong, it better have a western toilet!

          • Emma

          As a girl I honestly I do prefer non western toilets when travelling, no hard on you thighs posture while peeing ;-)

          And did you know that the crouching posture is far far better for bowels ?

          And to be frank, I really enjoy the little shower things : so much cleaner that using only paper, especially in tropical climates.

    • soosie

    We discovered Polly Platt’s books about 17 years ago when we first started making French friends. They have been our bibles ever since. On one trip we would read a few chapters at night, then watch in amazement the next day as the subject of our reading would be coincidentally played out in front of us. Now that we know people well enough to ask about manners, customs, and what is actually expected of us, we are told that some of her admonishments are a bit outdated, or “only for the bourgeoisie” which no one admits to being. But like all etiquette, they are still a good place to start until you know the local rules.

    • Barbara

    When I lived in Etain, France in the mid sixties there was a sign in an empty lot on the main street said en Francais,
    “It is forbidden to urinate under penalty of confiscation.”

      • Jennifer

      That is hilarious! One can only imagine what, and how…..


    In Belgium where I grew up most of the toilets are separated and have no heating and a window that opens.
    Madame Pipi are common in nice restaurants and public places and I I gladly pay for their service.
    A few years ago I went to a giant artisan party/fair on the Grand Place in Brussels, mostly attended by students ! The whole square reeked of urine and it seems that the paying portable toilets lade as much money as the beer stands !!!

    • Becky

    This reminds me of when we lived in Italy. My husband went into a public toilet while the Madame Pipi was gone. When he came out she was back and when he asked how much he owed her, she said “depends what you did”.

    • Lucy Woelbern

    Why are there no rules for doggies? My shoes were full of you know what until I learned you had to look down to avoid it. Unfortunately, then you miss the beautiful architecture. Lucy

    • Suédoise

    Gros merci for a wonderful article!! I long for someone with an equally open mind to produce a guidebook on the Paris loos for ladies in public places – department stores, theatres, cinemas,concert halls, opera houses, museums, hotel bars, brasseries, restaurants. A mighty needy subject.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Someone did one (in French), but I haven’t looked at it, and the author did an app. I don’t know how up-to-date or accurate they are, but if anyone has used one or the other, let us know!

    • Tommy

    Where do women go pipi? We have those French automatic toilets here in San Franciso, unfortunately they break, a lot. Homeless people and junkies love them. Best thing, they hired a former homeless person to be the pipi monitor. That works. There’s no charge for her services, the city pays her salary. I say, I’d gladly pay $1 for a clean place to PIPI and god forbid, do your dooti. Gay bars in SOMA here have notoriously terrible bathrooms. We live in city, so my rule is only PIPI out, no more if at the gay bar. It’s time to home anyway.

    • Alyce Morgan

    Too right!! Half of our Paris stories involve the free potty near the Eiffel Tower that cleans itself in between customers, hence a 20 minute cross-legged wait when there are only 4 people in front of you. The other half are about trying to make it down the cramped/dark spiral stairways to the tiny bathrooms in the basements of cafes. Loved French coffee, but began to be very wary of having much more than one small cup!! (Chapstick lines so resonate. I take two on trips just in case of loss; couldn’t get through a night without mine.)

    • Rebecca

    I lived and studied in the south of France for a number of years when I was younger, but didn’t learn this trick until my last visit, when we went to some villages with my French friend (and local): when looking for a public toilet, look near the pétanque park in the town and you can usually find one!

      • Sydney

      Good suggestion, and we will be.

    • Carol J. Butterfield

    David, just this morning I was thinking about the post on your relationship to the kitchen sink. I was musing on cottage food prep regulations, and sanitation, and why my cats wouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen with me if it were health department certified (when they feel perfectly at home there, as well as lounging on top of a beautiful tablescape). And now this! My God, man! How do gentlemen wash their hands after public pipi? I love Paris, and you. You are my hero for writing about reality and still making it beautifully amusing.

    • Karin Anderson

    Growing up in Germany, we kids were always admonished: “Pee before you go” – a sound advice, especially considering the conditions in public bathrooms. My American husband was reared without any urinary restrictions, and this was often a matter of concern during our travels. My suggestion for our next license plate: PB4UGO.

    • Jennifer

    I remember being deeply reluctant to pay the “pee fee” as a budget-conscious backpacker in Paris years ago. We worked out a system that involved locating various university buildings and then striding purposefully through the corridors among the students until we found a washroom (which mercifully, were open all day long and did not post schedules!). Nobody ever challenged us. Probably wouldn’t work now that I’m no longer 23, but we were quite proud of ourselves at the time!

    • Cyndy

    It seems like all the little villages in La Dordogne have public restrooms. I love that ours is halfway between our favorite picnic spot and our tiny cottage. Thus I can drink wine freely at dinner and not have to make it all the way home… :-0

      • Jessica

      When I was in Sarlat a few years ago I was excited to see the public restrooms in the old village, but they turned out not to be so helpful as there was no toilet paper. After running around to buy some, I couldn’t wait and run back to the public restrooms and snuck into a cafe where I deeply angered the management. I should have known better, but again, when you gotta go and you try hard, what can you do? As bad as it may be for the men in France, it’s worse for the women. Don’t have to be pregnant to have to pee a lot!

        • Cyndy

        Oh no! That’s a good reminder to me to keep a supply of Kleenex in my purse. Sarlat is a very popular place as opposed to our little village of Monpazier. The restrooms are probably in continual use in the tourist season. Ours is off the beaten tourist path.

        • Tommy

        Pipi unites the world, everybody does it, Democrats, Republican, French, Americans, we all want nice bathroom.

        • veronica

        ALWAYS carry toilet paper with you!

    • boy scout motto

    saving your post to reread before my next trip

    • Tommy

    Maybe women don’t know this, I’d estimate that 35% of men wash their hands in the bathroom. I’ve seen it over and over again.

      • Alex

      True, I watched our B&R Guide come out of toilet right before he passed out picnic. No washing hands.

    • Amy

    Grossed out by two French teen girls peeing as they sat on the steps leading down to one of the metro station quais. I guess it was good that they seemed slightly embarrassed when we came upon them. Teachable moment for my own 8 year old daughter.

    • Roseann Skoniecke

    My first experience with French bathroom etiquette was about 15 years ago when my husband was running the Paris marathon. We gathered very early in the morning on the Champs-Elysées drinking water for hours while we waited for the race to begin. Down the middle of the champs were trucks and TV caravans that stretched for blocks. The race began and I was standing on the sideline to take pictures of my husband running by. Suddenly dozens of men stopped in the middle of the road, faced the trucks and you guessed it. I caught that picture and need to find it again someday because it was one of the funniest scenes I ever photographed. My husband later told me that they just did not put out of a lot of porta potties like they do in the states. So throughout the race, the men were racing off into the bushes. LOL

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s interesting because they have a lot of outdoor events in Paris, including many demonstrations where a lot of people come out. Yet I’ve not seen porta-pottys anywhere set up for them. It’s something I never noticed…until you mentioned it.

    • Gavrielle

    How true, and it’s not just outside, either! Way back in the eighties I was crashing with friend of a friend in his apartment off Sentier (not quite as trendy then) and was shocked to find that his top floor “bonne” apartment had no toilet. He shared a toilet that was one floor down and was Turkish- style, filthy and with a lock that didn’t work. Welcome to Paris!

    Conversely, when travelling in the US I always marvel at how blissfully easy it is to find a public loo there. The joy!

    • Jan

    When I lived in Iran, I had to become accustomed to the eastern toilet, which requires squatting, and rolling up one’s trouser legs to the knee. I was young, with strong thighs; not sure what I would do now. Our apartment had both east and west versions. And drains in the middle of the tile floor, which is ingenious for cleaning.

    • Cakelaw

    Who knew that taking a leak could be so frought? Great post.

    • Maureen Hargrave

    When we were in Paris last year we were told to find a McDonalds and get a drink. On the receipt is the code number for entrance to the bathroom.

    • Alex

    When we spent 8 days in Paris prior to our B&R Bike trip in the South, I knew every good toilet, aka loo. No toilet on the street for me, no way. The McD were so crowded and dirty, forget them. My fav were the ones w/ older ladies attendants, on the way down to the Metro. Sure they charge you “a fortune”, who cares. It’s clean & no Hobos. Find the good ones and hold it ‘til you get back ;-)

    • Nora Signer

    Greetings David,

    When I was traveling in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China 12 years ago, the facilities outside the cities more often than not were squat toilets. Being younger then it was not a problem such as it would be now what with oft complaining knees or hips. What I discovered in China at the tail end of this long happy trip was that the bathrooms with the international sign for the disabled on the stall door were equipped with western style toilets, a welcome helpful clue.

    And about 45 years ago, traveling in London, I was much amused by the toilet paper sheets in the museums perhaps, saying “Property of the Queen” or “Property of HRH”,I don’t recall which exactly, but there it was…

    • kylee

    My trip last year to Spain, southern France and Italy was very interesting toilet-wise. I was 4 months pregnant (not showing) and we were driving for most of the 4 weeks so lots of emergency stops. It took me a while to realize that you don’t have access to all bathrooms like in Canada where almost everyone will let you go without being a customer and nice public restrooms everywhere. Spain seemed much more relaxed about the whole thing and I had to squat pee in the Cinque terre train station which was my first time doing that inside a building. The majority of public restrooms in France and in general in the European countries I have been to rival only the truck stop bathrooms in my part of the world in regards to ickiness.

    • heather machin

    hilarious! reminded me again of some tricky times searching for a loo while travelling and living in France and Belgium.

    • Jennifer

    One of the funniest posts ever, David! Could not stop laughing out loud. Locating free bathrooms remains my biggest challenge whenever visiting Europe, though I must admit, limiting beverages and planning excursions based on bathroom accessibility is my new normal, as a bladder-challenged woman living in the US, where thankfully, bathrooms are still free!

    • Jayne Cookson

    When I lived in Paris, I would use the toilettes in le grand magasins, like
    the Bon Marché etc.

    • Tina

    I am writing from Finland. We have cutting-edge advanced technology here: proper public toilets. This means a toilet with two types of flush for the two types of bodily functions, a hand shower next to the toilet, a clean sink, warm&cold running water all throughout the year, liquid soap, paper towels or hand fans. Finnish public toilets provided by councils have even special rubbish bins for needles and syringes. An average man or woman in Finland would have such world wonders in his or her house as: triple glazing, underfloor heating, saunas, solar panels, etc.

    About 10 years ago in Paris I was disgusted to find a hole in the floor and no toilet paper in many Parisian restaurants.

      • Cyndy

      Interesting. We spent six months in Paris exactly ten years ago, had an apartment in the 11th and ate out all over the city. I never once encountered a Turkish toilet with no toilet paper, although the sinks rarely had hot water.

    • mac

    Is there a difference between “Urine Sauvage” and “Le Pipi Rustique” ? Or is one just the older name… or is it a city vs country divide.

    • Cece Noll

    This has to be one of your most interesting posts (including comments) to date!

    • Sydney

    For women we can wear a pad (they come in various sizes and thickness) and can pee in an emergency. Don’t think it would be any worse than having periods. Have worn one but haven’t peed yet. Sounds as if I may have to in Paris although am pretty astute finding a toilet.

      • jill

      jeez louise…shouldn’t money be allocated to provide a certain base public standard within city limits? We’re not cyborgs yet…How do women manage in Paris, for example? Do you all seriously just hold it? Because that would be ridiculous.

    • wellfedfred

    and the prehistoric toilet area of the old l’Ami Louis…

    • Susan

    While in Colmar last year we had the “experience” to use the all stainless steel enclosure that allows you so many minutes and then the unit does a total douche and every surface is washed with a shower-like set up. There’s that checked off on the bucket list then!!

    • Fred

    Hi David, so many inspiring recipes and I have to leave my first comment for the pipi article, sorry about that ! I just want to add this : I’m a frenchman, my wife is swedish and when she is in Paris, she finds it awful the number of men peeing in the streets ! And it’s true that things are very different in Stockholm when it comes to this city pipi habits. I understand there are difficulties in France but the bottom line is that parisian men are just dirtier.

    • stacy

    I, too, am a chapstick addict.

    • Lisa

    Ladies have a couple more challenges as well… ugh.

    20 years ago I was a student traveling through Paris and needed the Ladies Room after dining in a cafe. I was directed to a bathroom where an attendant held the door for me and I paid her after she handed me a napkin to dry my hands. I thought, how civilized! But also thought, I can figure this out. Later that same week I was staying at a youth hostel in Paris. The bathroom had a meter for the light. Drop the coin and turn the dial– 15 seconds! C’mon, Paris! Creature comforts non!

    Loved reading this story, partly as a reminder how different customs make the travel experience far from home, just what we need. Now let’s talk about the cardboard toilet paper…


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