Cultural differences and sensitivities: Korean Toilets
Anyone who has traveled extensively around the world knows that finding and using a toilet can be part of the travel adventure, or at best just a travel mishap. In some places, finding a toilet can be hard, in others you find a toilet and then wished you hadn’t!
Korea (and Japan) are really good in that public toilets are everywhere and are well signed—mostly a red female figure for women and a blue figure for men. And they are almost invariably clean and well maintained. So, why this post?
Well….in Korea some of the women’s toilets still have the squat variety, although more and more seem to be moving to the regular western-style sit-down type. So, in a shopping mall, or at the subway stations, at many popular tourist spots, or at the huge rest areas along the highways, you need to check the doors: some have a picture of a squat toilet, some have a sit-down pictures, so you know what to pick. Some even have a special area for kids—what a great idea.
But, the biggest issue for us is that many of the toilets are very fancy with all kinds of bells and whistles—literally! If the instructions are all in Korean, it’s a total mystery, and I’ve had instances in which I have no idea what I’m supposed to do next!
Sometimes the icons are also explained in English, but then it’s still pretty hilarious.
Cultural differences at their best!
We also collected a few quite cute male and female signs. See below. Lots have the little figures in a type of hanbok, the traditional Korean dress.
I wrote about toilets and cultural differences when we stayed in Japan in 2010. See here:
Here is a collection of cute signs—sometimes they say “Men” or “Women”, sometimes they are just pink/red or blue.