Growing up in America has made me accustomed to certain things. There was always soap in public bathrooms, people showered in shower stalls, and you only squatted when you were camping. Being in Korean has made me realize that none of those things are the norm here.
Bathrooms or "hwa-jang-shil"s are one of the cultural differences that I thought I would never get used to, however nowadays I find myself used to how those things are done here. Squatting toilets were one of the things that avoided for as long as possible because I thought it was weird and difficult to master. In some ways, though, I might have to agree that I almost prefer them because you don't really have to touch anything so it's more sanitary. (If I was awarding points for bathroom smarts, it would be Korea 1: America 0) I'm still not quite sure they always put a mirror in front of the toilet... I guess it's a good place to check your makeup? ; ) One thing that I don't abide by still is how they usually want you to put your used toilet paper in a trashcan next to the toilet instead of flushing it. I have heard they don't flush paper because there are a lot of old pipes that can get clogged easily, yet I and many foreigners I talk to prefer to flush. (Korea 1: America 1)
Another difference I have come to accept is that it is only a pleasant surprise if I find soap AND toilet paper in a public bathroom. You might, and I say might, find one or the other but finding both is a special moment. Danny and I often enthusiastically take note of bathrooms that have both and make a mental note of them for the future. Another point goes to the States...Korea 1: America 2
Danny and I have realized that Korea is the land of polar opposites. On one hand bathrooms leave room for improvement, on the other hand, I have never seen toilets with such interesting technology as in Korea.
Who knew that you could get a toilet that has a seat warmer, a self cleaner, bidet, a fake flushing sound in case you have a problem with bathroom shyness. All of these things help with definite "rump relaxation" as Danny would say but sometimes when you don't know exactly what they will do, it can be a little nerve racking to go pushing unrecognizable buttons : ) Even still, I've gotta give one to Korea... Korea 2: America 2.
The last big thing that is different about Korea is the bathroom/bathing situation. As we have mentioned before, Korea goes for the open shower choice as opposed to using bath tubs or shower stalls. I have read many reviews of hotels when we travel and noticed that Westerners often complain about "open" showers in Korea, but you are often hard pressed to find otherwise unless you go to a really nice hotel. Now its second nature to put on slippers before I go into any bathroom so as to protect my feet from getting wet.
No longer am I surprised if the floor of any bathroom is wet or the whole bathroom is damp as a matter of fact. Because the whole bathroom is made to be constantly soaked, clean up is quick and easy just by rinsing everything off. That would make the bathroom score Korea 3: America 2. However because everything is constantly wet, that also means that mold is easily found in most bathrooms which isn't exactly my favorite thing... Korea 3: America 3.
I guess for now we'll have to call it a tie in the Korean/American bathroom race. There are good and bad to the "hwa-jang-sil"s they've got going on, maybe you will just have to make a list of pro's and con's yourself and let me know what you've come up with. On that note I leave you with a ridiculous song that is related, in some ways, to our topic today. Who knew you could learn so much about poop, or "dung" as Koreans call it, from a kids song. Let's just say it's another proof that Korea is crazy ; ) (Be warned... this movie is not only informative, but a little gross so watch at your own risk)
Yikes...right?!And that ladies and gentleman, is all I have to say on the subject of Korean bathrooms.