If you go to a public restroom in Taiwan, particularly if you have kids, you should be potty trained. “Of course I’m potty trained!” you insist, but what would you do if confronted with what is basically a porcelain hole in the ground?
In case you haven’t seen one before, this is a squat toilet.They’re pretty common throughout Asia and while sit-down toilets are becoming more widespread, there’s a pretty good chance that at some point you (or your kids) will need to go and there won’t be a regular toilet in sight. I’ll stop short of suggesting that you should practice at home, but at the very least you should be ready to use one should the occasion arise.
Forthwith, a few tips: you’ll want to pull shorts/pants/underpants just down to your knees, not your ankles, or you may have an unpleasant surprise when you get dressed. You also want to learn to squat like an Asian, with your feet flat on the ground rather than balanced on the balls of your feet. (This is something that might be worth practicing at home–it’s how I squat naturally but I remember in college my non-Chinese roommates had a lot of trouble doing this without falling over backward.) For little girls, skirts are easier to deal with than shorts, as I discovered one day when my five-year-old was wearing a skort. Finally, most squat toilets will have a little raised cover–you should be facing toward this, not away from it.
With a little practice, you’ll get the hang of it and maybe even prefer squatting–my own daughter did, and would look in each stall to see if there was a squat toilet available. No more wiping down the seat beforehand!
For kids, there are sometimes also small sit-down toilets. I encountered these in a couple places, including the Taipei Zoo. It’s a handy solution to my constant dilemma–do I take my daughter into the men’s room or send her by herself into the women’s room?–but be warned that most of the ones I’ve seen were a couple toilets in a row with no walls or dividers. Depending on your kids’ sense of privacy these might not be desirable.
Finally, I mentioned this in my “Travel Essentials” post, but it’s worth repeating: it’s handy to have a packet of tissues and travel bottle of hand sanitizer with you, because sometimes toilet paper is a scarcity, and you never know if there’s going to be soap.