During my trips to Korea spread over the last few years, the most unexpected thing I’ve encoutered is, without any doubts, the toilet system. Come to think of it, it really is nothing that terrible. It could easily be way much worse. But I really wasn’t expecting it in a country often mentionned in top-ten of high-techness.
Rock, Paper, Toilet
Sometimes it takes time to realize the obvious. I was warned on my very first visit that there was something special about the bin next to toilet. But it was quite unclear in my mind. And I quickly forgot about it, thinking I wasn’t actually concerned, since I’m male.
It was not until my second visit there, that I experienced first-hand, in the worst condition, why everybody is supposed to use the bin. While visiting a friend of us, I had an urge to use toilet. When I flushed, the water kept coming, until it actually flood the whole bathroom. In panick, I called for help. I’ll spare the details but our friend was a real gentlemen while I tried so hard to disappear out of embarrassment (but failed).
Toilet paper never ever goes into toilet.
That was a hard-learned lesson. And somehow after that incident I started noticing bins everywhere, full of used toilet paper. Usually that’s a sight you tend to avoid, but it’s still better than flooding a friend’s bathroom.
It seems that sewage system wasn’t really built as well as it should have, considering the incredibly fast growth of the country in the last decades. Or that they simply didn’t care enough for a while. Nowadays, some of the newest buildings don’t need bins anymore, but I always double-check.
On a special occasion, we went to a nice restaurant (that will be kept unidentified for obvious reasons). The kind of restaurant where you actually get a toilet from the future with tons of buttons. Seriously, how come do we need that much features on a toilet seat ?
Anyway my curiosity got the better of me, and after finishing my business, I got up (for security), and started pushing random buttons. I didn’t wait long until the seat started spraying high pressure water. It was aiming straight at the door and splashed pretty much everywhere in the cabinet. After pushing some more buttons, in vain, to make it stop, I resorted to pulling the plug while kind of protecting my face with a brand new paper roll. Needless to say I was quite in a hurry to leave the restaurant.
Don’t push buttons if you can’t even read what’s written on them.
And then there’s that ultimate horror story that happened to a friend of mine. Korean toilet design is slightly different than european one. They are usually much lower and longer, more oval than round, so there is much more water in there. And you basically sit much, much, closer to water. Anybody who saw Casino Royale famous torture scene might see where it’s going and would wisely want to skip the next paragraph.
There’s a much higher risk for one to suddenly have a kind of a weird, wet sensation, strangely not so cold but not quite warm either. It’s quite hard to figure out what’s going on for a while. But then full horror of the situation finally strikes you, and it’s too late. There is no going back. No memory erasing possible. The only thing left to do is to keep living with that haunting memory forever. Or so I was told by that friend of mine…
Not so bad
After those incidents, you really get used to it. You don’t notice the 50+ years old woman cleaning the urinal next to yours, she doesn’t notice you either anyway. And you don’t mind the cabinet doors which are smaller than you, with obvious privacy issue when standing. You won’t even hesitate to use the squat toilet, which are actually pretty convenient. In most cases, you don’t even forget to take your bunch of toilet paper from outside the cabinet (but always keep some sort of paper on you, just in case). And that time when I lost my camera right into the toilet ? Just make any excuse to explain why the flash suddenly stopped working…
I am actually quite surprised that there are not so many posts about that topic among expats. But then again, it’s not that an interesting topic. Nobody actually want to talk about poo all day. It’s not like they would actually make a movie whose hero is a poo, right ?!
PS: I assumed pictures were not necessary for that particular topic, but google is your friend, I’ll let you deactivate the SafeSarch…