Need­less fuss over tourists’ pref­er­ence for toi­lets

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Some me­dia out­lets in­Hong Kong re­cently re­ported that many tourists from the Chi­nese main­land dam­age or soilWestern­style toi­lets in US na­tional parks such as Yel­low­stone, Grant Te­ton and Jackson Hole by squat­ting on them to relieve them­selves. Al­though the re­ports pro­vide lit­tle de­tailed in­for­ma­tion, they ac­cuse main­land tourists of im­proper be­hav­ior while trav­el­ing over­seas.

Not flush­ing a toi­let af­ter use or squat­ting on a com­mode, orWestern­style toi­let, to relieve one­self is in­deed un­healthy be­hav­ior. But like many cities in China, es­pe­cially tourists spots, that started equip­ping their pub­lic lava­to­ries with Western-style toi­lets along with the squat toi­lets af­ter launch­ing re­form and open­ing-up, Western coun­tries too should stop be­ing “con­de­scend­ing” to­ward peo­ple from the East and start pro­vid­ing squat toi­lets in their pub­lic and re­strooms to cater to the needs of tourists.

The use of com­modes started in the 1800s in the United King­dom, where the ad­vent of in­door plumb­ing and wa­ter clos­ets made it pos­si­ble for house­holds to af­ford the more ex­pen­sive toi­lets which only royal fam­i­lies and the phys­i­cally chal­lenged used be­fore. In Bri­tish depart­ment stores, how­ever, spe­cial foot­stools be­came a pop­u­lar com­mod­ity when peo­ple grudg­ingly ac­cepted theWestern-style toi­let, be­cause they could rest their feet on the foot­stools while sit­ting on a pedestal pan to im­i­tate the squat pos­ture.

Rich fam­i­lies in the Bri­tish colonies around the world started us­ing com­modes over the fol­low­ing decades de­spite its health draw­backs. Yet it is still deemed a “mod­ern” way of life dis­tin­guish­ing the ad­vanced and en­light­enedWest from the

back­ward East.

Many physi­cians blame com­modes for the high in­ci­dence of many se­ri­ous ail­ments of the colon and ap­pen­dici­tis inWestern or west­ern­ized so­ci­eties. Hu­mans, like the other pri­mates, around the world used to relieve them­selves in the squat­ting po­si­tion be­fore the Vic­to­rian Age. Even to­day in­fants in­stinc­tively squat to relieve them­selves.

Many med­i­cal ex­perts still be­lieve that squat toi­lets make bowel move­ment and re­liev­ing eas­ier and more com­plete, and pre­vent fe­cal stag­na­tion bet­ter than com­modes. More­over, squat toi­lets pro­tect the nerves that con­trol the prostate, blad­der and uterus from over­stretch­ing and dam­age.

SomeWestern tourists com­plain about the squat toi­lets in China as if they are a sym­bol of back­ward­ness even if they are clean and dry. But un­like suchWestern­ers, an in­creas­ing num­ber of Chi­nese are com­fort­able with both types of toi­lets. The only thing they are both­ered about is the hy­gienic con­di­tion of pub­lic toi­lets.

Ja­pan was the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for Chi­nese tourists last year. And more than 5 mil­lion Chi­nese have al­ready vis­ited Ja­pan this year, dou­ble the num­ber of last year, de­spite the diplo­matic ten­sions be­tween Beijing and Tokyo over the dis­pute in the East China Sea. But few Chi­nese tourists have been ac­cused of squat­ting onWestern-style toi­lets in Ja­pan, be­cause pub­lic toi­lets in that coun­try are in­vari­ably spot­less and pro­vide users with suf­fi­cient means and ma­te­ri­als to ster­il­ize the toi­let seats.

More than 120 mil­lion Chi­nese are ex­pected to travel abroad, spend­ing nearly $200 bil­lion, this year. The two fig­ures have shown an an­nual in­crease of about 12 per­cent in re­cent years.

If de­vel­oped coun­tries and re­gions are really con­cerned about ca­ter­ing to peo­ple from China, the largest sin­gle source of tourists in the world, they have to im­prove the hy­gienic con­di­tion of their pub­lic lava­to­ries and equip them with some squat toi­lets, es­pe­cially in places fre­quented by Chi­nese tourists in large num­bers.

Such ser­vices are an im­por­tant as­pect of a place’s at­trac­tion. If Chi­nese tourists find clean squat toi­lets along with equally cleanWestern-style toi­lets in a place, they would de­velop a spe­cial lik­ing for the place and its peo­ple.

ThatHong Kong, which used to be the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for main­land tourists, has seen a 50 per­cent de­cline in the num­ber of visi­tors from the main­land this year be­cause of a poorly-reg­u­lated tourism mar­ket and wors­en­ing travel ex­pe­ri­ences should serve as a les­son for other tourist des­ti­na­tions fa­vored by main­land tourists.

The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

MA XUEJING / CHINA DAILY

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