Big business

Last week, we visited the bathroom. It’s only a small step further to a facility that lends itself to extensive cultural studies. In many Asian countries, the sounds produced by a person using a WC are considered very private and shouldn’t be witnessed by other people under any circumstances. Therefore, lavatories are often equipped with sound machines imitating the flush to mask any possibly embarrassing noise (replacing the use of the actual flush, which had led to an exorbitant waste of water). So what about Germany? Here’s a bit of German loo etiquette.

As many of you globetrotters will know (for one will reliably bump into a German in even the remotest corner of this earth), Germans are embarrassed by hardly anything. While individuals from other cultural backgrounds go to great length to conceal or play down whatever they create – in every sense of the word – Germans are proud and boastful with regard to both national and personal output. The Swiss don’t call us Kannich (‚I can do it!‘) for nothing! As you’ve learned, we show every last wrinkle of our bodies to total strangers at sauna spas. And that’s only the beginning. (Attention! German explicitness alert!)

When poor, unsuspecting Mr K, paper in hand and anticipating some pleasant reading time, first used a proper German toilet (they are a dying species now but can still be found) for Number Two (or ‘big business’ [‘das große Geschäft’] in German), he found himself propelled into a chemical warfare scenario. The paper was misappropriated for hectic fanning. ‘Proper’ German toilets, you see, have a sort of open-air ledge where all your hard day’s work will sit patiently for inspection and approval by the rightful owner (or whatever other suitable purpose one can think up). The fact that, at this point, there is no water to absorb any untoward odours, catches many a guileless foreigner by ugly surprise. Or, to be more graphic, let’s just say, you had no idea what yours really smells like … (Though my husband says the worst is the burning sensation in your eyes.)

Of course, one needs mind-blowing water power to persuade the purposefully-perched bundle of processed food to so much as consider moving in the rough direction of the sewer. Be warned: the flush is deafening!

Ironically, we dub the toilet ‘the silent place’ (‘das stille Örtchen’). If you think that’s weird, read next week how screwed up some English names for things can be!

The Pommes Buddha says: My own smells alright…

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