European potty humor: 10 things Americans should know about Euro bathrooms

For Americans visiting Europe, you have plenty of things to see, do and learn without worrying about where to go, well, you know… A top 10 list (plus one bonus) of things Americans should know about Euro bathrooms.

10. Reverse Toilet

This is noted first because it’s the most dramatic difference between Europe and the states. As The Incredible Kimmy Schmidt would say, “their toilet has another reverse toilet next to it!” I’d never seen a bidet in person before visiting Europe. As a typical American, it resulted in lots of giggles. My inquisitive sister sent me the Wikipedia page dedicated to the bidet, after we learned that nearly all Italians have a bidet in their home.

Photo Credit: Brooke (from Parkhotel Laurin in Bolzano, Italy) left: bidet

9. Don’t Go Down There

Many of the public bathrooms in downtown areas are in basements (in basements of buildings that are hundreds of years old). The old adage “you can tell what a restaurant kitchen looks like by looking in their bathroom” does not apply. Sometimes they’re downright creepy.

8. Watch your Slippery Step

In hotels (too, too many), the shower is separated from the rest of the bathroom by a half wall (at best) glass screen. It looks good and makes the bathroom appear larger. This is becoming more popular in America, but the designers must not be using these showers themselves. Water sprays all over the floor outside the shower.

half glass shower separator

7. Little Girl’s Room, I Hope

Make sure you know how to spell men and women (plus ladies, girls and boys) in the language of the country you’re visiting. This will help you avoid the awkward situation of walking into the wrong bathroom. Restaurants love to (not on purpose) confuse us foreigners and use only an indicative letter on the front of each door. On that note, most bathroom signs are labeled WC (water closet), and you’ll get further if you know how to ask where the bathroom is in the native language.

Slovak bathroom: I picked ženy with 50/50 odds, and chose wisely.

6. Don’t Come in Here

Sometimes the women’s bathroom stalls don’t have locks on them. Hold that door! Now, combine that with the next one on the list (#5), and you have the perfect recipe for one really awkward minute of life.

5. Only Girls Allowed, Right?

In Eastern Europe, I’ve used bathrooms that were Unisex. No problem, right? Except that they’re accessible to men and women at the same time. The last time I faced this situation, the main entry door to the bathroom happened to have a key in it, so I locked the door. This resulted in 30 seconds of a man and his little boy pounding on the door while I used the restroom. Yes, I hear you. I just don’t want to see you.

4. Bring Your Piggy Bank

If you’re using a public bathroom in Europe, don’t be caught without a little change in your pockets. You may have to pay a bathroom attendant or a turnstile in order to enter. Especially at freeway fuel stations, this is one idea I thought would be beneficial for American businesses.

Photo Credit: Brooke (gas station off German autobahn)

3. Number 1 or 2

Unless you’re using an older toilet with a chain handle (sometimes hanging down or sticking out of the wall), the newer style Euro toilets are a boxier shape than American toilets and have two flush options. They usually appear as a large and small buttons on the back wall. You can use your best judgement on which to choose for number one and number two! I rarely see the dual flush in the states (newer trend), but when I do, it’s always the handle that flushes up or down.

Photo Credit : Native Gypsies (Euro dual flush toilet)

2. Hole

While in Verona, Italy (the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), I was too sick to appreciate the city. At a cute downtown cafe, I went into their creepy basement (see #9) to use the bathroom, and it was a small hole in the ground. That is the last thing I wanted to see that day.

Italian Squat Toilet
Wikipedia: Italian Squat Toilet

1.Can we get some Air in here?

I’ve only been in one living space bathroom in Europe that had ventilation. In the first one I faced without it, my now husband told me to open the bathroom window when I showered. One of the problems with that seemingly good theory was that the window was in the shower. I didn’t need to advertise while in the shower. Coming from Minnesota, we also don’t open windows without screens, so opening the windows regularly was something to get used to.

Bonus: A Shelf to Highlight Your Number 2

You just had you morning coffee and enter the loo. Instead of a bowl-shaped toilet, you uncover a toilet with a shelf built into the back 2/3 of the bowl (directly below where the bum rests) and only a small hole in the front of the toilet. More-so in Germany, you’ll find these Flachspüler toilets (AKA the poo shelf), which never seem to return to their pearly white original state after someone goes number 2 on the shelf.


If you’re an American living in or visiting Europe, by all means, add to the potty humor! What else have you noticed about using Euro bathrooms?





About Brooke ↞ Farm girl with a gypsy heart. Life-long obsession for junking and all things vintage. Working on on being a wife & mama, our next travel adventure, enjoying the little moments, colorful salads and a healthy earth. ↠ Read About BrookeRead more posts by Brooke

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