Stop, squat, and (possibly) bring your own roll in South Korea

Nexstar photo/Lex Gray

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA (Nexstar) — Differences in U.S. and Korean culture are myriad, but one thing sticks out to our American journalists abroad: The bathrooms, which include unfamiliar toilets and ways of disposing of your toilet paper.

We start with some of the unusual signage in some of the bathrooms. This one below looks like what we may see in the USA:

Nexstar photo/Lex Gray

But what about this sign–is the bathroom for Olympic sledders only?

Nexstar photo/Lex Gray

Instead of having a toilet seat to do your business, you might have to use a squatter toilet–maybe more accurately described as a porcelain hole in the floor.

Nexstar photo/Lex Gray

Squatter toilets are leftovers from before Korea’s rapid modernization, and are commonly found in less developed areas of Korea.

The Korea Herald reports the government replaced many squat toilets with flush toilets in 1988, when the Summer Olympics were held in Seoul. Before those Olympics, nearly 70 percent of public bathrooms in Seoul had squat toilets without plumbing systems. But you will still find them even in modern cities, usually in older buildings.

If you ever encounter one, face the hooded end when you squat.

You may also noticed that some stalls in Korea also have trash cans next to them, which is another holdover from the past. People are often discouraged from flushing toilet paper, especially in public restrooms in older buildings. Instead, you throw it into the trash can near the toilet.

Don’t worry though. The restrooms are cleaned very frequently.


Have TP, will travel

Nexstar photo/Annie Sabo

In the past, many bathrooms did not provide toilet paper, so it became common to carry a stash around just in case.

Public transportation will even provide a spot to hang your roll, as WFLA’s Annie Sabo demonstrates. Just make sure you throw it away instead of flushing.

Highway rest stops a world away

Rest stop restrooms in Korea are a far cry from what we’re used to in the United States.

For starters, some have themes. A September 2016 article highlighted an Apollo rocket-themed rest stop and a restroom inspired by “The Little Prince.” You could even find Audrey Hepburn staring back at you inside the restroom of the “Roman Holiday” rest stop. The Korea Herald reports some rest stops are even sought out for the cuisine served inside.

Nexstar photo/Lex Gray

Our Nexstar Olympics team found one with a garden–yes, a garden inside. And no, your eyes aren’t fooling you– that really is a toothbrush dispenser on the wall.

Hand dryers and mouthwash are often always found readily available for anyone to use.