The Weird Thing About Korean Bathrooms

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Or rather, things. Or rather, Alfred.

Sorry, that is a joke with an incredibly narrow scope, but I'll leave it in and see if anyone gets it. Maybe I'll give you a prize.

ANYWAYS. I figured that since I spend so much of my time thinking about bathrooms, I'd better make a post about it, in hopes that after taking the time to write about my problems, they might plague me less. Here's hoping!

1. Where the hell is the toilet paper?

Before I moved to Korea, I never realized how lucky I was to be able to assume that all bathrooms would have toilet paper. I took toilet paper for granted. It was always there, unless I forgot to buy it. It was something I could count on.

Not so in Korea! I'll be the first to admit that I've become weirdly fixated on the toilet paper situation in my school in particular, but that doesn't mean it's not a problem. For example, there are 8 stalls in the staff bathroom. Chances are, on any given day, that there will be one, maybe two stalls with toilet paper. Even better, sometimes there will be a few stalls with no toilet paper, and one stall with four rolls. It boggles the mind.

The next rung on the toilet paper crazy ladder actually makes some logical sense but still bothers me.

Perfectly illustrated here is the problem of which I speak. Instead of a toilet paper dispenser thingy in each stall, there's one big roll near the entrance to the bathroom, and you've got to take what you need and hope you chose wisely. The one thing about this that makes sense is that it's easier for the cleaning people to refill the roll, since it's only in one place. But still. Come on. I feel like it leads to wastefulness, because I see people taking EXTREME amounts of toilet paper. Maybe they're just working on their mummy costume.

But all of these situations are better than all the many, many, many bathrooms that lack toilet paper entirely. Pro-tip: never travel without a pack of tissues.

2. Where the hell is the bathroom?

Beyond taking toilet paper for granted, I've apparently been taking bathrooms for granted all this time. Now, I know that public bathrooms can be pretty hit or miss depending on where you are, but I always used to expect that cafes and restaurants would at least have a bathroom. As I've learned, that's not always the case.

At first I thought that many cafes and restaurants just...didn't have a bathroom. But that didn't make sense. Surely the workers couldn't ALL be robots? Even in Korea that seems highly unlikely. Finally, after working up the courage to actually ask someone where the bathroom was, I found out it was often outside the actual establishment, probably shared between several different places.

Finding these bathrooms can be pretty harrowing, especially if you're drunk and only partly understood the directions. Was it the first left? The second? Go up one floor? Around a corner? Have I wandered into a creepy alley where I'm going to get murdered? Oh, no, there's the bathroom. As of this post I haven't been murdered on the way to the bathroom, but if I stop posting without explanation, was nice knowing you.

Also, you haven't known fear until you've had to use a squatting toilet while drunk, in a skirt, and wearing heels. Sorry if that's a TMI mental image for you but this is what life is like here. Sometimes it's scary.

3. Where the hell is the soap?

The answer? It's on a stick.

Just sort of grasp it...and move your hand up and down...yeah just like that.

I see the logic behind doing soap this way. It can't fall anywhere, and it doesn't sit somewhere getting all weird and scummy. On the other hand, I just feel really...dirty...every time I get my hand soapy with this. There's really no way to touch it that doesn't force you to realize how phallic it is. Maybe it's just me? Somehow I doubt it.

Anyways, for whatever reason these are the issues that occupy my mind these days. Anything you find weird about bathrooms? Have you ever used soap in a more awkward way? Tell me in the comments!

Teacher Pretty
Middle school ESL teacher, lover of pink, eater of kimchi, addicted to Etude House, expert procrastinator, meeter of 2-dimensionial popstars: Ana. That's me.

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