Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Sanitary Germans

After all my years living in so many different places, I’m fairly blase about toilets. In Tunisia, there were no such thing as public toilets, and while exploring Tunisia, we always had to look for “the potty in the wadi”, i.e. a bridge with no-one in sight. I would run, pee as quickly as I could, and finish just before some curious child – or children – showed up. No matter how remote the place, I can’t remember a single stop that a child didn’t come running about sixty seconds after we stopped.

So I got a big smile at the public toilet in Germany – they started installing these about 20 years ago – that even cleans itself. I thought “I wonder how long these would last in Kuwait?” where they could put people our of jobs.


Yesterday, I used a public toilet in a very nice mall in Kuwait, but when I got there, a woman – I am guessing the “cleaner”, and I put it in quotes for a reason, was stretched out and sleeping. I looked in several stalls, no toilet paper, no problem, I carry my own. It didn’t seem all that clean, no paper for drying hands, either, and as I am leaving she holds out her hand and asks how I am, how is my health, etc. I usually tip – but I didn’t tip yesterday, why tip someone who is not doing the work she is paid to do? She didn’t even stand up, just held up her hand!

May 14, 2009 - Posted by | Charity, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Hygiene, Living Conditions


  1. I wouldnt either! I dont like it when they do that! I dont know how clean they are… I usually embarrass whoever is with me because I open doors with me elbow and use napkins to touch things around public bathrooms (and I love faucets with sensors)… People think I am paranoid LOL! So when I am about to leave all clean, some “cleaner” wanna shake my hand! I dont like that! So as soon as I leave the bathroom I get my sanitizer out! 😦 I know I am weird! But I also dont know how clean she is!

    Comment by Ansam | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  2. You carry your own toilet paper? How big is your bag??

    Comment by Purgatory | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  3. I hate how every major mall in Kuwait usually has workers inside waiting for me to go out to hand me tissues.

    Why dont you just fill the boxes and I can serve my self! MONEY it is then

    Comment by Bashar | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  4. Ansam: What about men… where do we carry it? I’m not taking my laptop bag inside 🙂

    Comment by Bashar | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  5. It’s smart of you to keep toilet paper in your bag, me I just avoid public bathrooms altogether they gross me out.You know if my memory doesn’t fail me I think in the bathrooms in Heathrow Airport they have a sign saying where you can complain or make suggestions to if there is a problem in the bathroom. You can imagine the numbers of people that use those bathrooms everyday and STILL they look clean most of the time which I find to be very impressive.

    Comment by 1001Nights | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  6. all major swiss train stations have this place called Mclean (kinda like mcdonalds, ya feel me? :P) you pay upon entery 3 francs, .750 fils which is too much to waste for some people !!
    to use the toilet its another .500 fils, to shower i believe it was 1.5 kd and urinals are for free (just the entry fee)
    its pretty cool !! and it SUPER clean

    Comment by will | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  7. Ansam, I am totally weird in the same way – I want soap to wash my hands, and then I don’t touch the door handle on my way out. I learned that washing hands often is one of the simplest things you can do to stay healthy.

    Purg, they have little packets, it takes almost no space at all. 🙂

    Bashar – You are right, it’s all about the money. And, at the same time, imagine how little a toilet cleaner is making. I never mind the tip – but I actually LIKE tipping if I can see the cleaner has taken some pride in her work, not wanting something for nothing.

    LOL, Bashar, you can carry a small packet in your pocket.

    1001 – I am totally with you, but what to do? Sometimes, you just have to find a toilet! Seattle also has very clean toilets in the airport, and they are cleaned often!

    Will – how secure are the showers? There are times I would gladly pay to have a shower, but I want to know I am secure, and also, I need a towel. What do they do about towels?

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  8. well considering the fact that switzerland is like a main hub in europe, 90% of the people that are traveling through have nothing but a gigantic ruck sack with a mobile closet in it :p its got everything they need … but i do remember that you could buy one ! like a cheap one u throw after u use .
    the showers have a lock on them ( i thought the same thing when i saw them .. its a door, you go on, and there u go !! but .. they must be openable with a coin for safety reasons (im guessing) ..
    about that toilet you posted, i am disgusted by it !! i would NEVER sit on a public toilet anyways !!! but, that device that cleans the seat has never been changed !! so thats nasty .. it might look clean, but the germs simply rotate

    sorry for the disturbing imagery !! and sorry i wrote a lot .. im just really bored, i wanna go back home 😦

    Comment by will | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  9. Who uses public bathroom??? I never use them

    Comment by AMD | May 14, 2009 | Reply

    • AMD — so tell me, what do you do? Go by the side of the road behind a bush? Or just by the side of the road for all to see? Men in Ghana love to “show off” peeing in public like that …;)

      Comment by Miss Footloose | May 16, 2009 | Reply

  10. I remember those self cleaning toilets in berlin 😀

    The other day i was in the traffic light in slamiya, the one where al thuraya mall is on ur left and Qatar street is infront of u and a new building is being built, i look to my right wella a teenage q8y boy has his back to us and is taking his time peeing on the construction site!!!!

    ooh and Ansam, im famous for being the girl who tiptoes into a bathroom, opens every thing with a napkin, and opens the door out with a napkin and jumping out!

    Weird looks all the time, keefhom!!! Many people DO NOT WASH THEIR HANDS!!!! fa im sorry until every one washes their hands and everything is washed with clorex, im not touching anything!!!!

    Comment by Daddy's Girl | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  11. You tell me if you look forward to working in a bathroom all day long, day in and day out, when women dressed in beautiful clothes walk in and out without a care in the world.

    Are you at 100% at your workplace, where the conditions are infinitely better and infinitely better in terms of the actual job?

    Thought so.

    She even had the decency to make conversation with you, and you complain about her not standing up and decide to brand her as a ‘bad’ cleaner not worthy of the money you’ve obtained through vastly easier/less humiliating means??

    Aren’t you always going on and on about human rights and condemning Kuwaiti society in how they treat expatriate workers and run the country?

    Comment by A 3 AM Flight | May 15, 2009 | Reply

  12. And Europeans are notorious for being unsanitary, hence their gadgets which do the work for them.

    Comment by A 3 AM Flight | May 15, 2009 | Reply

  13. Willz – LLOOLL @ rotating germs! You are probably right.

    AMD – I don’t know how you manage? You never take long trips? You never shop for hours? You always have enough time to get home?

    Daddy’s Girl – No! You saw that in KUWAIT? I have never seen that in Kuwait, but I see it all the time in France, and in Germany, peeing in public.

    3 A.M. – When I was growing up my Mom always said “there is no work not worth doing well as long as it is honest work.” I would not like working in a bathroom, but if I were so poor that I came from another country to do whatever I could to feed my family, if my job were to clean, I would clean. God willing, I would do the best job I could. I agree, many of the cleaners are handicapped by not being given any cleaning supplies, or tools. I agree, that if there is a lack of toilet paper, or towels, it is due to the greed, or lack of foresight of the manager. We have a differing point of view on “decency.”

    You mean Europeans use gadgets to do the work for them instead of hiring laborors?

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 15, 2009 | Reply

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