Thursday, January 29, 2015

Down the Drain

Controls for a toilet seat bidet.
Did you think I’d said all I intended to say about my recent trip to South Korea? Wrong. I have more cultural insights to share. This week, my deep thoughts whirl around toilets.

Bidet toilets are popular in South Korea. How popular? They’re not reserved for private homes and apartments. You’ll find them in department stores, restaurants, and other public places. In short, tourists will encounter them.

They’re toilets first and bidets second. You do your business, and then, with a little button-pushing buttons, the toilet seat’s bidet attachment will spray or mist your butt, air dry it, deodorize the bowl, and more. Too much information? Here’s information you’ll appreciate: Water for the bidet attachment comes from the toilet tank, not the bowl.

Alas, the control's functions are written in Korean, which means foreigners like me must discover what each button does via trial and error. (I tried and erred many times in the name of research.) Some toilets have a mere handful of buttons; others have a dozen. A welcome winter surprise: many toilet seats are set on “warm,” and the spray is warm, too.  Buttons control the temperature and the spray’s force.

Warning: Tourists intent on testing a bidet toilet’s controls should remain seated or risk wet clothing.

Twice, bidet toilets got the best of me, and both instances taught me a lesson. I hereby resolve never to rush a dog intent on covering its poop with dirt and leaves. Why? The urge to bury (or flush) leavings is primal in the animal kingdom. The first time I couldn’t figure out how to flush one of the fancy South Korean toilets, I pushed every button as my face grew hotter and hotter. I called for help, only to discover the flush handle was located exactly where it is in the typical American toilet. What can I tell you? It never occurred to me to look there. The second time I was stumped, help arrived and instructed me to swipe my palm across a sensor on the wall of the toilet stall in order to flush. The second instance still baffles me. How was I supposed to know that?


Cities in South Korea bustle. Trains and buses are jammed during rush hour. Apartments may be small. A bidet toilet allows two or three minutes of pampering behind a closed door.  It’s a luxury that eases stress—for those who know what the controls mean.

9 comments:

Patricia Rickrode w/a Jansen Schmidt said...

Well then, I'm thinking a trip to South Korea is not in my future. And when did you go to South Korea? I'm interested in learning more. Did I miss some blog posts?

I'm glad you were able to figure some of those things out. Curiosity would have gotten the better of me and I'd be pushing every single button, too. Just to see what they did. Would not have figured out the hand waving in front of the wall; that's too much Harry Potter magic for me.

Thanks for sharing this fascinating information. I feel so informed now.

Patricia Rickrode
w/a Jansen Schmidt

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patricia/Jansen!

For a low-tech person like myself, there is much Harry Potter-like magic in South Korea:

Glad I could inform you about toilet-seat bidets. I live to serve.

I went to South Korea in late November and wrote a post about being there during kimchi-making season. I have never seen so much cabbage in my life.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

This sounds way cool! Or cool in a bad way, if you can't figure out the pictures on the controls. When I went to France with my daughter's choir, one of the highlights of the trip for many of the kids was visiting a self-cleaning restroom in Paris (especially the girl who almost got caught inside during the clean cycle)!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Whoa, Jennette! A little misplaced spray doesn't compare to the horror and humiliation of being caught inside a self-cleaning restroom. Yikes!

Karen McFarland said...

Lol Pat! Thanks for the heads up my friend. If I'm ever in South Korea, I will certainly remember this post. It's interesting all the new things that we are exposed to when traveling. Once, when hubby and I were visiting Munich, we dined at The Spaten Restaurant. After we finished our meal, I used the bathroom before we left. After taking care of business, I flushed. Now here's when the entertainment began. I stood and watched as a small box popped out of the bottom of the tank and sat on the toilet seat as it did a complete rotation.What a way to sanitize! But I had never seen anything like this. I came running out of the bathroom and immediately began sharing my experience. So hubby decides he must also use the restroom to see this performance. But lo and behold, the toilets in the mens room didn't have this feature. His loss. We females get all the breaks don't we? lol. :)

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Karen!
Travel is broadening and how! Some people travel to Munich for the beer, the music, the art, the scenery. One of these days, I'll check out that toilet.

Karen McFarland said...

Well yes Pat. Munich and its surrounding area is breath-taking. And the beer is the reason why we were at Spaten! And you know what happens afterward. Thus the cool toilet. But unfortunately no bidet.

Karen McFarland said...

Well yes Pat. Munich and its surrounding area is breath-taking. And the beer is the reason why we were at Spaten! And you know what happens afterward. Thus the cool toilet. But unfortunately no bidet.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi again, Karen!
All the more reason to visit South Korea!