Stand, Sit Or Squat? A Bottomological Dilemma


I first discovered ‘squatter’ toilets on Route A7 in France, circa 1976. I was six years old. I distinctly remember the chill that ran down my spine as my father explained how I was supposed to use it. “What, you mean I squat with my pants round my ankles, trying not to slip down the smelly hole in the floor? Don’t make me do this, Daddy!”

Forty years later and squatters are still the bane of my life; I’ve never really understood what I’m supposed to do.


For those fortunate not to have experienced a squatter, you’re lucky: it’s a combination of yoga, swimming and sh!tting through the eye of a needle. But what I don’t understand is how I am supposed to maintain a squatting position without getting cramp. And how far down should I squat? Are we talking ‘the ski’ or ‘the buttock-to-heel crouch’? How do I stop myself from falling backwards? How do I avoid touching the filthy, wet floor with my pants? How do I get up without pushing my knee joints out of place? And just how the hell do old, arthritic people manage, for God’s sake?

Here in India quality squatters have three things in common: a cold water tap at knee-height, a great big bucket that sits underneath said tap, and a small jug that hangs on the lip of said bucket. Sometimes an old rotten brush is thrown in for good measure. What are they all for? I haven’t got a clue.

How do I avoid touching the filthy, wet floor with my pants?

All I do know is that toilet paper is never provided. Personally I never travel without a roll in my back pocket, sensibly wrapped up in a zip-lock plastic bag. Wet bog-roll is as useless as a sponge in a mud bath. Locals, meanwhile, use their left hand to do the dirty business, whilst operating either the jug or the bucket to do something involving water. But what, exactly?

What To Do?

Note bucket and jug by the knee-high tap, plus a lucky brush. Indeed, this is a 'luxury' squatter as a place to put your loo paper has been provided. Just no loo paper. Source:

What do I do with the jug? Which hand am I allowed to pick it up with? Am I supposed to fill it up and pour it down my back? Do I use it to rinse the left hand? What’s the correct procedure for ‘dousing the privates’? Am I supposed to sprinkle the toilet floor with water so the next patron slips and cracks their head on the knee-high tap? Because I swear that’s what the person before me always does.

What of the bucket? Is that for rinsing my pants? Because inevitably I will have soiled them, either by ineffective elastic not providing good clearance, or by my losing balance as I pull yet another arse muscle.

Still At A Loss

After all this time, and a year of regular squatter use, I’m still at a loss. Avoiding them is not always possible, so my solution is this:

Take toilet paper. Take a towel. Take off all your clothes and balance them on your head if there is nowhere dry to put them. Do your business. Use toilet paper in normal way. Spend the next ten minutes dousing the entire craphouse with water, using a combination of the jug and bucket. Go on, let your hair down. Rub the cramp from your thighs as you hoist yourself up from an impossible position and towel yourself down.

Then spend the next half an hour looking for the soap.

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23 Comments on “Stand, Sit Or Squat? A Bottomological Dilemma”

  1. Michelle

    If I can give birth in the squatting position, I’m sure a man can squat for a few mins for a wee!

  2. Neil

    I just cant handle the squatting toilet. When we travelled through SE Asia I dont think I did no. 2 for about 6 weeks. Has a lot of turtle head, but somehow managed.

  3. connie Lockwood

    OMG!!! I am splitting a gut laughing from reading your hilarious posting on such a subject! In reality, I cannot begin to imagine just how one would actually use such a facility! Egads!

  4. Liz

    Upon exiting the officers’ lavvy at the Sikkim border I was asked by a smiling man if my sh! t-ridden, p! ss-sodden squatting experience had been clean. “No.” I replied.

  5. Dave Knowles

    Jamie just love your post although it does not help me on what to do next time I come across one. My way has always to avoid them even as it has happened when filming in Gujarat it meant holding on all day.

    The odd thing that I find is often there is both types of toilets and so many choose the squat…what on earth would Thomas Crapper say to that?
    Take care

  6. Fiona Gordon

    I remember being similarly bemused at a camp site in France when a lady walked with her aged mother to the loo block. how on earth did this spindly old lady manage her wrinkly stockings, voluminous bloomers, her long black skirt AND then do her business without it going fatally wrong?

    Like you, even after several memorable experiences with a squatter, I still don’t know the correct protocol. all I do know is that a skirt or dress is a lot easier than trousers – is that why most traditional arabs/indians/asians men prefer the lunghi/pareo/male sarong?

    I would also point out there is reciprocal bemusement with the western sitter – our eastern friends squat on the rim leaving foot prints on the seat!

  7. Maggie Ping

    I have only ever used one while on long bus journeys and then as a really really desperate measure! I semi squat like avoiding a dirty loo seat and hope for the best. If you think about it though if you look at the old folk over here they are always squatting, squatting in the market sorting their wares, squatting attending to their children etc so they must be like ballerina’s who do this exercise every day and therefore their tendons and muscles are naturally over stretched and so pliable I bet they could do the splits no problem. Unfortunately us westerners are used to sitting in comfort with the newspaper and when we ask our bodies to squat they complain bitterly. The only other story I have heard about squatters was when my eldest sister visited India and was horrified to see men and children squatting in gutters doing their business under cover of thier robes! If you knew my sister you would understand! Keep the articles coming…I love them xxx.

    1. Jamie

      Yes, I noticed how almost everyone squats too, Maggie. They squat under trees hiding from the sun, squat at bus stops and squat whilst working. If you read “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry there is a great ‘squatting’ scene by the railways tracks that puts into perspective why people squat almost anywhere to do their business. I’m beginning to understand why men wear skirts!

  8. Ian Robertson

    My 4 year old daughter (many years ago) put her foot down one in KL. When the foot came out – no shoe. Yes I did the unthinkable and stuck my arm down the hole to retrieve the shoe.
    We have a squat in our office which is where I keep my outboard engine (can’t waste good storage space), and another in the apartment which is just the right size for the twintub washer with a convenient drain hole in the floor!
    Wait till you get to Malaysia there is the hose pipe to contend with too.

    1. Jamie

      A hosepipe would be a welcome addition, Ian. In Turkey they have it built in to the rim of the toilet. It is strangely satisfying.

  9. Kay Hutton

    Hahaha… yes… the awful footsteps! I take off all garments below the waist and either tie the lot around my neck… or stuff them under my t-shirt (partly jammed under my bra… just in case). Once… during a visit to a National Park in Israël… I was on the race (so to speak) and my desperation forced me to make use of a hole in the ground with a flimsy fence around it. Luckily I had some tissues handy… there was no ‘equipment’ provided… other than the loose earth around the hole (which I didn’t dare to touch). Towards the end of my ‘visit’ I heard a humming sound coming from below and… not wanting to wait to find out the source of the sound… I got the hell out of there very fast. As I ran back to rejoin the group I took a glance over my shoulder… and saw a huge cloud of flies swarming around the makeshift loo… I shudder at the thought even as I write :)).

    1. Liz

      Ha Ha! So many people have stories about their lavvy experiences abroad (and I don’t mean the George Michael kind) I wonder if we should devote a whole new section to the subject?

  10. Susie Harris

    I’m glad I’m not the only one confuddled by these things. There should be an equivalent of potty training for western adults available! I avoid where possible, carry my own loo roll and groan when I’ve forgotten to put my boots. Despite practise I still get my feet wet in the desert, sqatting is just not my thing.

    I’ve resigned myself to paddling in sandals when using western style loos even in the poshest of places as the hose with its shower attachment has always been librally used by the previous occupant (it is useful at home though as its the only tap the outdoor hose will fit on so making washing down the balcony easy). Does make you wonder at the state of the hem of the average abaya. All that said some petrol station amenities here are spick and span western style. No soap, no problem – always carry dettol wet wipes!

    1. Jamie

      Paddling in sandals. Hmmm, that’s what I was doing in town today after the monsoon showers. One wonders what one is paddling through, though. No, on second thoughts, better not think about it.

  11. SamuelHarvest Bouquet

    Heh heh! These thoughts remind me of a story my father told me when he was in Eritrea. He was just ready for action when a rat poked its head out of the hole. It really freaked him out for quite a few years.

  12. Munawwar Ahmad

    Before you enter the loo make sure there are no parts of your clothes hanging down.

    Wash yourself using the jug water using your right hand (behind your back or from the front – the choice is yours) whilst cleaning yourself with your left hand (again, to your convenience). Be careful with toilet paper as it often blocks the drainage.

    As for the squatting position, then this is actually the recommended position for going to the toilet (as opposed to sitting).

    Next time your in Blighty, come round to one of my training sessions (I run them in my back garden), subject to spaces.

    Happy crapping!

  13. Rich

    O. M. G. Why is it that potty humor never gets old?

    Backpacking in the Adirondacks we had to dig a hole for a loo. I ended up building a place to “sit” by laying 2 sticks on either side of the whole in several layers (alternating direction on each layer). While I dreaded hanging the ‘tushie’ over that contraption – the moss I put around the edge sounds downright divine by comparison to your experience!

  14. SH

    Amazing that for millions of years and trillions of craps, the only way we have ever crapped was by squatting. It’s the most natural resting position for every primate including humans. It’s also the proper position for giving birth and bowel movements. Once you are down, butt to ankles, with your feet flat on the ground, you should find that you are well balanced and comfortable, not exerting any effort whatsoever. It’s a true resting position. I starting squatting in college instead of sitting on the wet grass of the quad with my friends and, once you do it for a bit, it becomes second nature, or first nature, if you will. I actually prefer it now as it feels good to stretch. About a year ago I started squatting on sit toilets and let me tell you, it’s a world of difference. Yes, it can be a bit challenging to balance up there at first, but boy oh boy, you’ve never experienced such a smooth and effortless bowel movement. Plus, the more you squat in general, the easier it is. You soon realize what a natural position it is. On the throne, it becomes immediately apparent, via the lack of need for pushing or straining, that your colon is finally in a proper alignment where everything can move smoothly, while your upper legs apply a nice pressure to your abdomen. The first time was a eureka moment. Sit toilets are a very new introduction for our lazy asses, and they ain’t that good for us, essentially putting a kink in our colon when we need it the least!

    BTW, I’m a born and raised Westerner (American) and I found this post while looking for ideas at installing a squat toilet in my boat. Best of luck to everyone. Keep traveling and keep posting!

    1. Liz

      Couldn’t agree more with the biological reason for squatting instead of sitting. It works for me. (It also explains why lavatory seats are so often broken in India — people’ve been squatting on them with their feet!)
      The main problem with the squat is that, unlike their eastern counterparts, most westerners have not been brought up to ‘contort’ their bodies this way, and knees and hips simply won’t allow them to do so.
      My main concern is cleanliness, and that applies to any kind of lavatory. I want a clean and dry lavatorial experience and one where I can wash my hands with soap afterwards…

  15. Jonathan

    Seven Advantages of Squatting

    1. Makes elimination faster, easier and more complete. This helps prevent “fecal stagnation,” a prime factor in colon cancer, appendicitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

    2. Protects the nerves that control the prostate, bladder and uterus from becoming stretched and damaged.

    3. Securely seals the ileocecal valve, between the colon and the small intestine. In the conventional sitting position, this valve is unsupported and often leaks during evacuation, contaminating the small intestine.

    4. Relaxes the puborectalis muscle which normally chokes the rectum in order to maintain continence.

    5. Uses the thighs to support the colon and prevent straining. Chronic straining on the toilet can cause hernias, diverticulosis, and pelvic organ prolapse.

    6. A highly effective, non-invasive treatment for hemorrhoids, as shown by published clinical research.

    7. For pregnant women, squatting avoids pressure on the uterus when using the toilet. Daily squatting helps prepare one for a more natural delivery.

    ~ from

    1. Liz

      Thanks for your thoughts on crapping Jonathan, I’ll keep them in mind next time I’m hunched over a shit-smeared floor here in India, trying not to touch anything or drop my trouser leg in the excreta.

      I can understand the biological reasons for squatting, but what I don’t get is why so many squatters are so fecking filthy. That’s my only objection, really.

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