I find myself comparing my “home and native land” Canada to my current residence, Korea, often. Sometimes I’m lamenting the simplicity of living in my own country, while other times I’m celebrating the efficiency of Korea.
The most obvious comparison would have to be the basic hardware of the washroom. Toilets tend to be pretty similar in both countries, though Korea has a couple winning points. First, I love squatters, for reasons I’ve discussed here. Korea also offers incredibly high-tech washrooms in certain places, like schools and cafes. These space-age shitters offer heated seats (a gift in the winter when no heat is used), deusching, and probably an option to blast off into space by the looks of it.
On the other hand, Korea’s toilets have one minor flaw. Like many other places in the world, you can’t flush toilet paper here. I had to get used to the same practice when I lived in Ecuador, so it’s not exactly a big deal. However, it’s also not particularly pleasant having to squat down next an open trash can filled with poopy and bloody tissues.
While Korea wins in the toilet department, Canada definitely take home the prize for cleanliness. This is actually an overall theme here in Korea. There’s just an overall layer of grime in most places here.
With the exception of some highway stops and fancier cafes (which tend to have immaculate washrooms), the washrooms here tend to be dusty, dirty, and stinky. Moreover, when they do get cleaned, it tends to just be a splash of water over the entire place which adds a nice layer of mould to the overall grime.
At the end of the day, I’m thankful for squatters which reduce overall contact, and I’m grateful that washrooms here are free like they are back home!
Toilet Paper & Soap
Another win for Canada. Korean washrooms often lack toilet paper and soap. When there is toilet paper, it’s stationed outside the stalls which means many of us foreigners find ourselves up shit’s creek without a paddle… I mean toiletpaper. I’ve learned to always carry a bit of spare TP and sanitizer to ensure successful toilet visits.
Korea definitely has the privacy thing down.With stalls that nearly reach the ground and have no cracks, you can be sure no-one is catching a glimpse of you with your pants pulled down. They even play music in many of the washrooms and have “courtesy buttons” that will increase the volume if you’re particularly robust that day. The recently renovated washrooms in my school play music from The Nutcracker now
The previous comparisons mostly apply to public washrooms, but this one is more relevant to private households. Korean washrooms are one room with the sink, toilet, and shower head all exposed–no curtains or shower doors to keep the rest of the room dry. The drain is usually in the middle of the floor and everything is tile.
While this set-up makes clean-up a bit easier, it also encourages mould growth and means that the whole washroom is soaking wet for the better part of the day. There’s nothing worse than going in after someone takes shower only to get your socks and butt soaked.
It’s hard to pick a winner for the washrooms, and that’s not the intention of this post anyway. I’m not attempting to leverage one style over the other. In fact, I think a harmonization of both countries would be fantastic. I would love to have a separate shower back home, but a space age toilet like here. And stalls that reach the ground like Korea, but the cleanliness of public washrooms in Canada.