woensdag 15 augustus 2012

Singaporeans do things differently: public toilets

Jumping right back in, ignoring the past week and a half of deadly silence (white beaches, turquoise sea, lots of limestone cliffs and buckets of tom yam)(yes, there was wifi. I hang my head in shame.)

The lovely Crystal over at Expat Bostonians has actually already covered part of this subject recently, so please head over for the American point of view to her blog. (Actually, if you look at the top of her blog, there are reviews of nursing rooms. Many malls in Singapore have dedicated places for nursing babies! With curtains! And chairs! I found this a stupefyingly wonderful idea and momentarily regretted weaning the carbs-loving E. so I couldn't actually try them on for size -though seem very big, big enough to fit in a pram- but as things stand now I should be able to update you lot around January next year.)

You know how in the Netherlands you can always depend on McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken for a nice clean free toilet visit? Well, you can't in Singapore. Not because it's not clean (Singapore does not really do "not clean"), but because they don't have toilets. None of the restaurants located in malls or office buildings have their own sanitary provisions - the mall or building provides the toilets. The quality of the toilets, I have found, depends on the mall (by which I mean that Louis Vuitton and Prada-harbouring malls have sumptuous luxurious-looking toilets with dark gleaming tiles and spheric lighthing, whereas my personal hang-outs tend to have more basic white tiled toilets with scenes of happy people painted on the walls in equally happy colours. No difference in cleanliness.)

And you know how in the Netherlands you'd avoid public toilets in places like train stations, national parks and near the beach like the plague since it would likely cause an outbreak of the aforementioned? AND they'd make you pay for them?* AND there is never any toilet paper or soap in the dispenser?

Well my friends, in Singapore It Is Done Differently. Not only are the toilets free (FREE), they are generally clean and usually there's enough paper to go around. And sometimes, like in the Botanic Gardens or on Sentosa, the toilets (and, in the case of Sentosa, the public showers) are so lovely and filled with comfortable benches and soft lighting around the large, but not intrusive mirrors, and the sounds of the jungle and the sea rustling in the background and the light breeze coming through the open doorways and conveniently high windows, that I could happily move in and live there.

Of course, I have ended up in, well, less nice places. In those cases I like to opt for the Asian style loo (in Europe more commonly known as those French ones along the highway or on camp sites): the squatter, where only the soles of my shoes are in actual contact with the surroundings. See? No need for ickyness, since I keep myself clean. Even dirty public toilets in Singapore are better than the ones back home.

The Singaporean public toilets are an unsung highlight of the city and make life so, so much easier and more enjoyable. It truly is a creature comfort.

So please, if you ever visit Singapore, wait with doing your business until you hit the Botanic Gardens or Sentosa. If you can't manage that long, drink a large bottle of water at the entrance. I promise you, it's worth it.

ps. For obvious reasons, there are no pictures with this post.

* For non-Dutch readers: if you truly want to hurt a Dutch person, make 'm pay. Literally. Also: if you want to convey your deepest love and devotion to a Dutch person: offer to pay for them. I have been told the Dutch are very like the Chinese in this respect. Ah, a subject for another post! Must make note!

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