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Australia

The number one question about the Land Down-Under is whether or not the toilets really do flush in the opposite direction as in the northern hemisphere. Unfortunately none of our field testers have reported back on that so far.

One important difference though, according to lizard25 is that evidently many toilets have two buttons on the top for flushing – 1 for when you go pee, and 2 for when you go poo. No word on how they are labelled, but we imagine this is a water-saving mechanism that could be a good idea if implemented properly.

Update! Alert reader MageMLE has been able to confirm the existence of the two-buttoned flushing system, as well as provide a picture of the mechanism! The labelling is vague, at best I would say… half a flush vs. a full flush? She also reports that it’s commonplace to have “occupied” indicators on the outsides of stalls – at least in the women’s bathrooms. That’s got to save some embarassing moments.

Australian Two Button Toilet

Update! Astute readers from FilePile have informed me that these two-buttoned systems are common not only in Australia, but also New Zealand (kind of figures), Germany and the Netherlands! Those crazy Germans and their toilets keep getting wackier all the time…

Update! A message from Wolfie reveals the following tidbits about Australian bathrooms and bathroom culture:

The dual flush system exists due to our water running low, it hasn’t
seriously rained for years.

The half flush is always on the left, so it down’t need to be labled
though there are graphics indicating half or full on most cisterns.

All new houses are required to have dual flush by law, and you cannot buy a single flush unit anymore, anywhere.

Water flushes the same way in Oz [that's how you say it, never pronounce
it with an Au... Saying "Awsie" is wrong] as it does everywhere else.

Aussies never call it “the bathroom” ever… it’s the toilet, the loo or
you can use a slightly crass term “the dunny”.

Dunny. I like that. Another reader takes slight issue with this information however:

I don’t know what bathrooms Wolfie has been in, but here in Melbourne, I’ve actually noticed that it’s much more common for the half-flush to be on the right.

So it may be worth taking a careful look to see which flush button does what.

Update! Kitty writes the following about the recent upsurge in automatic bathrooms in Australia:

Automatic bathrooms are becoming increasingly popular in Australia. These bathrooms are housed inside small concrete buildings. There are lights on the outside that show whether it is occupied, vacant, or the automatic cleaning process is in session. Press the big silver button, and those magic metallic doors slide open, and you are greeted with lovely elevator-style music.
Finish your business, and another magic silver button dispenses toilet paper to you, although has the annoying habit of only giving you one square at a time, which results in you angrily bashing the button because you want more goddamn toilet paper.

But wait– where’s the flush button? After your futile search, you leave the mess for the next person to endure. Move to the tapless sink, and simply hold your hands under the pretty red light– water! Move to the next one for soap, and when you move back to the water to rinse your hands, behold! The toilet flushes! Perhaps this is to encourage people to wash their hands. Press the other silver button and leave in peace =]

The toilet flushes when you open the door if you’ve forgotten to wash your hands.
Also, there’s this nifty little alarm to prevent a horny couple stopping for a quickie – after 9 minutes you get a warning, then after 10 minutes a very loud alarm sounds and the door opens– revealing the happy couple in all their pantsless glory.

A couple things…

  1. One square at a time?!?!?!?
  2. 10 Minutes seems like more than enough time for a horny couple…

Update! Handy reader Nick provides some detailed information on Australian dual-flush toilets:

• The two button flush system is in most households with a toliet newer than ten years old.

• If you remove the cistern (tank) lid, you can adjust how many litres are flushed on both a full flush and on a half flush. usually you can select between either 9L for a full fush and 4.5L for a half flush, or 6L for a full flush and 3L for a half flush.

• The rubber stopper idea (as seen on Japanese toilets) is also common on Australian toilets.

• Urinals in Australia are becoming increasingly converted to the desert system, that is a chemical block in each urinal which removes the need to flush http://www.desert.com.au/

• Trough urinals are the most common urinal in Australia, in fact it is rare to see ceramic urinals.

• Public toilet buildings in the outback are round

• Long drop toilets (a big hole dug in the ground with a toilet building built on top of it) are common, and are possibly the most unhygienic toilets ever to be encountered. In the areas i have encountered them, there is no running water and so cleanliness is not very high on the list for these toilets

Troughs and long drop toilets aplenty – yike!

Update! Neil sends along the following very important information about Australian bathrooms:

We do have an aversion in Australia to using the expression “bathroom” or “washroom” to describe a facility that doesn’t have a bath in it. The traditional Australian home has a room that contains a bath, shower (sometimes over the bath, other times its own space) and wash basin – this room is known as the bathroom. This is usually located immediately adjacent to a separate room containing a toilet – this room is known as the toilet (or, on house plan drawings, the WC – this expression reflects our British heritage and also allows the architects to fit the name of the room into the very small space usually occupied by this room on the plans). This dual room arrangement allows for people to visit the toilet (often pronounced as “torlet” in less-refined parts of the country) while someone else is showering or taking a bath.

You’ve been warned! Careful with your bathroom/toilet terminology Down Under.

As we became a bit more sophisticated during the 80’s and beyond, houses routinely started to be designed with a second bathroom / toilet, immediately adjacent to the master bedroom. This room became known as the en suite and typically became the facility used by the parents while the main bathroom and toilet were the ones used by the children and guests.

·Picking up on the discussion about the flushing working the other way around in Australia, the question of water draining away in different directions down here is due to a phenomenon known as the Coriolis effect. In the Northeren Hemisphere, water drains away in a counter clockwise direction, while here in the Southern Hemisphere, it drains away in a clockwise direction. This is evident in baths, washbasins, showers, etc. The Australian toilet has a very small amount of water in the bottom and so is usually “flushed” away without any spiralling effect. In other parts of the world, the bowl has a significantly deeper level of water which does in fact drain away with a spiralling effect which follows the rules of the Coriolis effect. It may be that your correspondent who reported that the water leaves in the same way in Australia has not seen the “deep water style” toilet bowl and is therefore unaware of the spiralling which DOES go the other way.

Any reports on how the shallow water level works for smell abatement? I’ve noticed that poops which extend above the water level tend to be a lot stinker…

As mentioned elsewhere, Australia is a very dry and, consequently, water-conscious nation. Our capital cities have excellent water catchment systems that provide high quality water supplies to the vast majority of our population (although after ten years of drought in some parts of the country, even these reservoirs are being stretched and we are on quite stringent water restrictions) but in our rural areas, the water supply is often sourced from the local river or from small dams that have been dug on outlying rural properties. Given the drought and the reasonably small reserves, the use of water in these parts is even more restricted and so the use of 6 or 7 litres of water being used to flush the toilet is an area of focus. In the town that I lived in for twelve months – a hot, wheat growing town about 250km from Melbourne – we encouraged male visitors to use the lemon tree in the back yard as our urinal, thus avoiding the need to flush and creating a high level of nutrient for the soil. Let me tell you, the idea of urinal etiquette disappears under these circumstances.

Mental Note: Be careful with the lemons in Australia! I have to disagree though, urinal etiquette doesn’t disappear, it just changes. For instance, I’m sure you don’t want two guys peeing simultaneously, one on either side of the lemon tree so that they can face each other and see each other’s business!

For those who did choose to use the toilet inside the house – the female housemates and visitors, men who could not bring themselves to using the lemon tree (in full public view I might add!) and those of both genders who were in need of a #2 (we also have several very Australian phrases for this activity – please advise if you require a list), we had an expression that was written on the top of the toilet cistern, designed to save water – If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. While it was a little off-putting to visit the toilet and find the remnants of several #1’s in the bowl, it did save lots of water! The downside was that, on a hot day, one didn’t need directions to find the toilet – just follow your nose.

Update! Neil strike again…

On the subject of automatic toilets…

Firstly, one of your other Aussie correspondents reports on the increasing number of automatic toilets around Australia. One of the great mysteries to me, having used many of these in various parts of the country is why they always have the same soundtrack playing. It is always an electronic sounding version of Burt Bacharach’s “What The World Needs Now”. I’ve only ever visited these establishments for less than the length of time it takes to play WTWNN and so don’t know what comes on next. Burt must be very proud.

On the matter of using a lemon tree as a urinal…

Secondly, in your commentary on the lemon tree urinal I presented to you on my last visit to your site, you suggested that one wouldn’t want to be facing another person also “taking a leak”. Not so! We are a very tolerant society in this respect and if you have been sitting around enjoying copious amounts of liquid refreshment, such decorum is often the last thing on your mind. Sure, you want to be standing far enough away from your friend so as to keep your feet dry but front on while not ideal, is acceptable under certain circumstances (e.g. when it’s dark, for example).

Awesome Australian euphemisms for taking a poop!

· Having/taking a poo/crap/shit (fairly standard)
· Snapping one off
· Backing one out (a favourite of the trucking fraternity)
· Laying one down
· Damaging the Doulton (a famous brand of porcelain plumbing products)
· Spray painting the Doulton (used when the consistency of waste matter is somewhat watery)
· Drop a blind mullet
· Going for a hollow log
· One in the departure lounge
· Letting go a chocolate hostage
· Dropping friends off at the pool

Backing one out is something I’ve come across here in California, but many of these are new to me. My personal favorite: Dropping friends off at the pool.

Awesome Australian Euphemisms for poop residue, and a brief aside about juvenile poop-related hijinks in Australia…

That which is left behind after said activity is sometimes known as a Bondi Cigar (supposedly because sewerage floats in our most famous Sydney beach and they look like cigars) or a Polly Waffle or a Chokito. The Chokito and Polly Waffle are (were?) two Australian chocolate bars that were rough in their appearance (unlike say a Mars Bar that always looks appealing). Delinquent lads enjoyed unwrapping these bars and throwing them into public pools or swimming pools at friends parties, thus emptying the pool when people saw them. Most amusing …!

As always, a fantastic dissection of bathroom culture by our friend Neil.

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