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Toilets

So I am in some Facebook groups for Disneyland Paris planning and someone from UK brought up how when she sent her daughter to the bathroom in a restaurant outside of the parks it was a unisex shared bathroom with the urinals outside the stalls (needed to walk by them to get to the toilets). Some other people piped up and said well this is how it’s done sometimes in France... and someone else said that it’s temporary because the other bathroom was being renovated. I read an older TripAdvisor thread about it and got info on how there seems to be a variety of ways toilets can be arranged in Paris.

Maybe this is a silly question and I’m overthinking it — but I have overthought every bit of this trip I assure you — but how common is this in Paris? I don’t want to appear like an ugly American but I also don’t want to be sharing a sink with a man in the bathroom after we’ve both used the toilet.

Posted by
38 posts

I was in Reims last year and had to use the toilet at the restaurant we were eating at. There was a young woman mopping the floors in the men's bathroom. I went into one of the stalls and when I was done went to the sink to wash my hands. She was still mopping the floors and it was no big deal.

Posted by
1955 posts

It was rather common when we visited Paris about a decade ago. And, it gave my husband "performance anxiety" as he refers to it, having about 20 women watching him.

EDIT: My husband just helped me to recall more details. The event described above was in the large public restroom sort of under Sacré-Cœur on a tall hill in Paris. After using one the dozen (or more) urinals, he flushed it, and the attendant (who looked like she was from another country) began YELLING at the top of her lungs at my husband. He thinks maybe he was not supposed to flush...who knows? He was pretty humiliated by the whole exposed urinal thing and then obviously getting yelled at later by a HUGE lady in a booth. But, it made for a great story when we returned home.

Posted by
6728 posts

How exactly is sharing a sink an issue? While it is fairly uncommon for the urinals to be visible in the sink area, occasionally it is the case. You don't usually walk by them, but they are tucked around a corner and not very private. It is very common for there to be a men's and women's area with a common sink area. That is pretty much the norm in park rest rooms where there is a wing of men's and of women's stalls, so those are separate. It is also the norm in restaurant restrooms in small restaurants. It is also not uncommon for there to be stalls used by both genders and thus of course shared sinks. Stalls in Europe are much more private than in the US so there is no issue of privacy as there would be with the short US style stalls with big spaces under the doors and often along the seams.

Posted by
183 posts

Unisex bathrooms have been somewhat common in Europe for many years. I recall them from my first trip back in 1977.

Rest assured, that man sharing the sink with you outside the stall won't think twice about it. Try to remember that you'll never see that person again and concentrate on having fun on your trip.

Posted by
597 posts

Generally speaking, it is acknowledged in Europe that both men and women go to the toilet many times in their lives, and that there is nothing exceptional about it. Men often do it standing up, and that is acknowledged as well. The result is that less importance is attached to privacy in such matters. Although separate facilities are provided in many circumstances, at other times facilities are shared between the sexes, and it is certainly common for a woman to clean the male toilet, and vice versa. To object to using the sink after a man has used it would be considered very strange. What about using the same hand dryer?

Ideas about toilet design, cleanliness and propriety vary around the world. This is quite a minor difference compared with some of the others you might experience!

Posted by
28121 posts

France is not the only the European country to have relaxed attitudes towards different sexes using a toilet. In fact it makes it easier for LGBT people to avoid problems.

But people do not go to the toilet for sexual reasons - usually - but to take care of a need which arises frequently for all. Even at home you may use the same sink or even the same toilet as another member of the family or even a friend or stranger if they come to visit.

It really is no big deal here. Even in London and other parts of England many places share the washing facilities and not infrequently the cubicles.

As long as I get a toilet and not a hole in the floor I don't care. The holes in the floor type toilets are still common in France - that is likely to be more of a culture shock.

Posted by
118 posts

To object to using the sink after a man has used it would be considered very strange.

It's not the using it after. It's the using it simultaneously. I'm not interested in making eye contact in the mirror with anyone in the toilet, but especially not a man.

Posted by
118 posts

I suppose I am being silly but it does help to be prepared ahead of time for such differences.

Posted by
28121 posts

We take our clothes off for a sauna too. Between that and holes in the floor there is a bit of difference to North American customs.

Posted by
7702 posts

I've lived here for 11 years and can't remember ever going into a restroom like you mention. Then again maybe I'm not out looking for public restrooms as often since I have home and work . . . ???

Posted by
2929 posts

Thanks for the great laugh. I would be glad he was washing his hands.

As my part of the country is getting into 'use the bathroom of your gender identity' and as women's bathrooms are so poorly designed; i.e., long line to get into women's, no line to get into men's, I now use the mens room and walk right by everyone at the urinal...just give them privacy by not looking. Maybe it will bring about a better design for bathroom allocation. ;)

Posted by
8889 posts

Not very common. You see this occasionally in small towns, less so in Paris. One shared toilet with a urinal and a cubicle.
Even with two toilets the sink may outside the door and shared

What you frequently see is female cleaners in male toilets (and less often vice-versa). Ask your husband how he would feel doing his business while the adjacent urinal is being cleaned by a woman!

P.S. In Switzerland, in the paid station toilets, you see one entrance for the urinal (one price), and a different entrance at a higher price for the cubicles which are common to both sexes.

Posted by
21857 posts

....... I'm not interested in making eye contact in the mirror with anyone in the toilet,......

You are, indeed, over thinking this. How would you make eye contract in the mirror in the toilet?? That is impossible. All the toilets in shared bathrooms always have full doors. Unless you make it a habit of opening doors of occupied toilets how do you make eye contact. If you do make eye contact, smile.

But we are even finding this in the states. We have a brand new, upscale restaurant in our area. You walk into the restroom area and you see several sinks along one wall and four doors and each of the two other walls. Behind each door is a stool and a very small wall urinal. Step in, close the door, choose your preference, finish, flush, step out and use a vacant sink. My guess it is cheaper than provide two separate facility. From our years of European travel we find that Americans are far more uptight about body functions than Europeans. Now if we could only get top-less beaches accepted in the US.

Posted by
1236 posts

They had pay toilets with unisex sinks in Brussels a decade ago. Not really a big deal.

Posted by
13700 posts

We ran into one of those unisex dealies in Belgium somewhere. The urinal was out in full view; toilet was enclosed in a cubicle; one sink. LOL, I'm not sure I would have known where to look if I'd walked in (or out) on a fella so hustled right along with my business.

Oh, and I took a photo of that new and interesting experience!

Posted by
784 posts

I have found one toilette as you describe in several trips to Paris. But buildings are old and space for toilettes is at a premium, so don't be surprised when you run into them. They are far more common outside of Paris in smaller towns and villages. Making eye contact isn't much of an issue as you really have control over that yourself. I have never run into the "turkish toilettes" in Paris, but I understand there are still a few of them to be found. They are also more common outside of Paris.

Posted by
2916 posts

From my experience, the type of bathroom situation you describe still exists occasionally in France, but is not particularly common. I'm not sure I've ever seen one in Paris, but I have in the countryside. It never bothered me.

Posted by
3713 posts

Ah, yes! The wide variety of ways to potty in Europe are truly amazing to many of us, from the time of the Romans to the present. As a person who has used the great outdoors, outhouses, chamber pots and composting toilets, not much surprises me.

In my younger days I usually chose a squat toilet when possible because there was never a line. The last time I had to use one was in 2014 in Greece at a bus station because it was the only option.

My favorite toilets in Germany were the ones shaped like keyholes with no separate seat. The porcelain was a little chilly, but they seemed to be higher off the floor. Once again, the women would wait in line for a toilet with a seat and I'd walk right in.

When we were last in Amsterdam, they were preparing for the celebrations connected to the crowning of the new king. As with any festival, there were lots of port-a-potties. There were enclosed ones and ones for wheelchairs. However, the urinals were all in the open, in a circle, in the middle of the rest. The whole arrangement was part of a walk-thru area from the street to the event space.

I have experienced many European bathroom arrangements where there are totally enclosed stalls with the sinks outside them.

Our favorite very modern Italian restaurant in Tucson has that kind of arrangement. It is set up with 4 very large private toilet rooms with 2 long sinks in a hallway between them. There are mirrors.

A much older and funkier restaurant we love in Lake Charles, LA has separate male and female toilet rooms, but the hand washing is also outside them (no mirrors).

My advice is to take advantage of any available toilet in Paris for free or for a price, in museums, restaurants or department stores. Avert your eyes if you feel the need to do so. You will find many more easily accessible cash machines than toilets in the city.

Posted by
28121 posts

Thanks for the reminder, Lo. My wife regularly complains about the rampant French toilet seat thieves. I believe that the proprietors leave them off purposely to stop vandalism.

Posted by
8507 posts

Avert eyes--of course. Not doing so in any country will be misinterpreted as a come on. And keep a straight face. Now you know what you may find.

I, too, will use the men's room overseas when my husband gets tired of waiting for my line. I do ask him to escort me in and out if men are present at the urinals.

Posted by
118 posts

I have more of a issue with toilet cubicles in the US. Door starting 2 ft from the floor with what feels like an inch gap around the door.. Totally exposed! :-)

Emma that’s what I was imagining at first! Our cubicles being the same and mixed company...

Posted by
118 posts

I am sorry but you are being beyond silly....

I’d rather be silly at home and ask the questions than be I’ll prepared when I get there 🤷🏼‍♀️

Posted by
1955 posts

Natalie,
Once you get over the shock of seeing guys lined up against the wall "doing their thing" in some of the larger public restrooms in Paris, then plan a trip to Belgium where you will see the occasional street urinal. Best I can remember (once I recovered from the surprise), a urinal or two might be positioned behind sort of a half wall. So picture a half wall - right there on the sidewalk, but off to the building side of the sidewalk - maybe 4 feet high or so and maybe 6 feet wide - guys can enter from either side, do their business while still watching what is going on around them (over the wall and to the side) and anyone who sees the guy(s) there obviously understands what they are doing. I guess it is possible for people to wave to them and for them to wave back (of course, with their "free" hand).

Travel is so enlightening in soooo many ways.

EDIT: See images from Google search of Belgium street urinals. Makes the shared French facilities seem modest in comparison:

https://www.google.com/search?q=belgium+street+urinals&client=firefox-b-1&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=xi2FQRBBHvdM2M%253A%252CpUhBOYMiw9SlhM%252C_&usg=__GuP_tUdGvby7hSmmFD-4nBqQvFM%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjv2-yzgqHYAhVC7iYKHciOANgQ9QEIMzAF#imgrc=xi2FQRBBHvdM2M:

Posted by
28121 posts

As long as outside relief has been mentioned can I warn natalie rensink to be prepared for the Métro? Several of the stations have a particular "perfume" with occasional "rivers" in the passageways..

Posted by
1129 posts

Probably best to avoid the statues at the Louvre Museum because there seems to be plenty of men just letting things hang out. But on a serious note, it’s interesting how Americans associate going to the restroom as something sexual. Generally Eye contact in the restroom isn’t practiced. I stopped by a Madame Pipi yesterday in Lille. She was the friendliest one I ever encountered. I had my back to her while I used the urinal. I paid my ,50€, took care of business, washed my hands, and left a tip.

Posted by
13700 posts

I am reminded of the unisex showers at a university in Athens back in the 70's. They were individual stalls, mind you, but having a guy in the one next to me was something I hadn't done before.

I'd just turned 18 three days prior to that experience.

Posted by
11450 posts

If you are there long enough you will encounter uni sex sinks , toilets to the side .

If lines are long I go in men's bathrooms , and have taken my children in them . An example was at Versailles where bathroom line for women was long and nothing for men , myself and several other European women shrugged and headed in , I am sure some North Americans were surprised .

I don't care .

Posted by
8889 posts

Nobody has mentioned a German "shelf WC". What you do does not splash directly into water, but lands on a shelf. When you get up and turn around you can see what you have done. When you flush, it flushes it off the shelf into the water.
I haven't seen one for some time, but they used to be common in factory or office "WC".

Posted by
301 posts

The women's line at the Coliseum in Rome was so long about 1/2 of us in the men's line were women. Nobody batted an eye. One guy said he wished his wife would use the men's so he didn't have to wait so long.

Posted by
3347 posts

It's not the using it after. It's the using it simultaneously. I'm not
interested in making eye contact in the mirror with anyone in the
toilet, but especially not a man.

If you're not interested in making eye contact with those of the opposite sex while you wash your hands, you might want to avoid wonderful restaurants and hotel lobbies/bars in NYC, Boston, DC and even Hoboken! The ubiquity of unisex bathrooms might be a rude awakening of how typical that scenario is.

Posted by
6728 posts

Anecdote about the age old problem of long women's room lines. In Nashville when they built the new football stadium, they built with 'potty parity' i.e. extra bathroom facilities for women so women don't have to wait longer than men for facilities. Many new builds in the US are doing this. The first weekend was a 'disaster' as they miscalculated and the men's rooms had long lines and the women's rooms didn't. This was considered a major crisis and they had fixed it by reassigning some restrooms by the next game. Women had been standing in lines forever, but one weekend when men had to do it, and it was a crisis to be addressed immediately.

Posted by
7702 posts

Chris F - ah yes the "shelf" toilets. That's what we had in Hungary, too, when I lived there.

Posted by
2466 posts

Though I haven't seen a "Turkish toilet" in a long while - they have been replaced, mostly, by modern conveniences - it makes sense to have the plumbing all in a line. That's what residential buildings do, at any rate.

You don't have to look, if you don't want to, but most of the public toilettes are used by both men and women, and are similar to those at rock concerts, etc. Hand washing is like visitors using your home, so you might think about that.

There are doors that will close, and some go "all the way down", without a nasty gap.

Posted by
4736 posts

The least private public toilet I have encountered anywhere in the world was in a bus station in California where there was no partitioning at all, just a urinal trough and a row of toilet bowls facing it along the other wall. I was just using the former but I couldn't fail to see an elderly gent looking very embarrassed sitting down on one of the toilets when I walked in.

Posted by
6728 posts

The squat toilets are very common in train stations, particularly rural stations and in the park facilities in some Paris parks both types are available. I remember a toilet building in Butte Chaumont that was unattended and therefore filthy (most parks have attendants and the facilities are in good condition) which had about half a dozen of each type of stall in the ladies area. We almost always have found the squatters at rural train stations if we are lucky enough to find any toilet at all and in older bars here and there. I have rarely encountered them in Paris cafes or restaurants or public toilets with the exception of that old park building. Orly airport has both styles in their restroooms.

Posted by
2466 posts

Perhaps janet is thinking of long ago, when the toilettes have been modernized.
I have never seen a "Turkish toilette" in Orly or in a park, for that matter, that had not been modernized.
They weren't filthy, either.

Posted by
1129 posts

I don't think Janet has exaggerated. I've seen them in small town gares in the last five years or so.

Posted by
21307 posts

This year I encountered squat toilets in public facilities at L'Isle sur la Sorgue (that surprised me, I must say) and in one of the small towns along the coast south of Montpellier (perhaps Collioure?? not sure).

Belatedly I realized that sometimes the women's restroom has a traditional toilet in a different stall, in addition to one or more squat toilets. No way to find out without looking into all of the stalls.

I don't remember encountering a dirty public toilet during my 89 days in France, but I've noticed that small-town bus and train station facilities can be risky in other countries.

Posted by
2466 posts

The "Turkish toilettes" are not common in Paris. Outside of any other cities, you are on your own.

Posted by
6728 posts

We found squat toilets to be the norm in train station in the south of France last year as well as in rural areas elsewhere in the country. We found squat toilets in an unattended and filthy restroom on the edge of Butte Chaumont two years ago; the particular rest room had probably half a dozen of each type. Orly has at least one women's toilet with half a dozen western toilets and half a dozen squatters; given the population they serve, this is wise as the habit of standing on the toilet seat and squatting as is the custom for some cultures used to the Turkish toilets when done with western toilets has grim results. I found mostly Turkish style toilets when I worked in the middle east. Physiologically it is superior for elimination; alas not all western, especially old ones have the balance and flexibility to use them easily.

Posted by
308 posts

I took the RS Paris and the Heart of France tour in 2013. Our bus stopped at a gas station/rest stop and I encountered a Turkish toilet in one stall in the women's restroom. I was completely shocked, but then opened the adjacent stall and found a toilet.

I have encountered a few toilets in Europe that were not what I was used to, but I think my husband has been in more uncomfortable situations than me. On our last trip to Paris, he could not figure out how to flush, and the cleaning woman started yelling at him in French. He could not understand her so he calmly asked her in French if she spoke English. She did not speak English so he casually walked out!

On a few occasions (the last time was in Estonia), I could not decipher the symbols on the doors of the restrooms to determine which one was the women's, so I waited until I saw someone exit before I went in.

Try not to worry about it too much! If it does make you really uncomfortable, you can always go into a McDonald's to use their facilities (after a purchase, of course).

Posted by
2333 posts

I think this was mentioned, but anyway, in Frankfurt, near the Hauptbahnhof, there are outdoor urinals, in which you must conceal the equipment. You pee right there in the open. Of course, I do that at home in the backyard, but no one knows that. ....

Posted by
8507 posts

Back in the day, before the majority of apartments had their own toilets, we shared a toilet with neighbors, often at the end of the hallway if one lived in a maid’s room on the 6th floor, sometimes on the landing of the stairs between floors so two floors could share, several times at friends there was just one outside in the courtyard for the whole building. They were squat toilets, and that’s what we used if we had to go. You knocked to see if it was free and you waited. No time to be a princess or worry about bodily function. But also, no big deal. The last of my friends got plumbing in the 1980s, but certainly some very poor people are still without today.

The ones I disliked were/are in the cafes where the light wouldn’t/ doesn’t come on until the door was/is locked.
Want to use one? Polidor restaurant still had one a couple of years ago. A young man talking on his cell phone held the door for me coming and going last time I was there. Very Polite. A bit chilly at times, as it’s out in the courtyard.

A little bit of yoga practice and you’re good to go. Not handicap accessible by any means, however. And it’s one sink, but after a couple of glasses of wine you’ll get over it.

Posted by
8293 posts

A long time ago, when my daughter was about 20, we took her to Paris with us. She encountered her first squat toilet one day and her shock was a sight to behold. Once she calmed down she went back in with her camera so she could disgust her friends back home with her holiday photos. She did eventually become quite worldly, because travel is broadening, is it not? Or so
I have heard.

Posted by
2349 posts

I learned as a teenager that you can go into the exit of a men's room, use a stall, wash your hands, and get back in less than a drum solo at a rock concert. We've reached better parity now but I wouldn't hesitate.

My daughter and I were in a long line at Orsay, and a few women were going in the men's. I suggested it to her, but my 12 yr old gave me such a look of horror that I gave up the idea.