Monday, August 11, 2008

The dunny continued...

Yesterday, in my post The dunny, I began pointing out the differences between your average Australian public toilet and your average American public restroom. Now my journey into the depths of the cultural differences continues...

The second thing I was struck by when I first came to Australia was just how clean their public toilets are. There aren't scraps of toilet paper lying around on the floors. The floors actually look like they've been cleaned recently. In most female toilet stalls there are neat little bins for your sanitary items (in some cases they are automated and don't even require you to touch them--just wave your hand over the top and they open as if by magic).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all public restrooms in the USA are dirty, scary places, I'm just saying that on the whole, Australians maintain a higher standard. This is particularly true when it comes to places like petrol stations or parks. In the USA, I'd really need to use the toilet in an urgent manner if I were to set foot in the bathroom of a gas station or in a public park. In my experience, these are some of the worst restrooms you come across. They often lack in cleanliness and there may or may not be the necessary items present--ie toilet paper or hand soap. I'd classify these as 'go at your own risk' sort of places.

When I first found myself needing to use a public toilet in a park here in Australia, I shuddered to think what I'd find inside the toilet blocks. When I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very clean restroom with all the required items. The taps were all functioning and there wasn't rubbish strewn around inside. It was a positive experience.

Now, I have thought considerably about why public restrooms in Australia are cleaner than those in the USA and I have a few theories. The first comes down to population density and traffic. I think that most public toilets in Australia probably get a lot less traffic than their US counterparts. This is because there is hardly anyone here in Australia. With a population of approximately 20 million, you often struggle to find a crowd of people anywhere!

Having said that, I do think that perhaps the expectations of a clean public restroom here are slightly higher and hence the standard is higher. It's all about what you are used to I suppose. As I said, my experiences in certain public toilets in the USA led me to expect all such places to be of questionable cleanliness. Even now after living in Australia, I find it hard to shake these expectations. If I had grown up here in Australia though, I think I would simply expect these public toilets to be as clean as any others.

So this has made me wonder what Australians must think of American public toilets. Anyone care to share their experiences? I'll poll the Handsome Australian and see what he thinks. In the meantime, feel free to comment!

1 comment:

kristin said...

I thought of this entry when I was driving through three states today... and made several stops at an establishment that I'm ashamed to say I stopped at - but only to use the bathroom. I can report that at at least three McDonald's bathrooms in California and Oregon, there was not gaping space on the sides - proper doors that closed all the way. There was still space above and below, but the stalls were individual rooms and were walled off from each other. A nicer alternative than the typical gas station pit stop. In case you wanted to know! :)