Sunday, August 10, 2008

The dunny

As luck would have it, the Handsome Australian and I were able to get away for an evening recently to enjoy a night out on the town sans the children. We had a cosy dinner at a historic hotel and then met some friends for drinks at a funky little bar in the city. You know what I was thinking about the whole evening? The toilet...well, not the whole evening, but it did cross my mind a few times.

As I made a quick visit to the Ladies' Room at the restaurant where we were dining, I thought for a moment about how different Australian bathrooms are to the ones you'd find in the USA. I mean, they aren't dramatically different--all the basic fixtures are the same, but the feel and finish of these rooms is different.

For starters, take the doors of the bathroom stalls in a public restroom (or public toilet as the Aussies would say), in the USA these doors are often three quarters of the way to the floor with large gaps on the sides where the hinges are. When you are in one of these stalls going about your business, you can often see out and see people that are passing by. Not a great deal of privacy when you come to think about it. I do remember when I first arrived in Australia, I was struck by the solidity of the doors on the stalls in the public restrooms--they went all the way to the floor and there were no gaps on the sides where the hinges are.

Before coming to Australia, I never considered the short doors or large side gaps in the American toilet blocks--I was simply used to them. Now that I've lived in Australia for so long, it strikes me as strange that American toilet stalls have to have such dodgy doors on them. I mean, seriously, what does it say about us if we can't hang a door properly? The true irony of the situation is Americans are generally more socially conservative than Australians, yet they are happy to use toilets where any Tom, Dick or Harry walking past can take a peep inside their stall and see what they are up to.

And what about those tiny toddlers that are on the loose in the bathrooms sometimes peeking underneath your stall door? In Australia, those kids have to amuse themselves with the hand dryers or the taps while their Mums go about their business because the full length doors on the stalls don't allow for peeping by little people. Score another point in the Australian column!

The doors aren't the only difference between Australian toilets and American restrooms...

Check back tomorrow for more philosophical observations on the good old Aussie dunny!

Learn the Lingo
dunny = toilet
toilet = the room where the toilet is (may or may not be the bathroom--toilets are often in a separate room from the bath, shower, sink, etc)
public toilet = public restroom
taps = faucets
Mums = Moms


Dana said...

Just wondering when you were going to comment on the toilets in Australia. I too found a great difference. They are very private there as you say.

bw said...

Doesn’t this create a barrier for social interaction? How, for example, would a politician in Australia discreetly locate a sexual liaison?

Annelise said...

bw makes a fine point.