Locating a public toilet in China is no longer difficult

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/13 18:43:41

Due to language and cultural barriers, many foreigners feel frustrated when searching for a public toilet in China. Some of my foreign friends have complained about their embarrassing experiences.

American Jasmine, for example, told me that when she was traveling in third- and fourth-tier Chinese cities, where few locals can speak English, she rarely found anyone who could guide her to a nearby toilet. In many cases she had to use body language to let them understand her urgent needs. Other times she tried her luck at a mall or a hotel.

Thanks to a new toilet navigation system jointly launched by China's National Tourism Administration and online mapping service provider amap.com in January, such problems have been solved. Even if a foreigner cannot speak Chinese or read Chinese signs, they now can easily find a public toilet with an app on their smartphone.

So how can you use this new navigation system? After downloading the Amap app on your smartphone, you just type "toilet" in Chinese into the search bar; the app will show you all nearby public toilets and how far they are from your current location. The system will show you the route and guide you there.

The navigation function in the app received 15 million visits from mobile users within the first month of its launch, People's Daily Online reported in February. The navigation system is part of the new "toilet revolution" launched by the Chinese government in 2015, which aims to make the country's public toilets cleaner and more regulated.

Apart from the new navigation system, Chinese authorities also have made other efforts to improve public toilets across the country. For instance, the authority plans to build or renovate 24,000 public restrooms at tourist spots across the country in 2018, and build or renovate 64,000 other restrooms in tourist attractions between 2018 and 2020, People's Daily reported.

Personally, I am glad to see that the Chinese government and our society are so determined to improve the situation, as public toilets in my home country have long been criticized by foreigners and locals alike. One drawback is their poor sanitary conditions, especially in smaller cities and at busy tourist attractions.

When I travel to rural areas in China, I often find that most public toilets are quite filthy. Even in developed cities like Shanghai, sometimes public toilet hygiene is horrible. For instance, I tried to use a public toilet at a gas station in Putuo district last week. But when I opened the door, the awful smell and the disgusting unflushed bowl drove me away.

Though I really needed to use a toilet at that time, I had to hold it until I found a shopping mall. To solve such poor sanitation, strict regulations and regular cleaning must be implemented. Most importantly, public toilets in China are not humanized enough. For example, few provide free tissue to users, not even at schools or hospitals.

I always have to remind myself to keep a packet of tissues in my purse in case I need to use a public restroom. In contrast, when I studied in the UK and traveled to some European countries, I found free toilet paper available at most public toilets.

The special needs of different groups of users are also not well considered by Chinese toilets. Specifically, most public restrooms here don't have a booth for the disabled. Booths for mothers and low toilets for children are also rare in public restrooms.

I am satisfied to see my country improving its public restroom system, and I believe the experience of finding and using public toilets in China will become friendlier and cleaner in the near future. But in terms of more humanized aspects, there is still room for improvement, and we can learn a lot from the public toilet systems of developed countries.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT



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