As you know, I went to visit my best friend in Texas a few weeks ago. I was very happy to finally have the chance to catch up with her and spend our afternoons chatting. One of those afternoons we came to the realization that we never experienced the famous “culture shock”. In our case, it was just non-existent. We wondered why the personal disorientation never happened. Anyway, to identify those cultural differences we began listing what caught our attention the most when we first came to the US and we agreed that the first had to do with a bathroom experience.
I ‘d already been aware of a few cultural differences by the time I came to the US for the first time but nobody had given me a toilet orientation guide for Latinos. After landing, what I wanted to do first was freshen up a little, so I went straight to the bathroom. I was getting all of my toiletries ready for a nice shower when I realized something was missing in the bathroom…
“Where is the trash can?”
“What do you mean the trash can? (bewildered)
“The trash can, you know, where you throw the toilet paper”.
“Ohhh, right, you don’t flush it in Perú! Hahaha”
In South American countries, due to poor sewage systems, toilet paper is dropped in a trash can by the sink, but apparently in developed countries people flush it!
My British boyfriend had a similar experience when he first went to Mexico with his best friend. He opened the bathroom door and saw a sign that said, “Do not flush the toilet paper.”
“Did you see the sign”
“Yeah, they throw shit paper in the trash!”
“I almost threw up when I opened the lid”.
It turns out it’s shocking for people who live in developed countries to find out flushing toilet paper isn’t standard in developing countries. They are repulsed and shocked by the idea of having to see dirty paper in the trash. No wonder why there are tourists who refuse to follow this practice and end up clogging the toilet in hostels.
So, if you are an American, Western European or Australian tourist in South America, please read this toilet orientation list:
How did you feel the first time you went to a country where the toilet paper is flushed?