Airport Bathrooms: A Hidden Culture

Schiphol Airport Bathrooms

I’ve made many stopovers in countries where I’ve seen little more than the airport bathrooms. Even still, I figured I could learn something about the culture inside the terminal. In fact, I learned plenty about the universe from the floor toilets in Hong Kong. So on a trip, where I had two stopovers between Bali and New York there was just enough time to conduct cultural research… in the airport bathrooms.


Airport Bathrooms in Singapore


Singapore’s airport bathrooms reminded me of Michael Fay, the American teen who had gained notoriety for doing graffiti and stealing road signs in Singapore. And then getting caned. In other words, this is a country that cares about its appearance, even its shittiest places.


The airport bathrooms reflected Singapore’s appreciation for appearance. Urinators had the opportunity to aim at a housefly painted onto the urinal. While that has become a common bathroom experience at even the crummiest hole-in-the-wall American bar, Singapore airport’s urinals also had miniature forests lining the mantelpiece. On a layover in Singapore years earlier, when I spent a little bit more time in the bathroom, I remembered that the stall doors were each a primary color. Hanging inside the stalls were various facts about the flora and fauna native to the country. On this past trip, just before my exit, there was a touch screen that was sterilized hourly. It allowed bathroom users to rate the setting for their bowel movement. Excellent job Singapore airport bathrooms.


Qatar’s Airport Bathrooms


In Qatar, once I stepped from the plane, I went straight for the restroom to freshen up. It was not as clean as the one in Singapore. Absent, too, were the colors and vegetation. But Qatar’s airport bathroom experience was still interesting. Three men stood at different sinks, each balancing on one leg. Their other leg rested atop the basin where they washed their feet. I waited to see if anyone would pull a hamstring as the sinks were quite high up. (I doubted that anyone had properly stretched beforehand.) As there was no screen to rate my bathroom experience, I could not suggest separate, lower basins for foot-washers. The long line to wash one’s feet also prevented me from freshening up.


Photo by Duncan

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Travel Tips

6 Responses to Airport Bathrooms: A Hidden Culture

  1. Juliann

    Fascniating research! As a woman, I’m a little jealous that we don’t have targets to aim for in our bathrooms. I think we’re just happy to have
    a)a clean, DRY seat
    b)toilet paper
    c)a door that locks
    and d)a toilet that flushes.

    Everything else is gravy.
    Juliann recently posted…The Ohio Reformatory Meets HollywoodMy Profile

    • Noah Lederman

      Hi Juliann. I pride myself in my bathroom research. I think we can all relate to that list, though I believe you’re forgetting one: an automatic toilet that is not on the fritz and does not flush prematurely, spraying upward like a geyser.

  2. Shalu Sharma

    If you didn’t like the ones you mention in the post then you must try the airport toilets in India. Interesting post. If you are a woman you might wish to urinary devices to prevent using some of the toilets.
    Shalu Sharma recently posted…The calm blue vastness of Tarkarli BeachMy Profile

    • Noah Lederman

      I still need to get over to India. Thanks Shalu for providing the great tip for my lady friends here at Somewhere Or Bust.

  3. Arianwen

    Haha. Thanks for the insight! Bathroom cultures around the world are pretty fascinating!
    Arianwen recently posted…Diving with sharks in AucklandMy Profile

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