Monday, 12 April 2010

The Dutch toilet dilemma: is the sight worth the sniff?

We were at Center Parks in the Netherlands with friends over the weekend. It was glorious, it was fantastic, it was beautiful - I'm completely won over to the idea of holidays with friends-with-kids now. (Hi, K.C., let's do that again sometime.) However, that's not what I was going to write about today, so let's quickly get to the bottom of the matter at hand.

The Dutch have very special toilets: Dutch toilets have a shelf. A shit-shelf. For those not intimately acquainted with this phenomenon, an illustration:

(Actual holiday cottage's privy.)

The beauty and genius of this invention cannot be overstated. After pressing a particularly good turd, one is left with ample opportunity to examine one's product in glorious technicolour detail. Even when (or especially when) said product could be labelled inferior, this process can be most enlightening.

You have to hand it to the Dutch. For a nation which can get it so wrong in so many respects (their food, their beer, their popular music - I could go on), they get it so right in this one. This national obsession with feces somehow endears them to me.

I've always said that if we ever build our own house, I want my own Dutch toilet. I am sufficiently anally focused to have an endless interest in my every daily excretion, so I truly believed such a toilet would enhance my life considerably.

Now... I'm not so sure. The glorious technicolour detail is without a doubt impressive, exhilarating and most informative. Which sentient being in their right mind would not, post-poop, get up to admire one's own doodie if offered it literally on a platter? The pleasure is pure and sweet. The smell, however... not so much. I now see the value of instantly immersing one's kaka in water, sealing all odours subaquatically and leaving the pooper fragrantly free to finish reading one's magazine article in pongless peace.

Of course, a compromise might be attempted. An alternative shelved toilet could be constructed, with more of a bowl where the shelf is now. The bowl should be filled with enough water to completely immerse one's stool, while still leaving it fully free for visual inspection. This may be hard to engineer, a watery bowl being by its very nature a very slippery proposition. The jobbie may just slide straight out of such a bowl and down the drain if too forcefully excreted. Perhaps a system of valves would be needed. I digress - this is a problem best left to the better water closet engineer. I am most probably also missing the point entirely: it may very well be that the olfactory component is a crucial element in the Dutch fecal inspection process. A good sniff probably tells you at least as much as an analysis of colour, texture or girth.

Now that I'm back at home and reunited with my boring old Belgian commode, I'm not sure what to think any more. While my daily evacuation was surely less offensive to the world at large, I very much missed the subsequent analysis I had got used to. I am left wondering about the quality of my crap, while yesterday I had certainty. I miss ogling my waste, but I don't miss smelling it.


  1. This post is simply stupendous. I am in awe of you, Ms. Mwa.

  2. I had those toilets in my house until a year ago! I hated them. Son loved them of course as he could take a good old look at his poo and tell us all about it. I heard that were a German design though. Were you at Center Parks near Valkensward (just 20 mins drive from me).

  3. @May - You make me blush. High praise, coming from you.

    @Very Bored in Catalunya - Thank you. I think. :-)

    @Victoria - We were at Port Zelande, so not quite that close! Do you not miss those toilets a bit?

  4. I think I would have to try one before I could say whether I like it.

  5. Ha. I have seen those. Impressive indeed. Wonder why they are designed like that. There must be some other reason. Water economy? Easier to clean? (seems like you would have to clean off the 'shelf' a lot more.) Who knows? Anyway, go ahead and design it and I'll file the patent for you!

    1. It was designed to inspect ones excrements to ensure they were healthy and reduce the death by bowel cancer, an exercise that proved super efficient with death tolls reducing considerably, so well done the Dutch!

  6. I...Mwa... uh... I don't know what to say.

    It's funny, it's usually men who wax poetic about their doings, not women. Don't you find?

  7. I thought those were German toilets! Certainly it is while living in Germany that I first encountered them - a traumatic experience which has kept me assuming a position perched *to the front of* the potty to this day...

  8. Does it not leave skidmarks? The thought of having to clean the toilet after every poo (and smelling it too) does not 'do' it for me.

  9. They are oddly always spotlessly clean though too!

    Plus, no back splash!

  10. The Americans have the very toilet bowl describe. The perfect half-way house between British discretion, and Dutch exhibitionism.

    I've always thought it makes potty training easier for the child, if they can actually see what they've produced.

  11. American toilets often block, though, so there may be a price to pay for your perfect toilet design.

  12. No thank-you. I, like Tom Robbins, like to imagine that my insides are filled with nothing but white light and I do everything I can to ensure that fantasy remains undisturbed.

  13. Holy crap (hahahaha) That was, surreal- I do not think I would like this comode- but just to be safe do not show this to my husband- he is strange enough to think it's cool- I think I said too much.

  14. Can't say I share that fascination, Mwa. I see more of that on a daily basis than I care to. But thanks for the laugh!

  15. Here, people are trying to find older toilets, even buying them used, so you can get one that is not made as a "low flush" toilet, because we all hate having a two flush crapper. We want it good and gone right away.

  16. I am in awe! That you could make an entire post about crap..and have it not BE crap. I bow down to you!

  17. @Steph - It has to be experienced, you are right.

    @Megan - I am completely convinced it's for inspection purposes only. Nothing to do with water economy.

    @Jo - I don't know. I do think I learned this from my father, but for all I know he got it from his mother.

    @Sophie - REALLY? You would rather not see? Freak!

    @Countess - Well, normal toilets get about the same number and size of skidmarks, I reckon. The little bit of water in the pan seems to be remarkably effective.

    @Xbox - You have a point. I hadn't considered the backsplash factor. I may be won over completely anyway.
    (About the spotlessly clean bit - it must be the kabouters who come and do that. Alternatively, say "thank you, ET.")

    @Iota - Hurray!!! Now I must have an American toilet. Thank you for alerting me to its existence. The blockage would be an issue.

    @Ms. Moon - See, that seems strange to me. I find poo endlessly fascinating. But each to their own, eh? I'm sure you have your own weird fascinations.

    @mountainmomma - Yes, you don't want him breaking open the bathroom.

    @Angie - I don't find the children's productions as interesting either, I must admit.

    @GingerB - I have a friend who used to produce such magnificent specimens on a daily basis that not even an old and abundantly flushing toilet could get rid of his ones in one go. The cleaners (this was at university) sometimes had to break them up.

  18. @Mad Woman - Thank you very much! :-)

  19. At home, I might like that. Or not mind it, at least. In a public restroom, I would no doubt be scared shitless (pun intended) to go to the bathroom, as the poo shelf would no doubt become a vomit shelf fairly quickly. I have sensitive olfactory glands and I'm quick to gag, so the possibility of being subjected to a full show of other people's poo sounds less-than appealing.

  20. When I first visited the NL, I HATED those toilets. I really hoped that the house we decided to buy didn't have a Dutch bog. Thankfully we had two toilets (one is of the Dutch variety). For months I wouldn't use that toilet but I changed my mind. If it needed replaced, I would buy another!

    PS: Countess, we've never had any skidmark incidents with the Dutch bog.....


  21. Does one ever leave so much of pile that it actually comes back up to tickle your bum?

    I feel so much smarter today knowing what I now know! Thank you. I loved this.

  22. Gosh that's taken me back to my year living in the Netherlands - yup the Dutch are poo obsessed (and yes, their food is terrible)

  23. Wow, imagine a life with no splash back!

  24. I think we can consider ourselves lucky you haven't posted a picture of your toilet after you had done your dirty little business...

  25. That is the freakyist thing I've seen in a long while. A shit shelf? *shakes head in bewilderment*

    I don't think I'd like that one bit. Good to know, i shall avoid the Netherlands like the plague.

  26. I, too, was fascinated by this very subject when I visited the Netherlands. I also refer to it as a "shit shelf". I prefer to aim forward and hide it in the deep anterior portion of the bowl. Great topic! Glad I'm not the only one who noticed!

  27. As someone that has gone to NL and been with the natives I have the answer to any skidmark problems. They place toilet paper on the shelf and *then* flush their poop.

  28. Brilliant post, my father used to work in Rotterdam and I remember he had a 'shit shelf' toilet in the flat he rented, but also next to the toilet on the wall there was a framed picture of lots of different poops... presumably detailing how healthy you're craps are. Got to love the dutch!!

  29. Hey, at least it doesn't make a big splash when going #2! Which I'm sure is the REAL reason for this :P

  30. Perhaps my potty is too sticky. I am leaving skid marks all over Amsterdam! And cleaning after every poo is such a bitch.

  31. I first spotted a shelf toilet in Czechoslovakia 50 years ago. Almost every hotel had them. Obviously they were for health reasons. I immediately thought they were an amazingly good idea. We in the west are often so backward and squeamish about such things. In the past fifty years, I've yet to ever come across one in the UK or the US.
    Those primitive holes in the ground, surrounded by caked on faeces and stale urine, as found in India, China and the far east, with a plastic laundry basket besides you, full of used toilet they are certainly are repulsive.

  32. I think the best thing about them are, no poopsplash, though it may be prevented, to know how, click my name, it'll send you to a video, I just came across, which may help you, or weird you out :D

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  45. It's not for inspection purposes, it's so the dirty shitwater doesn't splash back and stains your whole ass when the last part of the turd takes a dive.

  46. My friend and I called it the "poop deck" when we were there visiting many years ago


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