Friday, June 5, 2015

My Experience with European Bathroom Functionality


I recently took a trip to London on "holiday" as they would say. There are lots of things that differentiate the British culture from the American culture, and one of those is the bathroom experience. I didn't actually anticipate there being much of a difference, but I was wrong. While I wouldn't say my restroom experience was worse in the UK, I would definitely say it wasn't better. Let's take a look at a few of the differences.

The Shower

I only used one full bathroom while I was in the United Kingdom, so I can only speak so much for the European showers. There were some things I liked better about the shower, but there were also some things that I just couldn't quite understand. We'll start off with what they did well: the handles. The shower consisted of two cylinder shaped handles (similar to the picture below) that operated the temperature and water flow accordingly. I particularly enjoyed the efficiency these handles brought to the table due to the fact that the off position was in the center of the rotation. Rotate left to turn on the shower, rotate right to turn on the tub spout. The other handle did the same thing respectively with water temperature.

The biggest thing I didn't like about the shower was its design. I'm not one to usually complain about design issues, but this was bad. It was a very nice looking bathroom, shower included, but a flaw that stood out in my mind was the half glass panel that covered the front half of the shower. I don't know where the Brits got this idea from, but it is extremely inconvenient. If you stood in the back half of the shower, you got water all over the bathroom floor. Alternatively, you could keep the floor dry by severely limiting your space in the shower. This made for a very uncomfortable shower experience. Another design preference I hold is that the step into and out of the shower should not be too deep. This barrier that led into the shower was extremely steep in terms of stepping in and out of the shower. Overall, I like the handles, but that was about the only thing I enjoyed from the shower.


Another big aspect of the bathroom experience is toilets. No big complaints with British toilets, however most of the toilets did not quite fit my preference. I felt like the commodes are a bit smaller than in the states, which I wasn't a huge fan of. I also noticed a lot of low consumption as opposed to waterless urinals, which is a surprising alternative considering how big they seem to push water conservation. One of the biggest differences between US and UK toilets is how they are flushed. Nine out of ten times in the US you will see some kind of flush arm or some kind of automatic flush mechanism with a manual push button if necessary. In England, I don't recall seeing a single flush arm. There were lots of push button flushing mechanisms, but these were not accompanied by any kind of automatic flushing. In addition to lots of push buttons, there were also lots of pump action handles that were used as a flushing mechanism. The worst part about these is that they have to build up pressure to flush, which can cause a problem if your #2 is big enough.


While I didn't notice anything regularly different with faucets, there were a couple of instances where I couldn't figure out how to wash my hands. In general, the faucet spread is about the same as here: some automatic faucets, some handle based faucets. Everything was fully functional and straightforward for the most part, but there were two occasions where I ran into the same faucet model that made me wonder who in the world would buy such a piece of junk. This particular model had two push button handles, one hot and one cold. The problem I ran into is that these aren't standard metering handles that push down and run for a few seconds before stopping water flow. These were special handles. To achieve a constant water flow from the faucet, one of the handles had to be manually pushed down. This forced users to awkwardly wash one hand at a time, making for an extremely lackluster bathroom experience both times I had to do this.

Cleanliness and Availability

Two smaller attributes that were a bit different than in the states were cleanliness and availability. The hotel bathroom was both clean and available, just as a hotel bathroom should be. However, these two aspects differ in Britain when it comes to public bathrooms. In America, the government has no problem setting up free public bathrooms in various areas for its citizens. However, in Britain, the bathroom is almost like another tax. Train stations, metro systems, and other public places all had a required fee to use the bathroom. It wasn't a large fee by any means, but the principle is still wrong. In addition to that, some private businesses in America will even be kind enough to open their bathroom to non-paying citizens every once in a while. In Britain, some public shops didn't even have a bathroom that the public could use. If you were fortunate enough to run into one that did have a bathroom available, you better believe you had to be a paying customer to use it. Along with having a limited selection of public bathrooms, they were usually much more disgusting and nasty than American public restrooms.

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