• Germany's news in English

World Toilet Day and the perilous poo platform

The Local · 19 Nov 2008, 15:27

Published: 19 Nov 2008 15:27 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The German platform toilet might seem like too obvious a target for a column like this. The odious device is to expat conversation what airplane food is to comedy routines – a well-worn subject usually only revisited by the desperate.

But it’s World Toilet Day. Really.

Several years ago, a collection of 17 global toilet associations declared November 19 World Toilet Day – trust me, I’m not clever enough to make this up. Which makes one wonder how to celebrate this grand porcelain holiday. Do the same thing we do every day, I suppose.

Or, discuss the German platform toilet.

To most newcomers to this fine country, the contraption is an enigma. Who would want a shelf, just inches from your backside, that collects your business while allowing you to revel in your own stench? Not even a mercy flush is much help with this thing. And, to make matters worse, it's almost impossible to get rid of what you want to get rid of without the manual assistance of a toilet brush.

Germans, perhaps tired of having to defend this terrible device to perplexed outsiders, usually just shrug if you bring it up.

It wasn’t until I’d lived here for several years that I finally found one who I believed would give me a straight answer. In a newsroom of mixed nationalities, we were blessed with a German colleague of questionably fervent patriotism (let’s not use the adjective “brown” in this context, okay?) with an amazing knowledge and love of Teutonic culture. I would never have managed to squeeze out a question about the platform on my own but emboldened by my other English-tongued colleagues, I let it fly.

“It’s so you can inspect your poo. You can tell if you’re eating right,” he told us in all seriousness. Rolf (name changed) was über-German – I've only ever met Dutch or Swiss who can speak with less irony. Actually, I’m being too kind. What he really said was: “It’s so you can inspect your Wurst.”

Wurst. Sausage.

You can’t fight it. As a foreigner in Germany, you just have to live with the platform toilet. I'm fine dealing with this country's often treacherous bureaucracy, Bayern Munich dominating the Bundesliga and the omnipresent pop-culture clown Dieter Bohlen. But I’m never inspecting any of my sausages.

Still, I’m a little surprised 21st-century Germans still rely on this apparatus to dowse their health.

I'm actually convinced the thing has become yet another tool in the quest to emasculate German men. I’m talking about those ridiculous signs demanding men sit while peeing. I dogmatically ignore them even though I understand why German women think it’s imperative – launching a stream onto the perilous platform from a metre away causes the kind of backsplash reminiscent of really good, um, log rides at an amusement park.

This all could be avoided with a proper toilet with some water down at the bottom. Why aren't German men fighting against platform toilets so we can be rid of peeing stickmen with red Verboten lines crossing them out?

We renovated our apartment several years ago and at the time I found myself standing in our small, unfinished guest bath with three large construction workers. When the plumber suggested he install a run-of-the-mill toilet, I replied: “Not if it has a platform.” At that point, the three burly men looked at me as if I had no idea how to truly void my bowels.

Story continues below…

I refused to budge and the plumber’s wife, who runs an upscale bathroom shop, called that evening. “But Mr. Portnoy, you have small children. It will be really useful.” Tired of talking crap, I told her I wasn’t planning on looking at any pint-sized sausages either. I gave her a model number for what I considered to be a normal Klo and my bank details.

At home, at least, I am now platform-free.

The good people at the World Toilet Organization (again, I’m not making this up) seem to understand my suffering. Just take a look Toilet Day's theme this year: "We Deserve Better."

Perhaps I should donate to their cause.

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd