no, I am not talking about bidets!
February 23, 2009 3:48 AM   Subscribe

Why do public bathrooms in France commonly not have toilet seats on their toilets?
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel to Society & Culture (7 answers total)
Some do and some don't in my experience - not just in France, but in a lot of countries.

I suspect the rationale is that it's more hygienic (no hinge and associated nooks and crannies). And depending on where the toilet it is, it may also be an anti-vandalism measure.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:54 AM on February 23, 2009

Do you mean Sanisettes? That's to make them easier to self-clean, I believe. They're not just in Paris but also in San Francisco.
posted by vacapinta at 4:06 AM on February 23, 2009

Nope, not just Sanisettes. I mean in restaurants, museums, designated city public restrooms, and bars and stuff. I noticed the same thing in Italy (the Vatican public seats!) but not in Switzerland (toilet paradise in comparison to France/Italy).
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 6:07 AM on February 23, 2009

France has a comparatively high number of public toilets with attendants compared to most places I have visited. For example you will often find them in larger restaurants. Where there is an attendant you will normally be expected to pay them. I think people regard this as reasonably trade off in society: you get a reasonably well looked after toilet for a few cents and somebody who might otherwise be unemployed gets a job.

At any rate I think the attitude effects the approach to free toilets: with no paid attendant standards are expected to be very basic.

France still has a number of squat toilets in out of the way places - so I am guessing it has a number of people who would prefer to go that way. To these people a seat would be a hinderance.
posted by rongorongo at 7:00 AM on February 23, 2009

This is so weird! I always wanted to ask this, because at the university I got my master's at in London, there were no seats on the toilets in the ladies' room! I was so puzzled by it! But I don't remember it always being the case everywhere.
posted by anniecat at 7:31 AM on February 23, 2009

In Peru and Bolivia many toilets lack the seat part. Many of the ones that do have seats have flimsy plastic seats that would not stand up to long term use. In these countries I think the seats break and then they don't get replaced. After spending time in these sorts of bathrooms I'd say the only advantage of a seat is that you don't have to sit on the cold porcelain.

I feel the thinking goes like this:
"the purpose of toilet seats is to provide a clean place to sit and allow you move that clean seat out of the way when peeing. Women don't need seats, they aren't usually standing and peeing, they all usually sit. Men don't need seats, they never lift them so they get what they deserve."

It seems like when you have a public single-sex bathroom, seats don't really help with perceived hygiene. Men disregard seats and make a mess anyway so why waste the money replacing them. If the area where a women's sits on the toilet gets filthy then it would have gotten filthy if there was a seat or if the women had sat on the porcelain rim of the bowl.
posted by bdc34 at 10:04 AM on February 23, 2009

I think it just has to do with the relative standard of living. France used to have squat toilets (which are still found in some restaurants), and then they went to seatless toilets. Now, most newly furnished apartments or restaurants have seated toilets. But no one is in a rush to replace all the old ones - many of which I'm guessing have been around for 30+ years - because it's expensive.

I think that in general, French people have less money (and can buy less with their money) than American or Swiss people. So they have to make some compromises (seatless toilets being cheaper and easier to clean). I'm guessing you'd find nicer public facilities in Luxembourg and Monaco too.
posted by helios at 10:23 AM on February 23, 2009

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