In Japan and Korea, women tend to be very embarrassed by ‘bathroom noises’. It became popular to cover these up by flushing the loo constantly while on it – a major waste of water. Hence the invention of all sorts of devices, including state of the art toilet control panels, with sound effects at your command.
While a number of Korean toilets are still ‘squat toilets’ (essentially a hole in the ground and considered by many to be more hygienic than the Western sit-down toilet) more modern Korean WCs are now equipped with an array of buttons beside them. Some will have pictures on them, which may give you an idea of their function. But beware! Before you know it your bottom may be attacked by a fierce jet of water! A button with a pair of buttocks on it usually causes a spout to appear under your bottom and give you a quick rinse. A more comfortable ‘washlet’ experience may be had by manipulating the temperature control buttons, which determine the warmth of the water jet. Nevertheless it is wise to look for the ‘stop’ button first…
Aalternatives to these expensive contraptions are the portable noise generator: an item that fits into your handbag, or an over-the-counter pill, supposed to prevent unpleasant odours when you go to the bathroom. The Japanese are said to spend about €75m a year on such pills.
To check if a toilet is occupied, the proper way is to knock on the door; if it is occupied, the person inside will knock back. Genius!