Friday, May 1

The Dutch Way: een

*original writing date: 9 March 2006*

We have passed our six month mark here in the Netherlands and it would be fair to say we have learned a great deal in the past six months. Collectively and individually we have discovered many things about ourselves and about the world at large. Chief among these discoveries is the realization that there is a ‘way’ to do things in life and then there is the “Dutch way”.

Take for instance: toilets. Not everyone’s favorite subject I know. But it must here be discussed that Dutch toilets are a wonder to behold. In a country where there is no water shortage and indeed no threat of drought, these are the most extreme water saving apparatus on the planet. Indeed, these are low flow toilets taken to the lowest extreme. Most toilets here consist of a tank and seat as you would expect, but the bowl itself is built with a "shelf" above the water, where all leavings must first fall.

I know, ooo-ick, but bear with me please.

I borrow here heavily from “The Undutchables” by Colin White and Laurie Boucke (a must-read for any ex-pat or long term visitor to Holland) to explain the Dutch way of bathrooms and other unmentionable acts within.

“Nowhere is the sense of claustrophobia more pronounced than in the water-closet. The Dutch have taken the term literally, and made that most private of rooms the size of a cupboard.… By far the most distressing feature of the Dutch WC is the toilet itself. The bowl is uniquely shaped to include a plateau well above the normal water level. Its purpose becomes obvious the first time you see (or use) one.
Why the worldly, cultured Dutch have this sadistic desire to study the
recent content of their stomach remains a mystery…”

I know what you’re thinking… you are saying, "that’s just exaggeration for purposes of satire", but I am telling you this is true! And add to this the strange ways of flushing said contents into the nether regions. With the conservative water supply (again-in Holland? Why?) there is rarely enough pressure generated to sweep the bowl clean if you get my meaning. Inevitably, among the other decorations in a WC the one of utmost importance is the toilet brush. Which oddly enough, is an item "ever present, never discussed, yet always wet."


  1. When I visited the Netherlands I was very taken aback by the size of the 'water closets' in peoples homes.

    We're talkin' tiny here.

    Equally tiny are their rolls of toliet paper!

  2. I jumped the first time I flushed a dutch The whle thing was odd. I am used to them now though..although I still hate the whole shelf thing. My husband actually told me the proper way to do it here: lay strips of toilet paper down,do your business and then It creeps me out..Im all about the prison flush technique..LOL

  3. "room the size of a cupboard" - now THAT is just brilliant!

    So glad you were willing to forge ahead and share this important observation. Makes me wonder if I should share the first time I use a public bathroom that was just a hole in the ground (Italy, 1987). THAT was fun!

  4. I have that book too!!

    and I hate Dutch toilets...which also exist at my German relatives. Eeeeek.

  5. *groan* :P I am Dutch and have lived in Germany, France and Austria. This is more a European than a Dutch thing. I wasn't even aware of it until I started meeting more and more US expats who were complaining about it. Look at it this way: do you prefer a brief glimpse of your own waste or toilet water splashing up?

    What is next? Lack of ice cubes? Stores closed on Sundays? People don't shower twice a day? :)

  6. I've yet to experience the shelf, but our one bathroom in the house is incredibly tiny. I laugh at our tiny sink, which is more like a dentist's spit sink than a regular sink. But with all things, you do get used to it after a while.

    And it's better than those hole-in-the-floor toilets in Italy, of which I am also familiar. (Milan, 1999)