In this article we will explain something that you've always asked yourself but never had the guts to ask a Brazilian: how to use Brazil's bathrooms?
That Brazil can be very different from the rest of the world in some aspects, there are no doubts about. The country's culture and the habits of the population are sometimes pretty unique compared to others, and the culture shock is inevitable.
From Brazilians' behavior to Brazilian dinner habits, many things appear as a surprise to the ones who are stepping in the country for the first time. And of all the things that can cause strangeness to foreigners, however, one which is very common is something that, for us, shouldn't be anything to be surprised about: toilets.
Where Do I Put my Toilet Paper?
When travelling around the world, you will find out that the European way of throwing away the toilet paper in the toilet is not the most usual thing to do. Or that the Turkish-style squat toilet where you have a hole in the ground isn't exactly what we have in Brazil. Actually, Brazilian bathrooms have something else besides the sink and the toilet: a trash bin. And, yes, that's where you put the paper after you used it.
Some people complain about it and say that, besides being weird, this practice is also unhygienic, because people's dirty papers stay there together for a long time instead of being flushed. But it is not that bad. Actually, it is very normal. Simply because we usually don't just throw the paper in the bin; we put a plastic bag inside this bin, and when it gets full – which is the equivalent to say 'constantly' –, it is changed for a new, empty and clear one.
Brazilians don't usually throw away their toilet papers in the own toilet not only because of the trash bins, but also because we are taught that toilets can clog with paper. Also, the sewage system can't cope with the amount of toilet paper that would go straight to the water if it wasn't for the trash bins inside the bathrooms.
These Brazilian toilets are spread through most part of the country, but there are still a lot of places in Brazil that don't have a proper sewage system or decent bathrooms. According to the 2010 Census made by the IBGE, only 55,5% of the Brazilian houses have access to a sewage system and almost 6 million Brazilian don't have bathrooms in their houses.
Latrinas, or pit toilets, consist only of a hole in the ground, usually surrounded by a wood structure. Even though most places in Brazil have toilets, it is still possible to find latrinas in countryside cities or in more remote places of Brazil.
Bidets are very common in Brazilian hotels and in old houses and apartments. They are usually placed next to the toilets, but there are some types of them that go inside the own toilet. They serve for cleaning, but aren't substitutes for toilet papers. And they're not for drinking as well. Don't drink water from a bidet!
The flush button is another important matter to mind. Differently from some countries, where you have two flush buttons – one that spends more water than the other, depending on the need –, in Brazil there is only one flush button for every situation. It can be placed in the wall, behind the toilet, or in the own toilet tank, on top of it or in its side.
In some cases, it is possible to control the amount of water flushed depending on the time you've been pressing the flush button. This way, it is possible to determine how much water will be used every time the toilet is flushed.