Our trip to Paris was my first trip to Europe and my kids’ first trip out of the US. There was some cultural differences, but there was one huge thing I couldn’t avoid mentioning.
“Where is your restroom?” I asked the waitress.
She spoke perfect English to us when we first arrived and she looked at me confused.
So I did all I knew to do… I rephrased my question again and again in English until I could get the words that she would understand.
“Where is your bathroom? Your toilet?”
You could almost see the lightbulb go off over her head as I had used the word she was looking for.
Europeans don’t call it a bathroom when there is no tub or shower. And since there is no rest, why call it a restroom?
So toilet. It makes sense. More sense than powder room, or bathroom, or rest room.
This was not the first time we realized something different about the restrooms.
When we got off the plane in Paris we made a trip to the “toilette” before making our way to our hotel. Luckily even though the expanse of my French doesn’t reach far beyond “Oui” and “Merci”, toilette was pretty easy to interpret.
Upon entering our hotel we were ready to freshen up from our journey half-way around the world.
We first found our toilet room/closet. It is a separate tiny room with a toilet and a sink. No tub, no shower, and not an inch of wasted space.
Later search found our bathroom. Yes, an entirely separate room with a tub, a sink, and a separate shower.
On our way to find the Eiffel tower we were in the train station looking for a restroom, bathroom… ehh… toilet. Upon finding them we also found that people were standing in a line and paying. The lady at the window took our Euros and pointed us to a door. We had to pay to use a public restroom. And being the mom to a potty training little girl… I was happy to pay… whatever they asked.
We got to the tower and was taking in the aww of the moment when potty training toddler decided it was time to find another toilet. Surely that wouldn’t be a problem.
While in the park we found pissoirs, an open air urinal. So basically just a notch above a man peeing on a tree. The pissoir is quite unlike a porta potty. It is basically a screen to keep people from seeing, which is nice as it is placed conveniently next to a kid’s playground. There is not a tank to capture the waste… it just rolls on down the hill (toward the play ground) and smells pretty rank. But it does keep us from seeing everything the man has to offer. It also kept us from letting our kids play on that playground.
We walked closer and did find a building that was most certainly a toilet. We weren’t sure the words on the side of the building, but none of them said femmes (women) and we only saw men walking in the door. So my husband decided to take our daughter. Then we saw women walking in. And men walking out. (insert confused tourist face here) There must just be another door inside we weren’t seeing. So I took our daughter in. And realized I was in a unisex restroom. There were men in the stalls next to us. My toddler was either experiencing a bit of stage fright or unsure how to pee while mom was holding her over the toilet (no toilet seat… and it just seemed like the right thing to do… sometimes boys are easier.)
My tips for visiting the bathroom in Paris:
- Call it a toilet.
- Know the words for your gender; femmes is pretty easy to tell when you don’t have the stick figure in a dress.
- Make sure you have some Euros in case there is a fee.
- There are unisex toilets, it wasn’t nearly as weird as I thought it would be. Just go with it.
The toilets themselves were even a different shape, more of a rectangle than an oval. And the flush button was on the wall.
I don’t intend to do many toilet posts, unless I make a trip to the Middle East, so you are safe from any more potty talk from me.