Expat Magazine

Rantlets #2: Squatter Toilets, Portion Sizes and Technological Distractions

By Zach Zine @Int_In_Debt


  • “Squatter” toilets are…actually pretty fucking great.  When we first arrived in Taiwan and looked upon the supposed toilet that, in reality, looks more like a tiny urinal placed on the ground, we were pretty intimidated.  What do you do with it?  Do you lay on it?  Do you actually sit down on it?  You don’t actually squat over it while trying to maintain your aim, do you?  Well, actually, you do.  In fact, squatters seem to be commonplace throughout much of Asia.  We’ve seen them here in Taipei, in Singapore, and all over Thailand (although those were very, very terrifying).  Sure, it takes some getting used to.  At first, as noted above, it is not clear what you’re supposed to do.  To face the lip, or not to face the lip.  Well, we’re here to rescue you.  Face the lip.  You’ll get less pee on your shoes this way.  Squat down as deep as you can so that aiming your payload becomes more manageable.  Aim straight, and it actually comes out quite smoothly.  It would seem that they are onto something.  The natural state for a body to perform such a function is most likely in the squatting position, and, thus, the squatters are very ergonomically designed.  It’s scary at first, but, trust us, it’s not all that bad.  Pleasant actually.
  • One complaint pertaining to the “squatters.”  They NEED some kind of handle to help maintain balance.  Many do not have said handles and it becomes a very harrowing experience indeed.  So, please, squatter architects, fix this.


  • For anyone who has been to Asia, you know that the people here tend to be smaller than people in the West.  We don’t simply mean height, either.  They are, for the most part, very, very thin.  So, you would assume that the portion sizes here would be correspondingly small.  You’d be really damn wrong.  Confusingly, we have noticed that all over Taiwan the portion sizes are quite often massive.  Like really, really massive.  Beef noodle soup comes in bowls that you could bathe in.  Rice and noodle dishes come on plates that could hold an entire pig roast.  There are many times that we just simply cannot eat all of the food given to us.  Sad, indeed.  But, the Taiwanese seem to have endless stomachs.  Even when portions are meant for group consumption, at the many community style restaurants, the Taiwanese order plate after plate after plate after plate.  An endless parade of restaurant employees stream out of the kitchen with heaping piles of fried rice, fish, pork, chicken, octopus mouths, squid, chicken intestines, sweet potato leaves….  The list is truly inexhaustible.  What we want to know is this:  How are the Taiwanese, or Asians in general, so damn thin?  The answer could make millions.


  • Picture this:  Vietnamese Restaurant.  Xizhi, New Taipei City.  6:34.  A young woman sits across from a young man, presumably her boyfriend.  Her finger swipes vigorously at the touch screen on her shiny black iPhone.  Selfie after selfie of herself, only herself, sitting in the very same restaurant, in the very same seat, across from the very same man is swiped to the side.  One.  Two.  Twenty images make their way past her judging eyes.  ”Nope, not good enough,” she must be thinking.  Her boyfriend peeks up from his own iPhone eagerly looking to see if she is done.  He is met with the top of her head and her swiping fingers.  Dejected, he looks back down to his phone and starts swiping away, we can only assume at selfies of himself, or Candy Crush.  This sad, anti-social technological dance goes on for at least fifteen minutes.  Bad date?  Maybe, we thought.  But, looking up we see cameras, smartphones, iPads and other tablets throughout the very same restaurant.  Eerie to say the least.  Now, what is the point of this story?  Well, this is a common experience we have noticed here in Taiwan.  Maybe we haven’t fallen into it because we are using phones older than the students we teach, but we don’t think so.  Technology seems to be such a distraction here.  Sometimes we want to just scream, “THE PERSON IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!  STOP LOOKING AT A PICTURE OF THEM AND LOOK AT THEM!”  Now, we aren’t saying that this only happens in Taiwan.  Technology has been and is a growing distraction to the detriment of actual human interaction.  Just ask most parents in the U.S.  Ours included.  But, here it seems to be even more so.  All we can say is this: put the phones, tablets, etc. down and open your eyes to the world around you.  It’s pretty damn great.


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