Using a Bathroom in Spain
It may seem shocking to you that I would even have to mention this topic, but bathrooms in Spain are different! In all fairness, I have not thought about this fact in ages as I did quickly adapt. Still, I know that the small differences can be a bit alarming for a foreigner at the beginning, so let’s just get this out there in the open.
First off, (from an American’s perspective) there is nearly no water in the toilet bowl! It’s not unusual to wonder if the toilet paper will even go down with no water to propel it on its way, but I assure you that there is nothing to worry about. Actually, the rest of the world seems to be in agreement that minimal standing water in the bowl is the way to go; it’s just us who expect more!
Secondly, there’s this thing called a bidet. If you grew up in the United States you are likely to be flabbergasted by this apparatus, as was I. The bidet, which looks a bit like a smaller toilet-bathtub combo, is actually used to clean the genital and anal area after using the toilet or whenever one feels the need to “freshen up.” Seems a bit strange to us, but it’s actually quite useful and common throughout other parts of the world. In conversations with people who I’m close enough to discuss the topic with, I’ve found that Spaniards are pretty evenly split in terms of using the bidet or not.
That being said, it is by no means necessary that you use it―let’s be honest, who’s gonna know either way?―but it can be another new experience to try out. There are multiple how-to guides that you can find in a basic Google search if you’re in need of some advice on the, err, logistics. Sounds silly but I think most of us first-timers have an amusing story when it comes to the bidet.
I, for example, was first exposed to one in my homestay when I studied abroad in Alicante. It sat there unassumingly next to the toilet for the first few weeks and so, knowing nothing about it―but lacking strong enough curiosity to attempt inquiring about it in Spanish―I chose to ignore it. To my delight, not too long afterwards I was with madre and her granddaughter at the park and upon our return she immediately noticed the little girl’s feet were filthy so she whisked her away to my bathroom and washed her feet in the bidet. “Fantastic!” I thought “How smart are these Spaniards with a special foot-sized tub?”
I then proceeded to wash my feet in the bidet each time I returned from the beach and, I have to admit, I still use it in that way as it is SO much more comfortable than using the bathtub or shower if you only want to get your feet wet. Nonetheless, I have since learned about the conventional use of the bidet and now find my original innocence a bit funny. I wonder if I ever worried my poor madre by any dirt or sand that may have gotten left behind, but I guess I’ll never know…
So, those are the main things you’ll be happy to know before entering your first bathroom in Spain. Well, at least your first personal bathroom―public bathrooms are a whole other ballgame with their own ground rules, so be sure to get the scoop here! Hope that helps!