There are many things I love about London: the museums, the culture, our lovely family orientation neighborhood. The bathrooms are not one of them.

I’m a bit of a neat freak. My sisters have actually called me “Monica” from the hit TV series Friends which I’d say is only partially exaggerated. I can’t help it. I like a clean house, especially a clean bathroom. My three year old was actually seen making a “paper seat” on the child’s toilet at nursery school before she sat down.  I was proud.

Unfortunately for me, I think London could use some work when it comes to the cleanliness of its bathrooms. Many of them just look as though they haven’t been cleaned in days, weeks or even ever. And don’t expect to smell a hint of bleach or pine fresh scent; many smell worse than they look. Just yesterday we were at a very large pub near Trafalgar Square. A very clean restaurant, but the disabled toilet (which I tend to use because it usually has a diaper changer and is on the same floor as the main restaurant) had no soap and no paper. Apparently this pub feels disabled Londoners don’t need to wipe or wash their hands, as the regular bathrooms one floor down were fully stocked and in much better condition.

Now I need to give credit where credit is due. The National Gallery and Methodist Central Hall have some of the cleanest bathrooms I’ve seen in London. (If you’re in Westminster, take note of these on a map if you want a clean toilet.)

Also take note of where your nearest McDonald’s and Starbucks are located. Let me explain. Many walk up food outlets must not be required to have a bathroom, because they often don’t. And if they do, they often frown on you if you pop in just to use the toilet without buying anything, like much of Europe, I’ve found. But you can always rely on your good old American chain to have a toilet. And I’m sorry Starbucks and McDonald’s, since you are American imports, it is my feeling you owe all Americans here the right to just walk in and use your bathroom free of charge, especially if I am pregnant, or I’ve got a newly potty-trained child with me.

Also, plan to go up stairs or down stairs to use a bathroom in a restaurant. Since real estate is at such a premium, toilets are usually stacked above or below, unless as I mentioned earlier, it is a larger place. In that case it may have a “disabled” toilet on the main level, which I can usually push a stroller into and change a diaper. I also sought these out when I was very pregnant to simply avoid the extra stairs.

Another site literally popping up everywhere are public pay toilets that raise for use, and lower into the ground for cleaning. I haven’t tried that yet, and here’s why. If I feel most restaurant toilets are hideous, the pay per use toilets are really one step below that, no pun intended.

I must say London is not as bad as the literal hole in the floor I was expected to pee in at Vatican City when I was a student in Rome. Americans, feel proud that you could probably eat off the floor of most American bathroom floors without worry. London, I love you, just not your bathrooms.


About expatmama

Karla Oselka Walsworth is a freelance writer/blogger, born and raised in the great state of Michigan. She has lived abroad twice, most recently in London, and keeps a blog on Expat living and traveling with children, Living in the last five years in four different cities, her writings tend to focus on challenges of moving/living with children while exposing them to all this planet has to offer. Karla, who has her MBA from the University of Illinois, and is also a certified 200 hour yoga instructor, has settled (for this moment) in the Midwest. As a recovering accountant and budding writer, she is actively raising two children with her husband Eric, hoping to give them as global a perspective as one can, at ages 7 and 4.
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5 Responses to Bathrooms

  1. Kathy Zmuda says:

    Fun story. I can imagine a great travel op-writing a book about toilets around the world and interviewing locals
    to understand their feelings about their public bathrooms and the owners. Although, now that I think again, there are other themes you pick up that might be more of a pleasure.

  2. Chris says:

    Actually the ones that go up and down might really be up your alley. They clean them in boiling water after every use, which is a bit weird as it feels like you’re going into a dishwasher rather than a loo. But it’s clean…

  3. expatmama says:

    Ah, so maybe I COULD eat off the floor. 😉

  4. Clay Stroup says:

    As a sort of officianado on the subject, I’d say I agree with your asessment. Worse may be Spain, where the “waiting” bowl of water is in the front of the bowl instead of the back, which makes for mandatory toilet brush use every time! By far my worst experience was in Africa, specifically Morocco, where there is the aforementioned hole in the ground, and no paper. Nor were there holes where a paper dispenser ever existed. I was told NOT to use my left hand at the dining table (as the seven-toed cat was standing on my plate eating my fish dinner! No kidding, I have pictures). I now carry my own T.P., my own Clorox Bleach disposable wipes, and my own disposable hand wipes. There’s a time to be green, and a time to be clean!!

  5. Kathie says:

    Okay, now I know I can really never live anywhere but the United States! And to think I often complain about public bathrooms here! Yuck!

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