Time to talk about typical Dutch toilets (and what’s so strange about them)

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The Dutch toilet. Dutch people are used to it. The fact is, they don’t even know they are using a ‘Dutch toilet’.

It’s just a toilet.

What most Dutch people don’t know is that this toilet is something typically Dutch.

For a lot of people coming to the Netherlands it’s an unpleasant surprise.

 What is the typical Dutch toilet?

The bowl has a unique shape which includes a sort of shelf, a little bit above the water level.

Or as one of the students says in the video, there’s an extra step, before the little pond at the bottom of your toilet.

What is it for?

As some say in the video, one of the advantages is that you don’t get splatters on your bottom when the “message” falls into the bowl.

In addition, a flat shelf is useful for the elderly, children, the sick and the disabled. It allows an inspection, for example, if you are ill. The shelf is also very popular in nursing homes for the disabled and the elderly. 

Why is this typically Dutch?

The reason is unknown.  We just thought this was the way to go.

Nowadays, this ‘flat flush model’ is generally considered a bit old-fashioned. Years ago, people didn’t have anything else, but now more ‘international’ toilets are installed, unfortunately.

Using a Dutch toilet: what else can you expect?

A Dutch toilet usually has several accessories, such as a toilet brush, a toilet roll holder and often also a small sink with hand soap and a towel.

About the toilet brush. Nobody really knows what the rules are for this object. In general, it’s not mentioned in daily life, standing and untouched (but still always wet) in the corner and while it’s the brush, it’s the least clean item in the room.

And last but not least. For many Dutch households it is customary to hang the birthday calendar in the toilet.

Learn Dutch about …. TOILETS

In Dutch there are two words for it: toilet and wc.

The word toilet comes from the French toilet. You pronounce it the French way [twa-let]. Wc is the abbreviation of the English water closet and pronounced [wee – cee] and the [ee] sounds like the English [ay}

  • Mag ik even naar de wc?

Can I go to the toilet?

  • Waar is de toilet?

Where’s the bathroom?

  • Zou ik even gebruik van de toilet mogen maken?

Could I use the toilet?

Toilet spreuken (toilet quotes)

Like in any country, in the Netherlands you can find expressions. They might be illegally written on the door at school, or on a poster at your uncle’s place.

In Dutch you can also call this a ‘tegeltjeswijsheid’. (’tile wisdom’)

Here are some you might encounter. Of course, in English they make less sense. But you get the meaning of the Dutch proverbs.

  • Gebruik in deze tijden, het wc-papier aan beide zijden.

In these times, use both sides of the toilet paper.

  • Bril omhoog, vrouwen zitten ook graag droog.

Toilet seat up, women also like to sit dry.

  • Ook al heb je nog zo’n haast. Plas IN de pot en niet ernaast.

Even if you’re in a hurry. Pee IN the bowl and not next to it.

  • Na het plassen, handen wassen.

After peeing, wash your hands.

  • Dit is het enige plaats delict waar de sporen uitgeveegd mogen worden.

This is the only crime scene where the tracks can be wiped out.

  • Heren, wees net en galant. En urineer niet op de rand.

Gentlemen, be nice and gallant. And don’t urinate on the rim.

Going to a public toilet in Amsterdam – Something special!

During the Summer School students from all over the world visit Amsterdam. Often this is their first visit to the Dutch capital. What they tell me gives me new insights into my country that I had never thought about.

For example, it’s almost impossible to go to a public toilet in Amsterdam!

I looked it up and yes, that is true!

If you’re looking for a public toilet in Amsterdam, with a toilet bowl and a roof, the chances are you’ll have to travel a considerable distance.

There are only four of them.

Amsterdamse krul

There is one public urinal that is typically Dutch: de Amsterdamse krul (the Amsterdam curl) This is a urinal that has been placed as a public toilet at various locations in the centre of Amsterdam. It is a design by the Department of Public Works from the late 19th century.

The city has around thirty-five urinal curls.

Only male?!

The male-focused design also came up for discussion in 2017 when a woman in Amsterdam was fined for urinating in the street. The offender had not used a urinal curl which is designed for men. She refused to pay the fine because of discrimination against women.

According to the judge, however, the urinal curls are suitable for women and she had to pay the fine. It led to the national public toilet campaign, Zeikwijf.

Big fine!

The number of places where you can just pee varies per city. But actually, urinating in public (wildplassen) is forbidden everywhere. 

The fine for this can be considerable – up to 350 euros.

Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School