32 toiletLegendary comedian Rowan Atkinson said once in a bit, “I wouldn’t trust him to sit the right way on a toilet seat.” As a well-traveled, well-read individual, I never imagined myself being that guy.  Then I went to Japan.

To be fair, seen through Western eyes, the country is akin to another planet. If you’re not careful, culture shock can be swift and severe. In addition to incessant and persistently awkward bowing debacles, visitors must adjust to breath mint sized hotel rooms, rocket propelled elevators, and food that well…often isn’t.

For me, trouble began in the bathroom – no, no food issues surprisingly as Asia is a welcome oasis for the lactose intolerant. I just literally couldn’t figure out how to use the toilet. In my defense, this space age shitter would have befuddled Captain Kirk. Still, it’s embarrassing.

Now I understand equal opportunity ethnocentrism so I couldn’t well demand English instructions. Actually, considering the bathroom came equipped with a phone, fax, email, and satellite transmitter I probably could have wrestled up an interpreter. But that’s not the point. So rather than risk a rinse and tumble dry on my private parts, I got frustrated, dropped an upper decker, and the politely requested a room change.

Immature? Perhaps, but cultural understanding is a two way street.

  • A Quick Tip – The secret to Far East travel is to simply channel your inner college student. (Assuming of course you went to school in NY and were so poor your meal plan was foraging and your “door room” was an 84 Honda Civic Hatchback.)