So many cultural facts jumped to my eyes when I moved to the USA from my native France!
However, when last week my husband forwarded me a link about newly installed public urinals in Paris he not only gave me an idea for a French Friday post but he also pushed my memory button on. I suddenly remembered the top cultural difference that I immediately noticed upon my arrival in California.
Wow! I thought. There are so many places pour faire pipi. And they are free and clean. They even have changing tables and are handicapped accessible.
I kept raving about the fact that toilets in the States were no longer a place to avoid and no longer a daily challenge. And our numerous French visitors confirmed my first impression, even if they were initially shocked to see that most stalls didn’t have full-sized doors and that it could be possible for someone to peek. At first, I was surprised, too. Years later, I can attest that no one has ever peeked. In fact, I’ve stood in long patient lines in women’s restrooms, everyone of us assuming that each stall was occupied while in fact some were not. No one peeks in American restrooms. Only visitors do 🙂
Back to the early 90s. Yes, doing number #1 in the U.S. was far easier than in France. French public restrooms were fewer, rarely free, and sadly much dirtier.
For more true stories on the subject, scroll down to read about our family toilet adventures in the City of Lights.
Despite the dire situation for all Parisians, men, though, had an advantage, thanks to urinals found in most metro stations and also in public spaces. My husband argues that they were filthy and that as a boy and teen he felt uncomfortable using them. I totally get him.
Still, men had an edge. French girls and women had to learn one lesson: hold it.
Things changed in 1981 when the first sanisette was installed in Paris.
It cost one French franc to use them, but they were clean and private.
Fast forward to 2018. Has the French pipi scene improved?
Sanisettes are free, but many close at 10:00 p.m. since they can be used for drugs and prostitution deals. Cafés still forbid their restrooms to anyone who’s not a paying customer.
So it remains a challenge to find clean free restrooms throughout France, including in Paris.
No wonder alleys, building entrances, and street corners have turned into Men Restrooms. Women still hold it.
Which explains why men were on designers’ mind when they invented the uritrottoir, a noun created from urinoir and trottoir, which mean urinal and sidewalk in French.
The French company based in Nantes installed the first uritrottoirs in Nantes in May 2017 and their arrival didn’t trigger vehement reactions.
In Paris it has been another story.
This summer a few uritrottoirs have been placed in the city.
This what CNN wrote about it.
A quick linguistic note: French people may contradict me, after all I’m not an expert on male toilets, but I never used or even heard of pissoir. In French urinals are called urinoirs, pissotières or vespasiennes.
Residents in Île Saint Louis, one the most posh Parisian neighborhoods, argue that they spoil the look of the historical landmark.
Visitors to the area, though, applaud the idea.
When I browsed through the articles, whether pro or con, I quickly noticed that almost every person interviewed on the topic was a man.
Of course, they love the uritrottoir.
Read the rest of this post on:
FRENCH FRIDAY: PIPI IN PARIS, Evelyne Holingue