February 19, 2019 | By David Smith | Back to news

In France, coffees are a lot smaller than American coffees. If you go to anywhere but a Starbucks to order a coffee, you will get something akin to an espresso. Sometimes you just get an espresso.

The situation is similar when it comes to bathrooms. If you go anywhere but a Starbucks, they are a lot smaller than in the states. I took some photos of my homestay’s bathroom, and I asked my friends to do the same. Chronicled here is the bathroom situation in Paris.

We’ll start off this journey in my own bathroom.

Host family shower which is small with soaps and shampoos stored on the bottom

Pictured above is myself standing in the shower. As you may be able to tell, this shower is very small. This seems to be a common motif among bathrooms in French apartments. When pressed for space (which everyone here is), the first thing to go is shower space. In fact, there isn’t even enough space for a shelf, so we store all our liquid soaps and shampoos on the ground. However, I did manage to balance my bar soap on the faucet handle.

Host family toilet with clothes basket very close to the front of the toilet bowl

Here’s the toilet situation in my bathroom. The clothes basket is dangerously close to the toilet itself, which can make for interesting situations for people with long legs. Luckily, nobody here has long legs.

Green toilet seat in a green bathroom

My friend Sarah highlights a common sink situation in this stylish bathroom. Many Parisian sinks are extremely small. Sometimes, I’ll be washing my hands and accidentally touch the bottom of the sink, which never fails to make my day.

A no-seat toilet that can sometimes be found in restaurants

Sarah also requested that I present this beauty: the no-seat toilet. Although not common in Parisian homes, this can sometimes be found in restaurants. Note that the toilet is not neglected – it is very clean and accompanied by both a small trash can and a toilet scrubber. They say that living in a foreign country broadens your horizons. I’m not sure if I’m ready for my horizons to be broadened past the toilet seat.

A shower with blue tile at the top and white tile for the rest of the shower

Modern toilet with flushing mechanism on top of the toilet tank

Here, a two-part series presented by my friend Chase. His shower situation is similar to mine, with a splash of color from some blue tile. I do hope he appreciates the fact he has such a large shelf. A good percentage of the toilets in France have the flushing mechanism pictured in his second photo. It’s a sort of button that you press on the top. There’s a raised part of it that seems like it should move separately but doesn’t. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s just for style or if I’m missing a crucial function of French toilets.

Kelly's toilet

Featured within the photo, my friend Kelly lives in an apartment with three other girls rather than in a homestay. The photo was taken from the hallway, and it accurately depicts the size of this bathroom – very small. French bathrooms often use every spare inch (or centimeter) as storage, even if there isn’t much spare space to go around.

A squat toilet in a restaurant

Finally, we have the grandfather of them all – the no-toilet toilet. My friend Lukas gives commentary: “This bathroom is located in a restaurant not too far from the IES center. As I walked into this men’s restroom, I was unpleasantly surprised this is what I had to work with to accomplish my goal. This was a first for me.” His open attitude towards the situation was inspiring. Maybe I was wrong about not wanting to expand my horizons beyond the toilet seats. Perhaps being abroad is all about removing yourself so far from the comfort zone that you must reevaluate even the most regular (or irregular) parts of your life. That could probably be the lesson here – are blog posts supposed to have lessons?

Au revoir,