Slowly peering into the room, I dreaded what I had to do. Everything in my being was saying, “This is wrong!” I thought there is no way my body works like this. I had heard other travelers speak of this difference in this culture, but it did not hit me until that moment that I would have to partake in this particular aspect of this culture. I was set in my perspective.
In Indonesia I was about to use what Americans call the “squatty potty.” It is pretty much a hole in the ground with places to put your feet on either side to squat and do your business. No further detail needed, but that was definitely a new one for me!
As my trip went on, I actually became more and more used to the squatty potty. I honestly did not think I would ever get past that gut feeling of disgust.
However, something really hit me about halfway through my trip. We were in a tourist heavy area of the city, and all of the bathrooms had been “updated” to have sitting toilets. We were relieved to be able to go more normally. My mind started turning when one of the leaders of our tour said there may be foot prints on the toilet seat. The locals who used the toilets stood on the toilet seat so they could squat. Mom tribe, I was confused! Why would you squat given the chance to sit?!
My Perspective Changed
Due to my confusion, I decided to ask this of our tour guides. Though they were surprised by my question, and they explained how sitting on a regular toilet freaked out some of the locals. It dawned on me that the turning feeling in my stomach when I looked at a squatty potty, was probably happening to them when they looked at a sitting toilet. That was the day my entire view of MY OWN culture changed!
I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world. -Mary Anne Radmacher
I have been talking to you about how to patiently learn about other cultures, and I plan to continue discussing that. However, you first need to understand that your culture is unique. I had to learn that my view of using a toilet was cultural, and my perspective of differences in other cultures was through the lens of what I thought was right. I had to identify how I viewed things and did things to see the difference in another culture. And from there I could better gauge how to respond to differences.
For the rest of my trip in Indonesia, I did not complain about using the squatty potty. In fact, I tried to see all the benefits I could. I no longer saw it as something that was not “as good as” what I was used to, but saw it as exactly what their culture was used to. The biggest change came when I no longer had that stomach turning feeling when I went to the restroom.
In this article, the author talks about how you need to understand your own culture before you can fully be aware of the uniqueness of a new culture. I have decided I want to open up about the many things I have learned about my own culture, Southern American, and how that has helped me grow in my worldview of myself and other cultures.