Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beware of Italian Bathrooms

This may sound like a silly blog post, but it is meant mostly to prevent you from making the same faux pas that I did in an Italian restaurant’s bathroom.  I will tell the story in just a minute, but first let me tell you about Italian bathrooms.  

Italian toilets look the same as American ones on the outside, but are a little different.  Firstly, water does not fill back up in the toilet in Italy as it does in America.  There’s only a little pool of water that remains in the bottom of the toilet.  The second difference is that it is very often accompanied by a bidet, which is for hygiene purposes (though I’m not sure if they are used regularly).  Thirdly, there is often no flushing handle.  It is usually a button on the wall, but it is sometimes a pulley hanging from the ceiling (and usually connected to a box-like part of the toilet).  It is sometimes difficult to figure out how to flush the toilet, which is where my story comes in.  

The set-up in my bathroom: a typical-looking toilet with the flushing button above it on the wall, and a bidet to the right of the toilet.

I was eating at a nicer Italian restaurant with some friends, and near the end of the meal, I took a trip to the restroom.  This bathroom was confusing as it had both a pulley and a button, but I did not see the button.  I decided to pull the pulley, thinking that it must be like the bathroom we had at the school in Siena.  As I pulled, an alarm started blaring in the bathroom. I had accidentally pulled the pulley that was for assistance, not flushing.  I quickly found the flushing button, and opened the door to my stall.  There were two Italian women looking at me like, “What the heck did you do, you stupid American?”  The owner then rushed into the bathroom and flipped the switch that turned off the alarm in my stall.  He just looked a little frustrated, as the restaurant was getting quite busy around that time.  All I could say to him was, “Mi dispiace, mi dispiace!” (Meaning “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” in Italian.)  I was absolutely mortified, but once I got out of the bathroom, I was able to laugh at myself when I told my friends what had occurred.  

The moral to this story is that wherever you go, some of the most simple things will be different than at home - some of the differences could be surprising. Even though I was expecting the difference in bathrooms, the difference was still enough to throw me off a little bit and embarrass myself a little.   My advice is to always make sure you are doing the right thing when you decide to pull a pulley or press a button in a foreign bathroom.  You never know what will happen.  And if you happen to do something like I did, learn from the experience and laugh at yourself.  These kinds of experiences often make the funniest stories and memories.

If you have any questions about my study abroad experience or about life at St. Michael’s please do not hesitate to email me (emurray@mail.smcvt.edu), Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on formspring (lizmurray3).  My internet capabilities are a bit limited at the moment, but I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.  


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