American (Sub-) Standard

Yes, this post is about bathrooms. Referred to as the “toilet” here- not the restroom, the bathroom, the ladies’ room, the loo, or the lounge- no mincing words. But regardless of its name, hands down the cleanest restrooms you’ll find in the world must be in the UAE. I’ve been here for a month and I’m still not used to the attention that is paid to public restrooms.

In Abu Dhabi, the facilities are immaculate because there’s always someone cleaning up after the patrons. I haven’t yet stressed how much of a service-oriented country this is, so let me veer off-topic for a paragraph. Many people, especially those from south Asian countries, come to the UAE to eek out a better living than they would at home. The service workers live in shared housing and ride plain white buses to and from work. They work long hours for little money by providing services that the Emerati neither want nor need to do themselves. You see, the UAE takes care of its people and since there aren’t many of them, relatively speaking, they allow others into the country on work visas to do the jobs the locals wouldn’t dream of. And these workers do their jobs happily! They’re the kindest, friendliest people you could hope to have a conversation with. So food servers, bartenders, valets, hotel staff, and gas station attendants are easy to converse with and chock-full of local information to boot. Coming from the U.S., I still feel like I need to tip (though it isn’t required) because so many of them deserve to make several times more in salary than they do. Now, keep in mind that two things I like about myself are my independence and my ability. I feel silly when someone removes my tray from a food court table (I told you we spend a lot of time in malls!) when I could just as easily do it for myself. Even so, I slowly find myself accepting this new lifestyle- having food and groceries delivered instead of picking them up, having a water delivery service, texting the cleaning lady to find out when she can come sweep the sand out of the apartment, letting the guy at the mall hail a taxi for me because I couldn’t possibly raise my own arm. There are wonderful ladies who clean the bathrooms in the English Dept at my school on a daily basis, and they also tend to our kitchen area. One young woman- I’ll call her Lola- makes copies for us… helllllllo!!!!!! Our 10th graders had a Welcome Assembly the other day (or at least I think they did… they received a mechanical pencil and a piece of candy so even though the whole thing was in Arabic, I know they weren’t getting in trouble for anything). After the assembly began, Lola passed out chocolate and tea to the teachers. Can you imagine??

But back to the toilets. Seriously, it’s rare if there isn’t an attendant in a public restroom. I’m not only talking restaurants and hotels, but the mall… the MALL. That means the paper towel and soap dispensers are always full and there are no questionable liquids on the floor or the seats. Just imagine feeling like you’re dining at Gibson’s every day when you really just ordered from Sbarro.
One exception to this observation is one of the bathrooms in Marina Mall, a place I’ve unwillingly visited more times than I can count. There’s a bathroom on the 2nd floor where not one, but two girls work at a time- I’m not sure why. At any rate, these girls spend more time taking selfies than anything else and I’m happy for them, making the best of a 10-hour shift in a public restroom. More power to ya, girls.

Now, let’s talk about private restrooms. Bidets are not uncommon here, though they’re not in our apartments. But every single bathroom stall in this country is equipped with a little personal shower thing. I don’t know what it’s called and in order to stay true to my blog revolving around personal observation only, I’m not gong to bother looking up its formal name. What’s important to know is that the two bathrooms in my apartment have a sink, a little shower sprayer, a toilet, and a bathtub/shower combo.. no water conservation here.

I’ve received several negative comments, texts, and PMs when I don’t include pics with my posts. It’s a little more difficult to take pictures/videos here because we’re supposed to be wary of those who may not want to appear in random blog/ Facebook posts, so if I don’t feel like it’s appropriate I don’t break out the iPhone. The only pic I’ll post here is of my guest bathroom, just for fun and to avoid any backlash. I know it’s not too exciting, but here you go. Imagine having these in your house while raising little kids- all I ever dealt with in the U.S was my kids unrolling all the toilet paper, but what a party this would be!



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Laura Maniola
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 18:54:32

    Hey Sue – Great blog today! I will never forget David laughing his head off at all of the “toilet” signs posted throughout the airport when we first landed at Heathrow on our move to London. I’ll also never forget my introduction to the bidet concept… the family bath in our house, Rachel running around checking the place out and she takes one look a the bidet, questioning face looking at us, Joe & I trying to figure out how to explain this to her, and she says “oh, look, at little sink, just for me!” Hilarious! WIll have to remind her of that story sometime:) Sounds like you are settling in – miss you, miss you, miss you!



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