Some Thoughts on Peeing in Public

What’s up with peeing in public in Asian countries? Is there something I’m missing? Is it OK to do this?

In Asia, it seems to be common practice. Perhaps peeing in public is preferable to public restrooms. I don’t know. Over here no one seems to bat an eye when someone decides to relieve themselves in full view of everyone.

On occasion, I’ve noticed people doing this in North America, but not very often and usually at night or behind the protection of a tree or car. Never right out in the open. Can you imagine seeing someone take a pee in downtown Ottawa, Canada? That’s what this man helped his son do in front of some food stalls at a local market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Peeing in Public

You’re probably wondering what prompted this post. It is, after all, a strange thing to write about. What’s even stranger is running into a grown man standing on a main street in front of a 7-11 with everything, and I mean, EVERYTHING out. That’s what happened today. Even worse, he knew he’d been spotted and he didn’t care. He just kept on doing his business and then he sauntered into 7-11 to make a purchase. Disgusting.

Not only do I get to watch humans relieve themselves in public, I also get the pleasure of watching people deal with their pets in the strangest manner. A few weeks ago, I saw a woman sitting at a bus stop with her pet dog. The dog took a shit. After it was finished, she picked the dog up, wiped its ass right at the bus stop and then casually lobbed the tissue into the bushes. I couldn’t believe it. I almost choked.

I know I’m supposed to be open-minded and objective about different cultures, but this is something I just can’t get used to seeing. I’ve seen this happen in very public places in almost every country I’ve been to in Asia.

Why? Why? Why?

24 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Peeing in Public

  1. MJ Klein

    i saw a guy help his kid take a piss on the street in front of Shao-hui’s. telling him to use the restroom fell on deaf ears.

    i was having a discussion the other day with several females, about the open restrooms, etc.. i’ve concluded that this stuff occurs here because its a male dominated society and the females tolerate it, and even embrace it in some circumstances because they don’t have a choice. i have seen a woman squatting on the roadside in Thailand but she was the only one. every other public pee-er was male.

    btw, next time you see something in public that you’d rather not see, make sure you give the guy a good laugh while you’re looking right at it.

  2. rome

    I’m Italian and I don’t see anything wrong in letting a kid take a pee in “public” especially if a restroom is not availbale in the vicinity….besides…often public toilets are so dirty that I wouldn’t let a kid in it. Adults, well I wouldn’t want to see somebody peeing in the middle of the road either. At least, find a hidden corner.
    Unfortunately I am not very surprised about that animal stuff either. I have never seen anybody wipe their dog’s buttock- to say it nicely- but not picking the poo up or just throwing stuff in the middle of the road is unfortunately a still common ptractice here in Italy too and I find it so rude and unrespectful…

  3. fightingwindmills

    I don’t think it is specific to Asia. I saw a lot of adult men and young boys pee on the streets of Cusco, Peru. At times when I was walking down the streets the smell of urine was overpowering. I think it has to do with machismo, but I don’t know what the guys are accomplishing. Could it be as simplistic as marking ones territory?

  4. Frostfox

    I used to work at a kindergarten in YongHe. One day as I left there was an old guy (70ish) standing in front of the school, his pants around his ankles and peeing on a tree. When he saw me he looked up and smiled. I took a different route for awhile after that.

  5. globetrotteri

    Hey MJ,

    Yeah. I had a good laugh at him after a rather startled yelp. I was heading into 7-11 and gave him a good hard once over too. He was completely oblivious. All the high school kids were heading home and they were all giggling at him too.

    I’ve noticed women doing this on more than one occasion, but yeah, I have to agree that it’s mostly men. However, I’ve seen plenty of women allowing their kids to do this in public. If the public restrooms are unavailable or a complete disaster, I can make an exception, especially if it’s a child, but I can’t condone this behavior in a public place when people just can’t be bothered to use the restroom.

  6. globetrotteri


    You’re absolutely right. I just can’t get used to it. It wouldn’t be so bad if it happened in out of the way places, but it drives me nuts when I see this happen on downtown streets in front of restaurants and stores.

  7. globetrotteri

    I don’t remember noticing this during my travels through South America, but I’m sure it happens everywhere. I can think of a several instances where male friends of mine back home have dodged into a back alley for a few minutes. I’m also wary of parking lot stairwells back home. They usually stink as well.
    I’m not denying it happens, I’m just questioning where it happens. This behavior is usually removed from the public eye back home.

    Over here it seems to be a different story. For example, in China, I noticed parents allowing their kids to squat in front of our school. There are clean bathrooms on the first floor of our school, but no one could be bothered to use them.

    I don’t notice it as much in Taiwan, but it’s still there.

    Rome, you said it. Find a hidden corner!!

  8. cfimages

    Peeing is nothing.

    I was in Tibet a few years ago and saw a mother let her 3 year old do a number 2 in the middle of a crowded market. She actually picked the kid up, pulled down his pants and held him in such a way that nothing would get onto him or her. I didn’t stop to see if she cleaned up after him.

    And in India it’s very common to see, especially around dawn by the side of train tracks.

  9. Kim

    Another view from Western Europe (I’m from Belgium).
    A few weeks back I was on the parking lot of our local grocery when a taxi stopped in a remote corner and the driver started peeing against the wall. I thought that was pretty gross (we’re unloading our food there, kids running around) so yelled over to him that there was a bathroom inside, but he didn’t care.
    Public peeing is really not done here. But it is a real problem during city festivals, when drunk partygoers just take any wall anywhere… combined with hot summer air it’s a real pain, and local authorities try to install as much public restrooms as possible. I don’t think it’s machoism that makes the guys do this more often. It’s just easier for them to do.

    I heard that in China the public restrooms are awfull, and sometimes shared (as in = everyone next to each other on the same wooden plank with holes in it), but maybe those are just urban legends?

  10. globetrotteri

    Hi Kim,

    Thanks for stopping by. I can vouch for public restrooms in China. They are pretty awful; disgustingly dirty. I’ve never seen any shared bathrooms but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Usually there is some sort of dividing wall, although they don’t provide much privacy in my opinion.

  11. Les

    from Thailand.

    The mention of public rest rooms in Asian. Where do you find them? How much does it cost to use one if you can find it. Yes
    there are public facilities in the shopping centers and gasoline stations but other than that they are definitely hard to find. Some that are available charge a small fee…..small to me but to a local vendor….well, I think you can get the point.

    We have an elevated train system. No facilities. We have a subway system. No facilities. When the urgent requirement comes what does one do. Westerners go hide someplace but the locals take care of the urgent business in the open. Not that I condone it, but I can see the problem. One cannot just bop into the local McD or Pizza hut and use the facilities. First off they may not have any other than the communal mall or shopping center facilities.

    Years ago, when I was in Sudan, there was a “pissing wall” on one of the main streets. That is were the men relieved themselves. In that heat the smell was overpowering. The facility was heavily used!

  12. jim

    I’m from Malaysia (n Singapore), and pissing on the street or in public is not something you’ll see here.

    Something interesting I found out : contrarily, at Brazil, it is quite often. After street party (eg during new year party, or gay party on the beach), after all these beers, can definitely see some guys (and rarely, but do happen, girls) just go to a building’s corner or beach to do their business, where its visible to others, but from what I observed people don’t mind (except for later when it became foul smelling).

  13. globetrotteri


    Malaysia is ultra clean. I love love love Malaysia!

    While I was there, we didn’t notice anyone doing anything like this. In fact, it’s one of a few countries in Asia (Japan is the other) that should set an example for others to follow in terms of cleanliness.

  14. Maria

    I’m not trying to be rude to other cultures, but sick. Use a bathroom, or at least try to be private about it. Especially when its in the middle of a market place or something.

  15. Leon

    Get over the stigma and the shame people! Quit projecting your useless neurosis on children, or anyone for that matter!
    Here I am in Mexico and I believe in the 75 countries I have visited, it may be the worst in the manners of:
    1. not providing bathrooms, in restaurants, cafes, internet cafes, offices… whatever!
    2. then living with the Mexican shame of urine- or perhaps its any affects of the body, and the body in general. i.e. Nude bodies.
    Catholicism really did a number on these people…
    3. then the corrupt cops, running around extorting money out of people for the bodies necessity.

    Did some self righteous leaning inspire you to write this? Have you developed any empathy, or human feelings in your travels?

    Smart municipal governments, provide public services- not pass the buck. Often when goverenments cant or wont decide on public homelessness in western countries, they can at least provide public bathrooms FREE of charge. For the public health, we are all part of the solution.


  16. Tammy

    As an American I was quite surprised on my first visit to Eastern Europe to see men peeing in public places everywhere. But as I spent some time there I realized that few businesses have rest rooms for the public and there are almost no public rest rooms. Furthermore, the public restrooms often had a urinal trough mounted to a wall, (often outdoors) in open view of women walking past and neither the men or the women walking past where bothered by it. On several occations my husband needed to go and we began searching for a restroom, perhaps in a coffee shop? No luck. Eventually we found a public restroom with a trough along the front of the building for men, reluctantly he used it. Near the end of the trip while waiting for a train he needed to go again, there wasn’t a rest room and not wanting to miss the train he paced in missery. Soon a couple guys walked to the edge of the platform and peed in plain view and no one raised an eye, a few moments later a teenage boy stepped up and did the same as his mom stood there. At that moment I thought why not and motioned to my husband. He steeped up and did the same, after which we both thought, “how convienent to not have to be in misery or frantically search for a place to go. I’m not saying I’d want to see it everywhere, but upon returning to the U.S. I do feel that we are way to uptight about such things. There are certainly places, such as drains, train tracks, bridges ect. where it wouldn’t be unsanitary for us to relieve ourselves without going to the effort of finding a private rest room.

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  18. smith

    I think it’s less harmful for the environment for Chinese kids to pee in public than it is for American kids to use thousands of diapers. It’s kinda cute when you see a kid do it in public, but a whole lot less cute (and more disgusting) when you see an adult do it. In Thailand I’ve seen thousands of boys peeing in the street while their parents look on, regardless of how close the nearest bathroom is (sometimes they are standing out in front of their own house). I’ve seen a few men and a few little girls doing the same, but I have yet to see a grown woman squat down in the alley, they area little more modest.

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