As I’ve said before, it’s often the little things that can stand out the most when you visit or move to another country. Sometimes, those little things — like public bathroom options — become not so little when nature calls. In the US, there’s usually some sort of bathroom facility available for free somewhere close by. Of course, availability doesn’t necessarily match desirability. Still, in an emergency, there’s usually an option. Here, however, things are a bit more complicated. Well, if you’re a woman. Men, as always have things so much easier!
In this photo, the little building behind the fountain is, in fact, a public toilet. However, like many public toilets in the Netherlands, you have to pay to use it. To be honest, I have no idea how much toilets usually cost, as I’ve yet to use one. Luck and restaurants/bars with bathrooms for customers have resulted in my lack of knowledge. It’s not really surprising that there are so few public facilities, since most buildings, at least in the older city centers, are old and small and weren’t built with public bladders in mind. Still, even in large places such as train stations, you can expect to pay to use the facilities.
As I mentioned, though, men often have it easier. Around the city, you’ll see more public urinals like the round, black structure above, and they, unlike the toilets, are free. They’re almost like works of art, in a Duchamp kind of way, I suppose. I still can’t help but feel that it’s a gender imbalance that there is a free version for men and not women, but I suppose men are more likely to go anywhere anyway, so might as well stop them from using random buildings or the canals, whenever possible.
Since public toilets are in short supply and it’s not always easy to find one when you need it, there’s a new app out — of course there is! — to help you find the nearest one. Designed by three students at the University of Amsterdam, HogeNood (Really Need To Go) will use your current location to help you out in a hurry. The app is still in beta form and only available for Android users at the moment, but I suspect an iPhone version will be available in the future. The students won the Apps4nl national prize for best smart phone app recently, so I’m sure the interest in the program will continue.
ETA: Great minds think alike, or “See! I’m not the only expat that puts this much thought and effort into writing about toilets”: Amy also wrote a piece about the app and adds the information that the toilets usually cost about €.50. So now we know! She also has an interesting piece about the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.