#BathroomsOfTheWorld: Dutch Toilets and the Poop Shelf

Upon arriving at our home exchange in den Haag, I noticed something odd about two of the three toilets in the house: instead of a bowl full of water, they contained a shelf.

After the first couple uses, this shelf became baffling. What the hell was the point of it?! Why would you not want some odor-disguising water instead of allowing things to land on an open-air shelf?!

Well, we can thank the Germans.


The purpose of the shelf is inspection. You’re meant to look at the consistency, shape, color, abnormalities, etc. before flushing, and then hope that the rush of water cleans the shelf enough – otherwise, that’s what the brush is for.

Another interesting thing to note about the water closets (because the toilets are all separate from the bathrooms), is that there is not a ventilation system or fan in any of them, and the (teeny tiny child-sized) sinks only have a cold water tap.

I’ve asked Justin how he pees in the shelf toilet without splashing himself and he just grunts at me, eyebrows furrowed, annoyed. Sometimes he tries to aim for the hole but otherwise, he’s in the splash zone.

The majority of the toilets we’ve encountered out and about do not have the inspection shelf. From what I understand, this is an older design no longer necessary in most first-world countries, and most of the Dutch toilets we’ve used have a regular bowl. The peculiar thing about their design, however, rests in the flush mechanism. American toilets all have a handle you use to flush – though I have seen some with the two buttons on top of the tank. All of the Dutch toilets have GIANT buttons in the walls above them. Why? Why are they separate from the toilets? How would you go about installing or replacing a toilet in your own home without calling a plumber? It just seems more complicated!

What’s your favorite or least favorite toilet design? Any funny European toilet stories? Share them with us using #BathroomsOfTheWorld!