Toilet Training in Ireland

One of the joys of traveling is discovering how other cultures deal with common needs. Just about everywhere you go in the United States, you can find a place that has a Restroom if needed.  My first need for a Public Restroom in Ireland was at the Airport, and I quickly learned that in Ireland, they are called Toilets.

Now I have heard and used the term toilet in the US, it is often received as a mildly vulgar term or at least a term you said quietly as not to make others unpleasant. Restroom and Bathroom are more acceptable.  Though no one is really going to rest or take a bath.

At home, in the confines our house, my Mother would often refer to the “toilet”, meaning specifically the “thone” upon which we sit to do our business.  Where as, in Ireland, Toilet has the same meaning as Restroom, or the place that contains the “throne.” So seeing and asking for the Toilet took some getting use to.   It also took time getting use to actully using the Toilets as we traveled from place to place, town to town, and pub to pub.

In many US towns we see the signs, “For Customer Use Only.”  So far, in Ireland, I have only seen the sign about twice.  Often the town center will have a public Toilet.  Many Pubs and Restaurants have Toilets clearly marked but often you have to ask the wait staff, where is the Toilet?  Everyone is friendly about pointing you in the right direction.  No, “sorry, for customer use only.”  Though, again, we did see a couple of those signs, so use your best judgement. When I first started asking for the “Restroom,” I got a sort of quizzical,  “oh you must mean the Toilet?” look, but then quickly got the information I was needing.  It took some time, but now I just ask for the Toilet, plain and simple.

Using the Toilets has been an experience as well.  I mean, using the Toilets in the same sense as using the Restroom and not specifically the throne itself.  In just about every public Toilet, the sink has two faucets, hot and cold. Yea Ireland!  Easy enough, but often only one of them works and it is not the hot.  Oh, they might be on opposite side from what you are use to though. And, forget about water pressure, it virtually drains out slowly so you will need to scrub well.  And, unlike many places in the US, I have had success finding the soap dispensers full.  On the other hand, I have yet to find a paper towel dispenser with even a single sheet of paper towels.  You will find a blow dyer quite frequently but it has been 50-50 on it working or blowing warm air.  Thus you leave with dripping hands unless you wipe them on your pants. No messy trash cans either, usually because there are none to be found!

Now, actually using the Toilet, that is using the actual throne, is straight forward.  Whew! Finding the correct Toilet, however, can be a challenge at first.  You may encounter two situations.  Seeing a single door mysteriously positioned where a Toilet might be or a sign for Fir and Mná.  If you are lucky these will also say Men and Women and often just saying Toilets.  Don’t make the mistake of interpreting Gaelic Fir as Female and Mná as Male as it is quite the opposite.  However, if you encounter the single door, you are poised with a challenge.  Do you enter or wait outside?

Back in the US, a single door toilet usually means you need to wait outside until the user is finished.  However, you are in Ireland (one of those places where people drive on the “wrong” side of the road), rest assured, you may be bold and enter that single door. Where upon you will discover at least two or more doors marked Fir and Mná.  Getting through those doors will be another adventure however.

Back in the US, you may have encountered the term Water Closet, perhaps you remember hearing old folks talking about the WC?  Yep, that was the Water Closet.  And in Ireland, they are often just that.  A completely enclosed room that is no bigger than your basic entryway closet.  I hope your not a big guy, as finding room to stretch out on the throne can be difficult. Trust me, I know.

Once you have finished your business, you will of course need to flush.  Simple enough, just use the lever like you do back in the US, however, you will often find it on the “Right” side of the Toilet.  And do not be afraid to push hard on that lever.  A light push gives you a light flow that may not remove the afore mentioned business.  Be warned however, pushing hard on that lever will bring down a torrential flow capable of wiping out a small town.  It comes down around the entire bowl like Niagara Falls and from the front and back like a fire hose.

In fact, these toilets would not pass muster in the US as the volume would be a violation of the Toilet Bowl Flow Act.  It ain’t water conservation, that is for sure. But it does get the job done!  Back home, we often have to use two flushes to get the job done (defeating the water conservation restrictions).

Which brings up an interesting conundrum, why can’t I get that volume and pressure at the sink!

Good luck and I hope everything comes out alright during your travels.

A directional sign in Connemara National Park.  Getting used to signs that say Toilet
A directional sign in Connemara National Park. Getting used to signs that say Toilet
Toilet at Connemara NP
Toilet at Connemara NP

One thought on “Toilet Training in Ireland”

  1. Visited Ireland three years ago. Using the word “toilet” was one of my first educational experiences there. The next was finding them!
    Also, we thought to save a little money by buying a cooler, filling it with ice, and putting drinks in it. THAT didn’t happen! Never saw a styrofoam cooler or an ice machine the entire time. But then if it were just like the U.S. there wouldn’t be any point in going…
    Nice post. 🙂

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