Culture Guides, Travel Health

The Left Hand Toilet Technique and Spitting – Most of the World Does It

Really, it’s the kind of unique cultural experience that you travel for..

From Morocco to Bangladesh, use your left hand to eat with, pick stuff up in the grocery store or even worse, to shake someone else’s hand and you’ll be considered a filthy barbarian. You might be forgiven for your ignorance if the locals take into account that you’re a Westerner but most Arabs, Turks, Africans, Iranians, Indians and Thais could just never imagine sinking to your level of squalid personal hygiene.

What on earth am I talking about?

When travelers head to the bathroom in North Africa, the Middle East and most of Asia they’re often confounded by the lack of toilet paper. They’re presented with a tap and a jug or maybe even the luxury option of a little hose pipe but nothing in sight with which to clean their behinds. For most people in the above mentioned countries, however, nothing could be more disgusting than to think of wiping with paper.

When I first went to India at the tender age of 18 I was already aware that this small cultural leap of faith awaited me and I did my best to learn as much as I could about toilet etiquette. One particularly merciless friend fooled me by saying:

‘Yeah, you’ll see travelers everywhere in India comparing how brown their fingers are…’

But try as I might on that first day in Delhi, everyone’s hands looked perfectly clean. Then came the moment of truth after my first curry, squatting down over the Indian toilet, reaching around with the hand and… it felt surprisingly good. I discovered a part of my own body that had always been out of sight and out of mind, the least conversational area of the human anatomy – unless you happen to be a traveler in India in which case a discussion of your recent bouts of diarrhea is a normal topic at the breakfast table.

Within no time I was using my left hand and water to wash and soon couldn’t imagine doing otherwise. For one thing it marked apart the travelers from the tourists and I took great pride in pointing out:

‘Look, if you had some excrement under your armpit would you use tissue paper to clean it or water?’

With closets full of chemical cleaning products and electric trimmers for ‘unsightly nasal hair’ (God bless you, Mr Remington) most people in the West imagine they live a clean, hygienic lifestyle. It comes as a shock to most of them then to learn that the average Muslim, Hindu or South East Asian considers them to be rather dirty.

It’s been suggested that the British might never have lost control over India had they adopted the local culture of personal hygiene. For while Indian streets may be some of the most squalid in the world, Indians themselves spend hours everyday cleaning and purifying their bodies. Yes, they hawk up lumps of mucous in the morning and don’t hesitate before spitting it out into the gutter but the idea of wiping one’s nose with a handkerchief and then putting it back into the pocket would be almost inconceivable.

So when backpackers wear the same shirt two days in a row, blow their nose with tissue paper and, worse, block up the plumbing system with wads of toilet roll, small wonder that locals hold their breath when we pass.

It’s been 13 years since I first set foot in India and I haven’t used toilet paper since. I can’t even bring myself to sit down on a Western lavatory any more, preferring to lift the seat and squat on the rim Asian-style. I clean myself every morning with almost Indian thoroughness, scraping the gunk off my tongue and the back of my throat when I brush my teeth and keeping my nails short at all times.

Then again, my last girlfriend left me because she couldn’t stand to see me spitting in the gutter any more…

  • transgenderqueen

    I will pray that you die of intestinal parasites brought from your hand to mouth perversion.

    India is the shithole of earth and if people adopted their strategy for hygiene we would all fall into hell.

    Another apologist for shit skins dies, RIP whoever the fuck wrote this disgusting article.

    • Dipanjan Chakraborty


    • daddyhere

      transgenderqueen is the shithole of earth.
      I will pray that you die of intestinal parasites.
      and fuck off in peace.

    • AlphaGamer007

      “Morocco to Bangladesh”

      “North Africa, the Middle East and most of Asia they’re often confounded by the lack of toilet paper.”

      Not just India. :/

    • hmmm

      Your ignorance is hilarious as is your intolerance. Seeing that your name is transgengender queen just shows that you must be at the butt (pun intended) of so much bigotry….

  • Snerrk

    I don’t care if half the world does it, wiping your ass with your hand is fucking gross.

    • Hypocrite

      Leaving bits of paper and shit on one’s a*hole is even more gross.

      • Snerrk

        Wiping: you’re doing it wrong.

      • Ct

        I beat everyone because I use tp. Then wet wipe. So 1 I don’t have to touch shit, and 2 nice clean.

        I’m unsure of what kind of toilet paper if you tried in the past but I’m pretty sure unless your a******* is all tore up that it would be pretty hard to get piece of paper stuck everywhere.

        I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a meal from someone knowing they cooked it ever does touching a piece of s*** that came out of their buthole.

        I hope everywhere that practices this has the hottest water and some damn good soap. Could you imagine. Chef cooking your food low on soap no hot water.

    • Timo Lau


    • O.G.

      No. 1 one cleans oneself with toilet paper. You don’t you fingers into your anus. Your fingers generally don’t come in contact with the feces. The paper and poop drop into the toilet. The toilet is flushed and the crap goes into the sewer system. That is it. Third world toilet facilities appear grimey and are smelly. Guess what, your left and right hands both touch all sorts of dirty things throughout the day. Both are equally dirty. Both need to be washed thoroughly with soap and clean water. Pouring a little water over your hands or feet isn’t adequate cleansing. I watch videos of these people cutting up chickens and fish, dropping the waste on the ground. ( who cleans that up?) Not to mention wiping the knife with a little water only before cutting up vegetables and fruit.Then uses a little water to rinse their hands then mix food, and stir batter with their hand. Then the parent feeds themself and child with the same “clean” right hand. You can’t convince me germs aren’t spread this way. GROSS!!!
      Please can a bacteriologist address this matter! What are the facts.

  • bhinikwa

    The writer forgot to mention that indian toilets are disgusting to enter after a user. They are all wet & full of droplets. Thats more disgusting, its even worse in a public toilet. Show me a dry toilet then we ll talk.

  • samljer22

    Then they go eat food with bare hands. yea… not for me thanks.

    • AlphaGamer007

      You don’t eat food with ur left hand: the one used to clean ur hole; it’s considered disgusting. Reason why you mostly eat, and shake hands with the right hand. If someone ever saw you eating with ur left hand; they’ll yell at you, and everyone at the event will keep their distance. :3

  • aegean1

    Stupid that it seems to be a question of either water and hand, or dry paper. Dry paper and wet wipe is the way to go. Clean down below AND hand isn’t nasty. The way you describe should only be for paper-less survival type situations. :P

  • Best invention since the Toilet = the Hand Held Bidet Sprayer. With these you can wash with water which makes Toilet Paper obsolete. Far cleaner, healthier, saves money and you never run out!

  • Ultraworld

    The Indians bathe regularly in the Ganges River. What feed that river? Shit, untreated shit water. Half of this country has no toilets and many, no running water. They go to a local river and bathe. There is no water treatment, so they bathe in shit water.

  • Bina

    Interesting… Learn something new everyday.

  • mike2000917

    I’m assuming this was a subtle attempt at humor. Fecal matter under fingernails is what will make us all better people and plus we get intimate with our own a holes! If it is not comedy then it is absurd mutli cultural rot.

  • Gabe Is Fat

    I came across this article through Google because I was curious about India and their street shitter mentality. I can’t tell if it’s intended to be satire or not.

  • David Lei Moro

    okie sooo the whole reason why i came here is because i couldn’t find the answer to my question which is…why the hell do people who eat with their hands[from countries that mainly eat with their hands,i.e. india] think that everyone uses the same hand for “personal hygiene’ i don’t use my left hand for “personal hygiene” i use my right hand, why because i am right handed, not everyone is left handed and there is mostly right handed people and less left handed people….sooo why the fuck would i eat/shake hands with someone using the same hand i use for “personal hygiene”? i wouldn’t i would use my left hand because i never use my damn left hand for wiping or such. that is why i am confounded, like seriously what hand do right handed people use to write stuff with? their right hand, what about throwing something like a ball or w/e? their right hand! so of course they will use their right hand for personal hygiene it only makes sense, it is common sense. so this is why i don’t understand them, why make me eat with the same hand that i use for personal hygiene? their brains are fucked if they think everyone is exactly the same…i mean i can’t be the only one who uses their right hand not the left, and can’t be the only one who can’t understand why they think everyone has to use their left hand even when their not left handed. ya know who awkward it is to try to use your left hand to wipe when your right handed, let me tell ya it is awkward and doesn’t work right.

  • nothanks

    considering africa and asia have sky high disease rates by comparison with the west, e.g. almost all cases of rabies originate from asia and there are huge hiv rates around africa as a for instance, i’m not going to be in too much of a hurry to a hygiene lesson from either…

  • Simone Maio

    Their habits, like bathing in the filthy Gange, spitting to the ground, may be gross..
    In my opinion they have a sense of body purge that do overtake hygienic rules. So their urge to constantly wash their hands (even when the water is dirty) is nothing but a rite.
    But when it comes to body hygiene, (and when the water is clean and there’s plenty of soap), they are way cleaner compared to most westeners.. Arab and mediterranean people’d rather hold their feces all day before going back home, because a public restroom isn’t that clean, you know, and lacks water stream to clean up your ‘b side’ with! In the south of Europe, we always use to wash our private parts with water stream, and without any bowing, prayer, gestures at all!

  • Simone Maio

    We as Westerners, due to the Western facilities, should be the cleanest people all around the world. And I mean SHOULD, because we are just one step above that hut-dwellers (just saying) when it comes to hygiene

  • 5Body Katana

    I use a bidet system at home. After rinsing, I then use flushable wipes. I couldn’t imagine being w/o it or using my hand. That’s just repulsive and spreads disease. A portable, compact sprayer goes with me when I travel. It’s important to be clean.