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April 23, 2006

The toilet paper thing

Toiletpaper1I thought I'd better get the toilet paper thing out of the way. People who are new to Greece or Cyprus are always horrified that instead of putting your used toilet paper down the toilet, you put it into a little bin by the side of the toilet.

This practice obviously comes from having some issues with the original rudimentary plumbing that was put in, but it is difficult to give credence to there actually being such a serious problem that toilet paper would bring the whole Greek sewage system to a shuddering smelly halt.

Take Kefalonia for example. It seems that the majority of the infrastructure was put in whilst the Ionian islands were under a British mandate during the late 1800s. Can you imagine the Victorians putting in plumbing that couldn't cope with toilet paper?

Toiletpaper2_1What about the ferry we sailed in from Piraeus to Crete? It was an eight deck monster with effectively a five star hotel inside it. (The bit we were allowed into wasn't five star mind you, but that isn't the point, we glimpsed the expensive bit). Do you think Greek ferry companies order these luxury behemoths of the sea, and then ask if they can knock a couple of hundred thousand of Euros off the price if they can be equipped with toilets with plumbing that goes AWOL at the hint of a bit of paper? Yet every toilet had a sticker on it saying "No paper please" in several languages.

And so in our house, we have a toilet that looks exactly like the toilet we used to have back in London, but we are following the cultural norm here and have a little bin by the side. Of course, it had never occurred to me before starting to live here that there might be a similar culture shock in the opposite direction. "There's no bin! What am I going to do with my used toilet paper? I'm going to have to leave it on the floor. Or even worse, throw it down the toilet!"

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I just got back from a Greek cruise and this is too funny. I could not stop myself from years of habit, and the TP always went down.

Isn't it weird that the same country that is known as the cradle of civilization can't deal with TP in a civilized manner?

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