How to Use a French Toilet

French toilet double flush button. 

What is so special about the French restroom? If you come from Japan, French toilets are going to be a piece of cake (bland, unsanitary ones in comparison to home...). But for everybody else, this article may prove useful.

Now that you've mastered the delicate question and etiquette about how to politely ask for the restroom in French, let's talk about what you'll face when going to the bathroom in France.

Newer toilets in France now have two buttons for the flush. A big one and a smaller one. Or one with one drop, another with several drops. These buttons control the water amount being flushed. So, if you went number one, use the small button... Otherwise the second one. This "toilettes à double chasse"  is designed to save water - about 69.000 liters (18200 gallons) per year for a family of four according to So it's quite a good move for the planet.

Very old toilets on the contrary - like the ones in my parent's countryside house - would have a handle directly hanging from the water reservoir close to the ceiling... Just pull on the handle and the toilets will flush... quite surprising when you've never seen anything like that!

Note that in many private homes, there is no sink in the toilet... So sorry, but it's something you are going to get accustomed to if you move to France. So I strongly suggest packing up some wipes in your purse.

Some restaurant/café toilets are equipped with a rolling seat cover. It's often motion activated, or there is a button you can push. It's still fairly rare. So you may just use toilet paper to cover up your seat if you need to.

Some have a motion activated flush... which often doesn't work. If you are lucky, there will be a button to push as well.

And then, there are the infamous public restrooms. There is so much to say on that subject that I dedicated a whole article to it!  While I am at it, I will also warn you about the French tendency to pee "al fresco" (outside).