How to Use a French Dual Flush Toilet

A hand pressing a button of a dual flush toilet

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What is so special about a restroom in France? If you come from Japan, French toilets are going to be a piece of cake, but for everybody else, they may pose a challenge. 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.

Dual Flush

Newer toilets in France now have two buttons for the flush: a big one and a smaller one. Alternatively, there may be two buttons that have different icons: one with one drop, another with several drops. These buttons control the water amount being flushed. These "toilettes à double chasse" are designed to save water, and they do—about 69.000 liters (18,200 gallons) per year for a family of four, according to Ecovie.com, so it's quite a good move for the planet.

Other Quirks

Very old toilets on the contrary, such as those you might find in a countryside house, have their own character. These fixtures would have a handle hanging directly from the water reservoir, close to the ceiling. To flush, just pull on the handle. It's quite simple, but still surprising when you've never seen anything like that!

In many private homes, there is no sink in the water closet—the room with the toilet. This is just something you are going to get accustomed to if you move to France and be prepared with some antibacterial hand wipes.

Some toilets in restaurants or cafés are sometimes, though rarely, equipped with a rolling seat cover. If you encounter these, they are often motion activated, but there is sometimes a button you can push.

Public Restrooms

The public restrooms in France are infamous. Unfortunately, public restrooms in France are sometimes a little too public, as there is a cultural tendency to urinate "au dehors" (outside).