Let’s talk about bidets


Hi! If you made it through the title, you’re either Italian or very open-minded (rarely the two things overlap).

In this post, I’m going to talk about bidets and, specifically, why some people can’t handle talking about them.

So, here’s the thing. After over 6 years of living in the UK, I’ve only just had my first conversation about bidets in a country where they don’t exist. It randomly started over a post-work pint and the result was pretty hilarious.

First, the shock

Here’s the reaction that I got when I broke the news that bidets are not little baby bathing tubs (like someone thought). Or that, even though you can use a bidet to wash your feet, that is not its main purpose.


So, let’s get things straight. A bidet, as Wikipedia explains, is “primarily used to wash and clean the genitalia, perineum, inner buttocks, and anus.” That’s right, all of those parts of your body that society wants you to treat like a dirty little secret.

And here’s a bit of myth busting: there is no such thing as a ‘public bidet’ where people share the same towel, and – most importantly – using a bidet is NOT an alternative to toilet paper.

Believe it or not, washing your intimate parts is taken particularly seriously in Italy, and there is nothing wrong with that. Or at least that’s what I thought…

Then, the awkward

Suddenly, everybody around me started sipping their drinks very quietly and avoiding eye contact altogether. I had gone too far and entered the all too familiar ‘British awkward moment’.


But then I remembered that this cultural barrier goes both ways. My friends and family back in Italy still can’t get over the idea that people in other parts of the world don’t have bidets, and they still wonder why on earth they can’t find a whole selection of prodotti per l’igiene intima while travelling abroad.

Looking at these cultural idiosyncrasies from a middle ground is pretty hilarious, and it reminds me of how difficult it is to let go of your cultural beliefs and accept an alternative view of the world, especially when it involves your genitalia.

I still remember how shocked I was the first time I saw an integrated public toilet-bidet during my trip to Japan, which even sprayed talcum powder at the end of the ‘service’!

Japanese bidet
Japanese bidet – photo by Paul Downey

I mean, let’s face it: whilst people all over the world are trying to unravel and communicate complex cultural issues, and break myths and taboos around topics like menstruations or female genital mutilation, we still can’t even get over the idea that people in different countries like to wash their bums in different ways.

If you made it to this point without running away in tears, I’d be happy to hear your opinions.

Thanks for reading through and long live the bidet!

6 thoughts on “Let’s talk about bidets

  1. Ha hahaaaa!!! I love this.
    Well I am English but I have wholeheartedly adopted the bidet. Having a clean bum is one of those little pleasures in life that doesn’t cost a penny. (Though it’s a good thing to do AFTER spending a penny….)
    In the summer I was in the Civic Hospital in Palermo where they didn’t have showers or bidets, and I complained bitterly to the nurses.
    They “explained” to me that the hospital had been designed by Americans and then assured me that Americans never wash their bottoms. I tried to defend Americans, but then I remembered how they had reacted to the mention of bidets.
    “You’re right, they don’t wash their bottoms,” I finally conceded.
    I just cannot understand why anyone would not enjoy having clean pudenda, really I can’t.

    1. Haha, thanks Veronica! It’s nice to find someone who fully converted to the bidet culture! Perhaps you should write a blog about that too and start a bidet revolution within your English friends? hahaha

  2. This is totally hysterical. And I’ll have my dear Veronica know that we Yanks are very clean. Some of us shower two and three times a day. On that score we’ve got the world beat. We just do things a bit differently. Can anyone explain public bidets — like the ones you see in restaurant bathrooms? No toilet paper but a common bidet towel? :::shuddering:::: Love the post.

    1. Thanks, Diana! You raise some important points here 🙂
      Bidets in restaurants are not meant to be used, and if you see one with a towel, that’s certainly an anomaly… Sometimes bidets are just part of the structure of the building, which may or may not have been developed to become a restaurant. But generally, you shouldn’t expect to find a bidet in a public toilet.
      On the other hand, no toilet paper in public toilets is A BIG ISSUE that deserves a separate blog! I’ve been complaining about this since I was born, but now people make fun of me for being the spoilt ‘Northerner’ who demands free toilet paper.
      ‘Good ladies’ in Italy are taught to always bring a pack of tissues with them. So, in full Italian style, you should think for yourself while service providers are not expected to provide a service.

    2. Ha ha Diana! I know you Yanks are clean really. But I just don’t get the outraged shock and disgust at the idea of using a bidet!!!
      And yes, public bidets, they are not actually intended for use.
      I do feel privileged to have grown up in one of the few civilised countries of the world where toilet paper is not a bring-your-own item!!

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