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’!
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!