Wednesday, January 14, 2009

To bidet, or not to bidet

*** Originally posted to personal blog on Nov. 30, 2007

This is a question I've asked myself quite a few times since arriving in Seoul, particularly since I actually have a bidet in my apartment. I'm not sure I ever had the opportunity to use a bidet before visiting Japan and Korea--they seemed like something only "rich" people had and I always felt a little awkward even talking about them. Nonetheless, I had seen bidets in the U.S., usually an entity completely separate from the toilet, no lid, faucet-type thing mounted on the back.

All the bidets I've seen in Korea are actually built into the toilet and most modern models are electronically controlled. The one in my apartment, seen here, is a modern type with multiple functions, including a separate setting for women (I call it the "chick" button), a dryer, and even a seat-warmer. It seems most functions have varying degrees of intensity, but my Korean isn't good enough yet to understand what any of it means. If there isn't a picture of a butt with water hitting it, I'm out of luck.

The day I moved into my apartment, I recall standing in the doorway of my bathroom just kind of looking at my toilet, skeptically sizing up this apparatus with colorful buttons and flashing lights. It was almost like having another person in the apartment! I wasn't sure what to think about it and I was certainly apprehensive about pushing the buttons. Usually, I feel the need to touch just about everything around me, but this was different. I was intimidated by a household appliance! I mean, where exactly is that water coming from? That was my first question.

Sometime during my first week in Korea, Sophia told me a maintenance man would be coming to my apartment to fix my bidet. "Fix it?!" I said. I had no idea anything was wrong with it . . . and I was sure as hell happy I hadn't tried it out yet. So, that evening I experienced a priceless exchange of hand gestures with an middle-aged Korean man who was determined to restore my bidet to full function. Not only that, but he was was also adamant I understand what would be accomplished by pressing each button. Now, just imagine . . . this man spoke no English. My Korean repertoire at the time was limited to greetings and thank-yous. This means we engaged in a surly comical charades-like "conversation" about a rather personal hygienic device. Basically, this meant him pointing repeatedly to my nether regions, both back and front, accompanied by ambiguous hand motions and a few sound effects thrown in here and there.

All this only increased my apprehension about my bidet, so I unplugged the thing and until recently have been using the spare electrical outlet for my curling iron (a much less intimidating device). This weekend, however, I vowed to conquer my fear. What's the worst that could happen, right? Sparing you unsavory detail, I'll say everything went off without incident. And with the fall days in Seoul growing cooler and cooler, that seat warmer is really growing on me!


Vic in Long Beach, CA said...

It's nice to see you got to the seat of the problem! There is no bottom to personal issues like this one. Personal problems like this one can really be the pits* (*insert proper word, here!) I'm calm, cool, and collected. Some guys would pant over things like this. I'm glad you didn't waste words. In fact you were very shorts with this.

...a pun is a terrible thing to waste!

Jazzkevin in New Mexico said...

Interesting article. I've never heard of such a device! Go ahead and conquer your fears...seems like a cool gadget.

Michelle said...

Hi Abby,
I've seen that "Bidet" (as what you call it) when i was staying in one of the hotel during my vacation in Korea. I can't read Korean but I was curious of the button that show "water splashing picture" so I pressed it and I was impressed but I have to wait for about 10 minutes for the splash to stop..It is a Good electronic gadget I can say...

Narin said...

Hi. My name is Lee Narin and I am a student of Yonseil University. First of all I appreciate your consideration for Korea. I would like to introduce Korean culture more, so would like to I send you an e-mail about that. My e-mail address is
I will wait your e-mail. Thank you very much. :)

Seongsu Kim said...

Hi, long time no see, Abby.

저 제목은 "죽느냐 사느냐 그것이 문제로다"에서 온건가요?
Was that title from "To be or not to be that's the question!"? ^^?

내용을 다 이해할 수는 없지만,
I don't understand everything from your post,

공공장소의 비데는 비위생적인것 같아요.
But, I think bidet in public place is not good.

아무튼, 음력 설 연휴가 얼마 남지 않았네요!
Anyway, new-year holiday by lunar calendar is closer!

이번주도 즐거운 한 주 되고,
Have a nice week,

다음주에 다른 사람들과 함게 수연선배 생일 때 뵈요 ^^
And, We will see with KBS world people on a week after friday ^^


나는 여기에 글을 남길 때 사전과 구글 번역기를 사용했습니다.
When I wrote message here, I used dictionary & google translator.

먼저, 나의 생각으로 글을 쓴 뒤에 구글 번역기로 검사를 해요. ^^
I checked my message by google translator after I wrote message by myself. ^^

Bidets said...

Most of us are new on bidet things. Me myself is still strange on the uses of my bidet and on how it actually works.

Davide said...

In Italy every house has a bidet. For us is quite important and when we go abroad the fact that there is not one can be a problem. Korea would be my next place to visit also for that.
Cheers, Davide.

bidet toilet gal said...

I was imagining the "charades" that you and the maintenance man had and it was kinda funny, but fascinating at the same time how he tries to explain how it functions. I have a similar experience as well when I first saw this type of bidet in Japan. It doesn't look like anything in the US since it has all these buttons and other high-tech stuff haha!