*** 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!