National park puts up signage to show correct outhouse usage

Interior view of an outhouse at the Lake O'Hara parking lot at Yoho National Park in the Rocky Mountains, in eastern British Columbia on July 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colette Derworiz

Visitors to Lake O’Hara in B.C.’s Yoho National Park might notice signage in public restrooms instructing them on how to — and how not to — use the toilet.

The posters feature a graphic of a person squatting on a toilet underneath a red “x”, and someone sitting on it, under a checkmark. The illustrations are intended to show international visitors the right and wrong way to use Western-style facilities.
Since many regions in the world use pit latrines, holes in the ground that are squatted over, the signs are meant to clearly explain the way to use a seated toilet.

“We’ve noticed that some visitors who aren’t used to Western-style toilets — they may attempt to stand up on the seats when using the toilet,” Jed Cochrane, an acting visitor experience manager in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks told Global News.

These types of signs can also be found in some tourist spots throughout Europe.

Those who attempt to stand on a toilet risk falling in, breaking the seat or fracturing the seal at the bottom of the toilet.

Similar picture-heavy signage is being considered for other destinations popular with international tourists, like Lake Louise in Alberta’s Banff National Park, in order to communicate with visitors who don’t speak French or English.

Interior view of an outhouse at the Lake O'Hara parking lot at Yoho National Park in the Rocky Mountains, in eastern British Columbia on July 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colette Derworiz

Jia Wang, deputy director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, says that there are many countries, both in Asia and elsewhere, that use pit toilets. Wang says that while Western-style toilets are increasingly common in homes, pit toilets are still found in many public spaces.

"For a lot of people, their argument is: 'I don't find it sanitary to be sitting on the seat,'" she said.

Still, Wang said there's no excuse for standing on a toilet seat.

"By offering alternatives or seat covers, some tourists would be more comfortable using it," she said.

"It's not like most people don't know what to do with those toilets. It's just that they are used to the other kind of toilets when they were growing up and, more likely, it's because of the sanitary reasons."

With files from The Canadian Press