Italians and the strange habit of owning a bidet

How strange are Italian bathrooms?

bidets US and Italy

If you're a keen web surfer, you may have come across a popular meme with the picture of a girl eagerly washing her hands in a bidet, its caption highlighting her question about why Europeans have such low sinks in their bathrooms... This is just a funny example of the confusion the presence of bidets in our bathrooms often rises in our non-bidet using's visitors. 

Truth is bidets are so ubiquitous in Italy and many other parts of Europe, we feel pretty confused when travelling for the first time to a country where they're not part of the décor. Their history's long and curious, so much so we already dedicated some space to it in a previous article

 

Bidets: a usual fixture in Italy, a status symbol in the US... (THREESIXTY/Flickr flic.kr/p/eFg4Lx)

 

What remains to be explained is why the trend has never quite taken up in the US. Some find an explanation in America's own renowned modesty, which would bring people to squirm at the idea of touching their genitals without the shield of a piece of toilet paper.

Others, following a similar line of thought, associate the States' dislike for bidets to how they got first in contact with them: it's very likely that, historically speaking, bidets became known to the American masses after the end of the Second World War, when soldiers coming back from the European front brought home with them tales about Europe's peculiar love for a porcelain miniature sink, often sitting quietly beside water closets. What's the problem with it, you ask? Well, that the majority of G.I.s had seen bidets in brothels' bathrooms and widely associated them to prostitution. As a consequence, poor, old bidets became a synonym for moral depravation rather than physical cleanliness. 

 

 

Not only G.I.s

In truth, there are some other theories behind the apparent disdain of Americans towards bidets.

Some root it even further back in history than World War Two and associate it to America's forefathers, the Brits. Truth is they never really liked France and when, in the 18th century, the French created the first bidets Britain, with its usual aristocratic flair, scornfully looked down at their beyond-the-Channel companions' new invention. The same attitude was quickly esported across the Atlantic and there it remained until today. Others, as briefly mentioned above, think bidet-using involves too much flesh touching for your average American, and sees people's conservative mores as the reason behind bidets' insuccess in the country.

 

 

What's happening today

Modern Americans are certainly more open minded. According to one of the US' largest bathroom décor producers, bidets have become particularly popular among those who may have problems taking full showers and baths on their own, like the elderly, and enjoy the fact a bidet gives the opportunity to get clean "down there" without having to take a full shower. Being all about cleanliness, Americans have been, it seems, also conquered by widely reported data that using a bidet is more hygienic than simple wiping and can contribute to reduce the risk of UTIs. 

Truth is, however, that bidets – alas! – have become status symbols. Yes, it's funny: such a deprecated and frowned upon piece of equipment has turned into a sign of wealth. It's pretty simple to see why: in the end, not many have one in their bathroom, so having it is already a sign of exclusivity.

One wonders if the Kardashians have bidets in their Calabasas' homes...

 

Bidets' history dates back to the 18th century: those were really fancy bidets, right? (Weisserstier/Flickr flic.kr/p/anTJcM)

 

5 Reasons Why You Should Own a Bidet

  1.  Hygiene. Washing your Down Under with water and soap after you had your daily dump is much cleaner than just using toilet paper. Using paper only you will never be clean enough. Think of a long beard of a man that gets dirty with sauces or chocolate: he can use all the tissue he wants, but to get it really clean he will need some water. 
  2.  Save paper and respect the environment. With a bidet you don't need to use a lot of toilet paper to get clean; this way, you save paper and by doing so you also save some trees and the environment.  
  3.  Save Millions !  With a bidet you do not need wipes. According to WSSC :  "Pre-moistened bathroom wipes are labeled and marketed as “flushable,” but many are not and they are a major contributor to basement back-ups and sewer overflows that effect the environment and potentially the health of the public"..."WSSC has spent more than $1 million on new equipment to grind up wipes before they snarl pumps" (See the entire article  )
  4.  For your bottom sake. Water is more delicate to your bottom skin than paper is. Your bottom will thank you for that.
  5.  Fresh and nice smell. Your DownTown part will be more fresh and perfumed if you use a bidet. It will be appreciated by your partner too.

 

Where to buy a bidet in the US

It's not that easy to find a bidet in the US. If you ask at a bathroom store they might not even know what you are talking about, and when they do, you'll probably be offered a simple water sprayer. Nevertheless, there are a couple of places where you can buy a proper bidet. 

 

At HomeDepot and Lowes you can find different types of bidet, in different shapes and colors. You can also choose the faucets you prefer. 

 

 

Some Videos about how to use a bidet:

 

Above: A Funny video about bidet (well in Italy we do not consider this electronic spray a real bidet). Of course for us Italians it is completely normal to use the bidet after you're gone to the toilet and you do not feel clean without using it. 

 

 


Video below : How to use an Italian bidet. Just a note to what is explained in the video: it's not the thickness that distinguishes a towel used for your downtown; it's the size. Small towels are for downtown, medium towels to dry your hands, big towels for showers. 

 

 

 

 

Above: Even Crocodile Dundee needed some time to figure out how to use the bidet.

 

The Author

Born and bred in Piedmont, I lived for 15 years in Ireland where I studied literature and history, graduating with a PhD in Classics. I love music, arts and literature and with lifeinitaly I managed to make of my passion, writing, a job. Ask me anything about Italian food or the history of World War Two and I'll gladly entertain endless conversations with you!

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