Save Your Knees...Do the Asian Squat

The very first time I heard about the “Asian squat” was at my friend’s wedding. My friend, a Chinese girl from Sichuan province, was about to marry a French guy. A few days before the wedding, my friend and her husband stayed with her parents.

 The toilet seat my friends husband had to use

The toilet seat my friends husband had to use

Every morning, like clockwork, the French groom went across the road to a hotel. The parents were confused and at first feared they were somehow being bad hosts. Their curiosity and sense of hospitality got the best of them, and they asked him what he had been doing at the hotel every morning. His answer: he went to the hotel to use their toilet!

He couldn’t use the bathroom because he couldn't do the Asian squat. A requirement to using any squat style toilet . On the other hand, it took my friend a year to get used to the seated style toilet. Every time she wanted to use the toilet, she would run to the library to use the squat toilet!

Visitors to China will no doubt notice that Chinese people often rest in a squatting position when waiting for the bus, while eating a quick snack in the mall, anywhere really. This practice is reflected in the design of toilets in China like the one at the parents’ home above. These days, it’s more and more common to see Western-style seated toilets, especially in more recently-constructed buildings, but in rural settings and older buildings, squatting toilets are the norm. While we’re on the subject, here’s one piece of advice: it’s a good idea to bring a small package of toilet paper with you while travelling in China. Just trust me about this.

 This is an incredibly common sign in China

This is an incredibly common sign in China

Although the Asian squat is not exclusively Asian, it is exceedingly common in asian households. Squat toilets are so common in China that sometimes Chinese people would refuse to use them in the seated position. 

 外国人 can do the asian squat too!

外国人 can do the asian squat too!

The asian squat isn’t even necessarily an Asian phenomenon anymore. Searching online you could easily find pictures showing Westerners doing the Asian squat very well. 

There are many reasons for the spread of the Asian squat. There are studies that claim It’s a more natural and healthy position for…doing your business. Weightlifters frequently use the asian squat position for its stability and safety. Many people prefer the asian squat simply because it allows you to sit longer because it puts less stress on your knees. After a bit of practice it can be very easy to do. Check out this YouTube video for instructions on how to do the asian squat.


Maria writes columns for the GoEast Blog on studying Chinese and Chinese language. She completed her MA atBeijing Foreign Studies University and has over 6 years experience teaching Mandarin. She founded GoEast together with Wang Rong in 2010.