One of the biggest surprises facing Western travelers in China is the toilet (厕所 cèsuǒ). The first tasks are to learn how to ask where the washroom is and figure out which one is male and female (the symbols for men and women are usually the same even if the words are different). The next task is to figure out how to use the toilet. Fortunately, many large hotels and shopping malls have "Western style" toilets (坐厕 zuòcè). Simply go as you normally do and you can even put the toilet paper in the toilet.
Many public toilets in China are "squatty potties" (蹲厕 dūncè) which look like a hole in the ground, often with treads on either side for your feet. As the name indicates, you are expected to straddle the hole and squat over the opening to do your business. There are debates as to whether squatting or sitting is better for your internal health and some people with seated toilets are buying steps to place in front of the toilet to simulate squatting. Most of the time, these toilets can still be flushed and toilet paper should absolutely not be put in the hole. There should be a small trash can nearby for paper.
China is a very large country with a few ultra-modern cities where you can certainly find seated toilets, and even some toilet paper, in public toilets. However, outside of the modern cities, you will most likely find a "squatty potty" and they will probably be quite old. Some of the more "rustic" versions are made out of stone, wood, or dirt. There are no pipes in these toilets. Everything goes in a hole in the ground.
Whether you prefer to squat (蹲 dūn) or sit (坐厕zuò), throw paper in the toilet or in the trash, you will find a variety of toilets across China and you will certainly find them. There is no shortage of public toilets, especially around tourist attractions.
This article is part of our new online Chinese course. An efficient way to learn Chinese language for working and living in China.