Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do You Bidet?

Buenos Aires is a bidet culture (I don’t know about the rest of Argentina). It joins England, France, and most other European countries as part of an elite class of toilet snobs who continue to insist upon the presence of a bidet in the restroom (or “lavatry,” in British snob voice) regardless of whether the thing actually gets used. You know it’s true. I have one. You probably have one. But WHY? After discussing this issue at length with some friends over dinner, I decided to investigate bidet history and try to understand why these things exist, both here in Argentina and in general.


While I knew the general idea behind bidets, I’ve never understood the specifics, so I did some heavy research (Wikipedia) and found out some interesting/disturbing stuff. First, “bidet” is a French word for “pony,” because apparently you sit on the thing much like you would sit on a pony (first mental image). As I’m sure you’ve gathered, a bidet is used for washing…private parts, and can be done facing forward or backwards. However, bidets are also often used for washing feet and as a bathtub for babies, although hopefully not all three. In general, a bidet will either have a tap and plug which you use to fill up the basin, or it will feature the always-popular jet propulsion function, in which a stream of water is shot forcefully upwards, effectively power-washing anything in it’s path, including the curious faces of people who just HAD to find out what that little knob does.

Wikipedia informed me that bidets are found in most European countries, especially southern European nations such as Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Italy, as well as in parts of Asia (Japan, India, South Korea), Africa (Morocco, Egypt), and most of the Arab world. In Latin America, bidets are found in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Cuba. While Wikipedia neglected to say why these porcelain enigmas are such fixtures here in South America, I would assume it is because the first immigrants from Europe brought the apparatus with them, unable to imagine a (GASP) bidet-less life. The things don’t exist in North America, which is why Americans are so often the victims of bidet assault—we just can’t leave well enough alone and have to go twiddling with all the knobs. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye to a bidet.


In terms of actual usage, I have spoken to a few people, the majority of whom do not use bidets in the way they were intended. They are either not used at all, or used as foot-baths, laundry basins, or storage tubs. I’ve heard that some Argentines rave about them, but I’ve yet to ask any of my close friends…it’s not really a dinner table question: “So, have you shot water up your bum lately?”

Anyway, I’ll leave you with that. If you would like more information on the subject, I hear Youtube has some informative instructional videos. Have fun!


  1. I used the one in my last apartment to wash my feet but have yet to use ours for any purpose. I have a hard time not getting water absolutely everywhere so it's usually a lot easier to just turn the shower on for a second, but there's a certain novelty to a bidet foot bath.

  2. Bidets are all over Latin America, not only in the countries named, they are in allmost every house in Colombia, Venezuela etc etc