I already tackled the Dutch toilet with inspection shelf (here) and the uniqueness of a Dutch bathroom (here). Now I want to tackle public urination. In the same way that poop landing on an inspection shelf was shocking to me the first time I experienced it, my first experience with public urination was eye-opening and mind-boggling.
My first public peeing story.
One night I was cycling to meet friends at the glorious Utrecht bar, Cafe de Rat (my post lauding its too-numerous-to-count virtues can be found here), when I saw a man disembark his bicycle in front of me. I noticed him as he was standing directly in the center of the road making no move toward a bike rack or to the sidewalk. From my distance it looked like he was fiddling with his fly while standing in the center of the street and as I got closer I could more clearly see that that wasn’t all he was doing. He wasn’t just ‘fiddling’ with his fly, but ‘unzipping’ his fly so he could extract his penis and urinate on the street. OH NO HE DIDN’T was the thought running through my mind! Then I saw the yellow urine stream. Yes, yes he did.
This seriously shocked the shit (or should I say urine) out of my puritanical American sensibilities. This man was peeing right in the middle of freaking street without any care in the world. It didn’t matter if I caught a glimpse of his penis as I peddled by and it didn’t matter that he was using the street as his own public bathroom. I felt shocked by this brazen public urination event. I also felt like I was a peeing prude.
Obviously, I have seen men pee in public. Hell, I have even peed in public, kinda (Once after a music festival after way too many beers I thought my bladder would explode before I made it all the way home in the truck. Thus, I slunk off into an alley, had a friend stand guard, and I relieved myself. It wasn’t my finest moment but peeing in my pants would have been a way less fine option!) In the USA, men (and some women) do urinate outside. HOWEVER, they usually scamper off to a darkened alley to do their whizzing. None of them would be so bold as to whip it out and pee right in the street for all to see. We can get a ticket and fine in the USA for Indecent Exposure if we’re caught peeing in public.
The Dutch clearly don’t have to worry about this sort of fine because time after time I saw men whipping it out and peeing wherever they saw fit. Even that night after my first-public-peeing-incident, once I met up with my friends, I shared my story and no one seemed shocked as they had seen it all before and worse. Apparently, public urination is quite the problem in the Netherlands so steps are taken to combat and embrace the issue.
Here’s a shot of a man peeing off his boat during Queen’s Day, the biggest celebration of the year. Copious amounts of beer are consumed on Queen’s Day so urination is to be expected; however, this man is just peeing right into the canal that flows through town. In NL, the population density is super high. If you pee off the side of your boat in a canal, you better believe someone is going to see you!
As I see it the Dutch have two tactics to combating the problem. One is to attack the problem with an aggressive campaign like fines or two you can accept it and provide accordingly. The Dutch actually do both.
While it seems the Dutch don’t fine men who blatantly pee in public, they have devised some clever tactics to disrupt the urine stream in a decidedly gross way. In many corners in the city centre (i.e. near to the bars), metal plates are placed over corners. If you didn’t know what they were for you probably wouldn’t even notice them. They do have a unique purpose though. If a man tries to pee in a corner onto the plate, the urine will splash back at them dousing their pants in their own urine.
This could explain why the man was peeing right in the middle of street.
Mostly, though, it seems that the Dutch have accepted public urination as a way of life and provide public urinals for the men. I snapped photos of the numerous urinals around Utrecht and Amsterdam because it was so interesting to me that the cities just decided to stop fighting the problem and provided urinals to solve the problem. In true Dutch form, they even clean the urinals. There are trucks and men that go around the city cleaning and sanitizing the urinals so they aren’t completely gross.
I can see how urinals are useful and even experienced their usefulness during a night out. I was out with an American guy friend in Amsterdam and since he was visiting Europe we had been sampling many many tasty beers. As we were walking back to the train station, he suddenly had a huge urge to pee. I told him not to fret that I was sure we would stumble upon a public urinal en route. I wasn’t wrong. As we passed through the famed Red Light District, there was conveniently located urinal for his use and his relief. Because I am an amazing friend, I snapped a photo of him during his public urination event. I am sure he wanted to remember that moment forever!
I could have saved him some worry about the location of a public urinal if I had the urinwaar app. Yes, the Dutch being efficient and oh-so-clever have developed an app that will show you where all the places to pee are located in Amsterdam. I think it includes all types of toilets from indoor and public outdoor urinals.
Public urinals kinda solve the problem, but they also create new problems. Like the problem of stench, smell, and odor. There is nothing like wandering the quaint streets of Utrecht on a sunny afternoon and then catch a whiff of stale gross urine smell. YUCK! PEE-YEW! Honestly, in the Utrecht city centre, there were two urinals that constantly smelled like gross pee. When you walked past them you had to hold your breath. One of the was even located right outside the Domtoren, a famous tourist attraction of the city. A smelly urinal isn’t exactly an awesome sight (or smell) for tourists. I guess it is a better sight than seeing a man peeing right in the street in front of you.
Check out some photos of public urinals
After all my talk about public urination, you may be asking why is it such a problem? I honestly have no clue. Some hypothesized that young Dutch men like to go out and get loaded on weekend nights. Then they are just too hammered to actually make it to restrooms, so they pee wherever they like. This assumes that Dutch people get more drunk than other people. Men and woman the world over get loaded with regularity so I don’t know why the Dutch men can’t pee indoors like everyone else. I think part of it has to do with the fact that many bathrooms charge a fee and people just don’t want to pay it. Blatant public urination still remains a mystery to me. There are side streets and alleys all over the place. Go find one and pee in it!
Side Note/Rant: As a woman, it is super unfair that we have to hunt for restrooms and often have to pay for them when men can just find a public urinal or pee wherever they damn well please. If only all was fair in the peeing game. Alas, as a woman it isn’t so easy for us to pee in public. I would love to see a woman squat down in her skirt and just pee in the street. Urination equality for all.