Let’s Go Dutch: Public Urination & Public Urinals

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!
Public Urinal in Red Light District

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

Public Urinal

Urinal off the Singel Canal in Amsterdam

Public Urinol

Urinal by the Domtoren in Utrecht


Cute Urinal Symbol

Public Urination Station

Super Smelly Urinal in Utrecht

Even a King Needs a Urinal

Temporary public urinal during the Queen’s Day festivities

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.

4 responses to “Let’s Go Dutch: Public Urination & Public Urinals

  1. 😀 Queens day is notorious. And I DID ACTUALLY see a woman pee out in public in Amsterdam North on Queens day. That was shocking (am used to something being Dutch). In the middle of the day near a street market full of little kids. The woman had her rear end in full view, and a rear end it was!
    The peeing in the urinals is awful. Whenever I see legs in it and peeing.. and they say men have bigger bladders compared to women. Right.

  2. Hi,

    It is NOT ONLY the Dutch!!

    I had much the same experience in France, myself!

    [Europe, has a rich, and interesting history…]

    However, I soon realized, that I was the one with the problem – NOT the French – as I was imposing MY PERSONAL Mores, and values, onto a foreign culture, that has a significantly different history, than my own!!

    I discussed it with some French people – both men, and women – and they said that t was “Non Mal” (pronounced “No” and “Mal” in equivalent English pronounciation…)
    For THEM, in was what we would call “Normal” (yeah, I know – probably where the English word came from…) – and NO Bg Deal, AT ALL!!

    THEY have a very different idea, of what is acceptable, and unacceptable behaviour – and they laugh, at the Prudish English, and their “Sex Scandals”!!
    In France, it is quite normal, for a man, to have a wife, AND a Mistress – and it is quite common, for them to be friends…

    I lived there for a while…

    The best way that I can decribe it, from an English speaking/British/Australian perspective, is that they are far more in tune, with the basic nature of human beings, and they see nothing wrong in it – and rather than expecting men, to conform, to some sort of unrealistic behaviour, they have accepted that men will be men – and THEN try, to accept that, and to amelliorate that behaviour, within their society, and culture.
    Or, maybe, it’s the other way around – men have behaved this way, for generations, and they have gotten used to it, and so see no probem with it!!
    It is ONLY from a foreigners, outside, and alien perspective. that there is a “problem” with it.
    Sure, there are some born there locals, that might not like it – but the vast majority of them, are fine with it.

    Oh, and I used to see women, peeing outside the local, Major Train station, on the entrance gardens. every mornng – at least a dozen or so…
    And, after a while, I did too – as the local Mens Toilet, was a study, in how to hold your breath, and try NOT to dry wretch!!
    And it was NOT the authourities, being unhygienic, either!!
    It was washed, and sterilzed, each morning, diligently, at 5am, 7am, 9am, and 11am, and again at 3pm, and 5pm, and 7pm!! I know, I have watched them!!
    It was the sheer numbers of users, that was the problem – and without people utilizing the surounding areas – the facilities simply could NOT cope!!

    So, the men used the walls of nearby alley ways, mostly, and in the city, this was common – and no-one worried about it much. And the city, washed, cleaned, and dis-infected these areas, every morning, dilligently, at the very least – and in the higher used sites, several times per day!!
    To be honest, I was impressed with the cleanliness, and hygiene of the city – and after a while, I got used to it – and when in Rome, as they say, do as the Roman do…

    What really surpised me, was when I was invited to McDonalds there, by a friend, for lunch…
    I went to the toilet, and was looking for the “Mens” room – and discovered that they didn’t have one!!
    They had a room , marked “Toilet”.
    As there was no alternative, I went in, and there were a number of cubicles, along the left, and right walls – and a line of urinals, along the far wall.
    As I needed to do a number 2, I went to one of the cubicles on the left, and sat down – there was NO door, on any of the cubicles.

    A few minutes later, a Woman came in, and selected a cubicle, directly across from me – even though we were the only two occupants there.
    She then deftly dropped her pants to the ground, along with her under-pants and sat down, oposite me – looked at me, smilled, and said “Hallo”, and waved at me.
    She was[ obviously pissing, as I could hear it, then spread her legs, and wiped herself, as she looked at me – and even though she was some distance away, I could clearly see that she was fully shaved, and could see her genitals quite clearly.

    She then stood up, pulled up her under-pants, and then her jeans, and buttoned up – and as she walked to thedoor, gave me a nice, pretty smile, certainly nothing sleazy, and said “Bye”, and gave me a cute little wave, as she left.

    In the restaurant, afterwards, as she walked past, she said “Hallo”, and then later, “Au Vua”, as I sat there, with my friend, and he said “You know her??” – and I casually said “Sort Of…”

    I was still reeling, with the culture shock of all this…

    I had never thought of myself, as a prude before, having walked around, completely naked, at a Hippie commune, when visiting some friends there…


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