Spitting, Peeing, Snot Rockets, and Me (part 2)

My time in China has exposed me to my fair share of public spitting, peeing, and snot rocketing. Thoughtful fellow that I am, this makes me all introspective. What are the effects of five years of phlegm? How potent is the power that all that pissing poses to me, personally? Let us examine.


I hope I’m not disappointing anyone, but I’m not going to tell stories about Chinese people spitting on the floor or peeing in the living room. This is about me. And I don’t pee in the living room. (I don’t know any Chinese people that pee in the living room either, fortunately.)

This is actually about shower behavior.


Back home in the States I somehow got in the habit of swallowing a fair amount of water while showering. I’m not sure why I did it, but it seemed like a fine idea at the time.

When I got to China, it was clear that this habit would not work. If I didn’t cut it out, I’d be getting diarrhea from every shower, and that’s not cool! Still, habits are hard to break. As a result, I find that I frequently get water in my mouth while I shower, realize what I’m doing, and then have to spit it out. If I want to get as much water as possible out of mouth, though, I have to be fairly enthusiastic in my spitting.

As a result, I find that I spit in the shower quite a bit in China. There’s no phlegm or anything, though, so I don’t see it as gross in any way.


OK, I’ll admit it. I pee in the shower from time to time. Some online research confirms what I suspected: a lot of people pee in the shower. Some people are even of the opinion that everyone does it. Furthermore, if you’re not peeing on the shower curtain or on someone else, I don’t see how it could be considered dirty. You just aim for the drain.

From Wikipedia:

> Although urine is commonly believed to be ‘dirty’ this is not actually the case. In cases of kidney or urinary tract infection (UTI) the urine will contain bacteria, but otherwise urine is virtually sterile and nearly odorless when it leaves the body. However, after that, bacteria that contaminate the urine will convert chemicals in the urine into smelling chemicals that are responsible for the distinctive odor of stale urine; in particular, ammonia is produced from urea.

I can’t be sure, but I suspect I harbored some emotional resistance to the idea of peeing in the shower while back in the States, but I don’t anymore. I still don’t do this regularly, just when necessary. (And I never pee on the shower curtain.)

Snot Rockets

OK, now we’re getting down to the real meat of the entry. This is the question that inspired this whole two-part entry.

Let me give you a scenario. You have a really bad cold. You’re taking a shower. Suddenly your nose starts to run something awful. It seems like sniffling is the only thing you can do, but it doesn’t solve anything and it’s only getting water up your nose. You have to do something.

You have two choices: (1) Stop your shower and dry off a bit to blow your nose, then continue your shower. There is no guarantee that you won’t need to blow your nose again almost immediately. (2) Do a snot rocket into the drain.

Last week I found myself in this desperate situation. I actually remember being in this same situation back in the USA once, and I stopped my shower to blow my nose. I felt there was nothing else I could do. Not this last time, though. I have been influenced by my surroundings. I chose the snot rocket. Everything seemed to get washed down the drain immediately.

Immediately afterward, though, I had to ask myself: was that just completely disgusting? It brought up lots of other questions:

– Do other people do this?
– Will my friends still like me if they know I’ve done snot rockets in my shower?
– Is mucus water soluble? (it’s gotta be, considering it’s mostly water)
– If I had a really nasty infection (which I didn’t), could doing that clog the drain?

OK, I think that’s about all the “introspection” you readers can handle for a little while….


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I don’t share your penchant for the drink and spit thing, but I have experience in peeing and snot rockets in the shower.

    Peeing was the subject of some debate between Bettina and I, she’s always done it, and made the same case for it’s being perfectly sanitary as you have, while I was still suffering the cognitive dissonance of an near obesive compulsive regarding all things “cleanliness” related. But she’s converted me, and now I do it too.

    In fact, the cleanliness of urine thing is quite interesting. Really hard out yogis or sadus will drink their own urine, and there is a version of the nitti pipe (I couldn’t find anything about this on google, but it’s a way of clearing out your nasal tract) where you use your own urine instead of water. Most of those guys are vegetarian, and I would have thought that makes a difference to the bacteria level.

    And on snot rockets, here’s my answers: yes, no, I don’t know, and (looking at some of the stuff you see on the street) definitely. I’m kind of tempted to run tests on your third question though….

  2. John, you are not alone. I blow snot rockets in the shower also. And hack and pee Just make sure they all go down the drain.

  3. I usually go by that old rule of thumb: “What happens in the shower, stays in the shower.” Fire away!

    However, I find it sort of troubling that you’ve tagged four entries with the word “diarrhea”.

  4. Why does shower water present problems for your alimentary canal? Is it just shower water or all tap water? Where do you get water that is safe to drink? Is this a China-wide problem?

  5. Tim P,

    You can’t drink the tap water in China without boiling it first. Drinking water is usually delivered in big water cooler tanks (or obtained by boiling). Yes, this is China-wide.

  6. On a gut level, I’d agree that non-drinkable tap water is indeed a China-wide problem, but Joan just told me that where she grew up, in 伊图里河, Inner Mongolia, people still drink water from the tap to this day…surprising.

  7. i have never peed in the shower.
    i don’t in the ocean either.
    when i was really desperate in
    cancun once, i had to literally
    force myself even tho it felt
    i was about to explode. just didn’t
    feel right.
    i do do the nose blowing thing. =)

  8. also, i do not refrain from
    peeing in the shower due
    to cleanliness issue, i just
    don’t think it feels right.
    i mean, why not squat right
    there and do a dump down the
    drain while you’re at it?

  9. Joe Thong Says: December 8, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    now i can show my girlfriend and let her know there are people out there who do this too. she’s always think i’m a freak when i told her that i pee in the shower. thanks guys, i don’t feel alone anymore.

  10. Love the diarrhea tag.

  11. Did no one put two and two together? Diarrhea in the shower. Aim for the drain.

  12. John,

    At least, I know the tap water in Beijing is OK to drink. When I was a student in high school and college, my roomates and I drank tap water almost every day in summer. Especially, after playing soccer, no one had enough patience to wait for boiling water getting cold. Though sometimes we could sense some fluoride flavor, I think it is harmless.

  13. I don’t pee in the shower because that gross, yo. Plus I have have been scared with a bad mental image I aquired involving Jon Bon Jovi’s brother, a stripper, and a hotel bathroom shower, and what I saw when I accidentally walked in on them.

    I used tap water to brush my teeth in China, and sometimes I miss the bacteria.

  14. i think this post has probably killed parasite justin. to think hes spent years glad-bagging up his home just at the notion of how disgusting a pair of nikes are. now hes going to be forced to come to terms with what has happened in the showers and bathtubs of these glad-bagged homes. i think i can hear him somewhere in ohio wheezing and staving off a fatal heart attack.

  15. Cyn, I think there is a line somewhere between pissing and shitting. I mean, from a physical point of view defication and egestion are remarkably different functions, and there are a whole load more nasties coming out the back door. And from a practical point of view, unless your body and mine work very differently, pee is going to go down pretty easy in comparision. Isn’t it?

    John’s original point about things being water soluble becomes quite important amidst all this. Call me a freak, but while I can definitiely envisage (theoretically – no tests have yet been run in my house) pee, phlegm and snot (maybe) being water soluble some of the stuff in my shit ain’t going to dissolve in water. Is this an important issue or am I getting way to involved here?

    I don’t want to call you uptight, Cyn, but what’s really all that bad about bodily functions? Yes, I’d hold off from ingesting any of the above (phlegm excepted, and that’s less to do with desire than unavoidableness), and I’d always make sure everything is rinsed away, but beyond that, what’s your gripe?

    P.S. I’ve had a few this evening, and as is always the case, the drunker I get, the more wooly and liberal I become.

  16. To cyn:

    Drains not big enough. Taking a dump there would get pretty damn messy. Also,how are you going to wipe your ass in the shower?

  17. Several of my Chinese and foreign friends regularly drink Chinese tap water and claim to suffer no ill affects. I’ll never do it though.

    About the peeing in the shower… I thought I was the only one!

  18. phil, call me uptight if the label makes
    you happy. i will call myself uptight
    as well if i don’t have to pee in the
    shower. am i the only femme responding
    here? peeing in the shower isn’t the
    same thing for me as for guys, i’d say.
    not that that would stop some women.
    i like to sit and be comfy when i do
    the do. i can see how for guys, you are
    already standing to pee, you might as
    well aim and do it in the shower.
    and there is nothing bad at all
    about bodily functions. i have a baby
    and a toddler, i bet i know more about
    bodily functions than you do!
    and nothing feels
    as good as a nice piss or crap except
    perhaps a strong orgasm…
    which reminds me there is something
    else people must do in the shower that
    john has not addressed. 8)

  19. Um…i don’t pee in the shower either…and I’m not scared to admit it.

  20. I’ll never understand this peeing in the shower routine. I had never even heard of this until recently. Does the presence of water automatically signify “toilet” to you people or what? It is a sanitation issue that has nothing to do with being “uptight about bodily functions.” I prefer not to stand in someone else’s (or my own) urine trail — call me crazy. Do you use Sno-bowl in your shower when you clean it or do you just use those urinal cakes?

  21. Right, so if it’s a sanitation issue, do you play athletics where you may be in touch with the sweat of other people (or push doors, sit on toilets, and otherwise touch things that other people have touched)?

    Where do people get the idea that urine is less sanitary than sweat?

  22. Right, so I’m assuming you sop up your urine with a headband or wipe it on your shirt since it is the same as sweat. Or, to use your line of reasoning again, chairs have sweat on them, so why not sit in a urinal? Or, if you play athletics where people sweat on you, why not have them pee on you? Well, you don’t do those things because sweat is not the same as urine.

  23. Canuckster Says: December 9, 2005 at 8:47 am

    Hrmm mud-butt from drinking Chinese tap water!@! Lovin’ your great entries about snot, poo, boogers, and spit ahaha! As for peeing in the shower, as a female, I would have to say, I prefer peeing in a toilet. Not b/c I think of it as being “dirty,” it’s more so b/c I wouldn’t want the toilet to go to waste! =)

  24. Cyn,

    I take your point on the bodily functions front, I am yet to have kids of my own so I have all that to look forward to. Uptight was a cheap shot. I do think the debate is interesting though. And funnily enough, I was converted to peeing in the shower by my wife, so I don’t think it is a straight male/female divide…



    Freak. I can’t believe that you’d admit that in public…

  25. Phil, ouch. That hurts man. Freak is way more harsh than uptight.

  26. doom, i’ll swap you.
    i like freak. 8)

  27. 88:
    Sweat is essentially diluted urine.

  28. You guys are insane. I’m in total agreement with 88 on this.

    My ex gf pees in the shower. I remember the first time when we were in the shower and she asked me for “permission” to do it.

    I was grossed out. I forbade her to do it in my shower and over the coarse of our relationship (when we were showering together), she would constantly ask me if she could do it!

    What is up with you people? The friggin toilet is 1 foot away. Hold it in and relieve yourself in the TOILET. That’s why it’s called a TOILET.

    Believe me when I say I’m not a squeamish person. I camp. I squat and crap in the woods. I’ve traveled to China, Thailand, and Brazil and nasty or non-existing facilities don’t bother me. But there’s something less than human about relieving yourself where you bathe (or eat or sleep for that matter).

    If you have a bath/shower combo like me, don’t you ever like to fill your tub and have a bath? Do you ever get it on with your significant other in the shower? A lot of times, that ends up on the floor of the shower/bath. I do not want pee being in there for that reason.



  29. Cyn, ok, I’ll be uptight and you can be a freak. Trust me, being a freak takes a lot work and dedication.

  30. Nobody has commented on a minor scientific factor: that running water, or the sound of it, induces, urges on, urination. What’s more I was told by a nurse at a unrine collection post that such induction is more pronounced/effective in women.

    And G, to get to that friggin toilet 1 foot away one, a woman, has to dry off first, right? It could be easy for us guys. But then there is the cold air, at least these days, beyond the shower curtain….

  31. My wife’s flat in Shenzhen had a bathroom with a squatter toilet in the middle of the floor. There was also a shower that just sat on the wall so the squatter toilet also served as the drain for the shower and the washing machine. So it was techically possible to spit, blow snot rockets, piss and crap while showering. I belive I might have done this on occasion, but that was a long time ago.

  32. Peeing in the shower, bathing in the toilet, it’s all good!!!!!!!1

  33. Doesn’t anyone here do the (IMO) logical thing? Use the toilet before your shower!

    If I had read this discussion before I went on a road trip during Thanksgiving, I would have bought some flip-flops for the shower. And I already know how hotel bathrooms are cleaned in the USA; I used to do hotel housekeeping. I just had no idea that so many people pee in the shower.

    (Sleep between the sheets, don’t cuddle with the blankets or comforters/bedspreads)

  34. I think the coolest thing I ever saw about madonna was when she was on letterman and said of course she pees in the shower.. because it cures athletes feet….

  35. the ghost of jp past Says: December 10, 2005 at 8:04 pm

    Man, those guys at talktalk china sure are getting a lot comments. Apparently talking about spitting in China is the way to go…but they’ve already covered that…what to do????

    I know, I’ll talk about spitting and pissing in my very own shower, in China! top that biatches.

  36. 88,

    You’re disgusted by the idea of peeing in the shower because it carries a social stigma. But fresh out of the body, urine is not actually “dirty.” Your reaction is understandable, but not rational. There’s really nothing “dirty” about peeing in the shower, particularly if you’re alone and it goes right into the drain.

  37. ghost,

    You caught me! Those TTC guys clearly invented complaining about China when they started blogging this year. I had to ask permission to write my articles. Thankfully, they were merciful and allowed it. I certainly never got any comments on my blog before this.

  38. This’s the most hilarious blog entry I’ve ever read!


    Your brief hint at how housekeeping is done is rather unsettling. Is it also true for reputable hotels? I’m taking my sleeping bag with me everywhere I travel now 🙁

  39. Why is it irrational to not want to use a shower as a toilet? I know i’m raining on the piss party, but I would rationally say the following:

    One argument seems to be that urine is virtually the same as sweat and is therefore not “dirty,” so if you don’t mind sweat, why should you mind urine?

    Well, spit is mostly water, so why don’t you bathe in spit or drink some random person’s spit? If you mind bathing in spit, you are being either uptight or irrational. The other fallacy here is that sweat is somehow clean and that people choose to get other people’s sweat on themselves. I think given a choice, people do not want to have other people sweat on them. You definitely have a choice when it comes to using the shower as a toilet.

    As for urine not being dirty, urine is a waste product that stinks. Most people do not want other people’s (or their own) urine on their bodies. I am one of those people. If that makes me irrational or “uptight,” I question your logic, standards of hygiene, and possibly your sanity.

    Ok, I don’t question your sanity.

  40. 88,

    Urine stinks when it is allowed to sit because of bacteria. The toilet is an ideal receptacle for urine because it washes it away without allowing it to collect, where it would then house bacteria and start to stink.

    I’ll agree, the “waste product” taboo has some power over me too, so I certainly don’t like the idea of anyone’s urine on me. But I can’t say I feel that way because of cold hard science. The science doesn’t support it.

    Again, I’m not advocating everyone pissing all over each other in a big urine orgy. If you’ll read what I said, I said I don’t do it often, I only do it when I’m alone, and it always goes straight into the drain.

  41. You high class folk up in Shanghai, must have some fancy bathrooms. In Guangxi, our shower drains and toilets are the same hole in the floor, so you really pee in the shower whether you’re taking one or not.

  42. Frank, I wouldn’t recommend a sleeping bag. If the bed has been changed, clean sheets have been put on it. Comforters/bedspreads and blankets aren’t changed unless it’s necessary. Can you imagine trying to get all those washed and dried in a couple of hours every day?! I can’t. They don’t keep many spares in stock either, they are so bulky. I want to point out there are some weird people out there who make up their beds so well that housekeepers can’t tell at a glance that the bed was used. Don’t do that! Mess things up so the bed gets changed! Also, the pink cleaner used in the bathroom is very strong so if you have sensitive skin, don’t take a bath just take a shower. Although I wouldn’t sit in a hotel bathtub anyway, too many feet have been there before. Oh, yeah, and my wedding night will not be spent in a hotel either.

    John, if you pee in the shower, how do you know it’s all going down the drain and hasn’t splattered on the walls?

  43. My alfresco spitting behaviour was radically altered for the worse after two years in China, until I met my Shanghainese boyfriend who told me I was being disgusting. I am now spit-free.

    I do however often pee in the street after drinking. Apparently most residents of central london do the same (although I don’t vomit in the street, unlike most people in Soho. Ok, I do sometimes). My boyfriend also takes umbrage at this, but I reason that he would prefer it on the the street to in my pants.

    Public urination also seems to be mandatory throughout France. China does not have exclusive rights on disgusting behaviour. It does win on the snot-frequency, though.

  44. I’ve been in more than one Chinese shower located over the hole in the floor and even remember taking a dump once without turning the water off :-O Nobody owned up to pissing in the bath tho…. now that is gross!

  45. AL,

    That’s why it’s yellow. 😉

  46. John,

    Actually my pee stinks before it is stale….even when I haven’t eaten asparagus. Should I get that checked out? Actually, I can smell my urine while I’m pissing…in the toilet. I think all the shower pissers do so because of some gross and iresponsible fetish. I mean didn’t people die heroically so we could piss in toilets and not on ourselves in the shower?

  47. When visiting India, we boiled the water because otherwise we would get diarrhea. Last time, even boiling it didn’t seem to do the trick, so I bought bottled water instead. The locals didn’t have problems drinking the water, though, because they are accustomed to the bacteria in the water. Supposedly if you drink it you get used to it after a few weeks. Though, in India, diarrhea is such a common thing that its pretty normal for someone to respond to “how are you doing?” with “I’ve been having diarrhea.”

    As for the snot rocket thing, I actually have a cold right now. I regularly snot rocket into the sink and sometimes the shower (although not really anywhere else). The shower is the best place for this, since the water vapors help loosen up your sinuses. I like using the sink over tissues because its a lot easier on the nose, and a lot less gross to wash it away then to have a snotty tissue left behind. But I end up using tissues anyway, cause I can’t keep running to the sink.

    Peeing in the shower, I don’t think its a really big deal. I don’t do it unless its an emergency because if it doesn’t all go down the drain it will smell. It kinda depends on where your drain is and how big it is and whether or not it’ll all go down immediately. In any case, urine is not a lot dirtier than what you are washing off your body.

  48. Xuexiansheng Says: December 10, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    This was a hiliarious old entry. I think this should be included in the ‘Classic Entry’ section.

    My 2 cents for the outdoor stuff: 入乡随俗.
    Indoor: 隨便.

  49. I thinks its cool how you can open up like this and not be embarrased. My mothers boyfriend has a different way of doing snot rockets. He says that when he was young him and his friends and brothers would go outside and see who could shoot them the farthest.

  50. I have personally peed in the shower my self too. I have never did a snot rocket or spit though.(or peed in the living room).

  51. I find this post funny. What is the purpose of a shower? to get clean, which suggests you were somewhat dirty. If sweat is similar to urine (which most things I’ve read sas it is) what does pee matter? Why get out of a large flush to just pee in a toilet & waste more water? & a hot shower is the perfect time to clear out the nasal passages. I think many in the west try to seperate too many things into different areas of life.

  52. My GF and I pee in the shower most all the time. So what’s the big problem; pee is mostly water, and it’s actually cleaner then most tap water these days. Imagine that; we are still alive and it’s been 8 years together.

  53. First off im gonna Say to Josh… You and your girlfriend are both weirdos you guys piss in the shower?? and another thing is no piss is not cleaner than water, it might be in the dirty states but not in Canada with all the clean water (which by the way you guys steal) and all you other people get a damn life , stop debating about piss and sweat i mean like come on….. im only on this because i wanted to tell my dad that sweat is like piss cus he didnt beieleve me and here i am reading about people debating over pee, and a weirdo who bathes in piss

  54. Spitting and snotting in the shower is perfectly normal. There are a lot worse things going down the plug hole than mucus. Small amounts of urine and faeces as well as general build up of day and night sweat, grease from your hair, pollutants from a general day out and about in a major city. Which leads to my next point, NOT SPITTING/SNOTTING IN THE SHOWER IS PROBABLY BAD FOR YOU, Considering all the smoke and smog you inhale over a day. If you work in a trade of any sort even worse with dust from plaster etc. In fact that is the biological purpose of MUCUS (to collect pollutants to avoid infection and illness through expulsion) Where else are you supposed to do it, I’m sure caveman’s idea of social etiquette made it acceptable to do it out and about but now?And if you go swimming you would have to be a bit silly to not clear the chlorine from your throat. So even spitting in a gym shower is accepted by most athletes. I personally don’t spit in the swimming pool but I know plenty of people who do and understand why so I generally keep my mouth shut, in more ways than one 😛 as for the peeing in the shower, doesn’t bother me, as it all ends up in the same place anyway and urine is not that bad (considering some people drink it), it just smells bad but goes down the drain so fast that there’s no bother.

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