The Toilet Paper Excuse

My friend Sean has a hilarious post up about cultural differences compounded by generation gaps in China. This particular drama revolves around toilet paper. Here’s an excerpt:

> By the time the night was finishing up and the massage was over, it was quite late, around 10:30pm. The parents live in a slightly remote part of Shanghai, only accessible by bus or taxi, and they always refuse to take a taxi because its too expensive (even if I offer to pay). I told JJ to tell them to just stay the night at our house, that made the most sense and it was totally fine by me (and of course by JJ). We do have an extra room and I did buy this couch bed for this very reason. So it only made sense for them to stay, especially since it was holiday and JJ was not working.

> Here comes the kicker. They were at first totally against it. Why, you might ask? Well it was not for the normal reasons you might imagine, such as ‘we don’t want to intrude’, ‘we have plans tomorrow morning’, we simply want to get home’, ‘we don’t like the couch bed’. None of these things mattered to them. Instead, the issue at hand was literally:

> We don’t know if we want to stay because the toilet paper I buy is too soft for them and they really don’t like using it.

Read the rest of the post for Sean’s reaction.

The type of “toilet paper” the parents prefer is called 草纸 (literally, “grass paper”), although it’s sometimes just referred to as 手纸 (which, amusingly, are the same two characters used to write the word for “letter” in Japanese).

I used to use 草纸 as paper towels back in the day. I tried to find a decent picture of it online, but this was the best I could do.


John Pasden

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


  1. That’s just hilarious !!!

  2. i don’t think it’s so much a generation gap (other than top cities) as a countryside/cityside gap. a lot of the girls in the pink light shops around shanghai (none originally from here, most from the countryside) are actually very much partial to DOUBLE SHIP brand.

  3. After many years of 草纸,they must feel guilty using so decent, nice toilet paper in the bathroom. You know, tissues at many 大排档 are much worse than some toilet papers! Personally I think quite a number of Chinese young people probably feel the same way.

  4. Shit happens!

  5. Aren’t these “China is SOOO different from home” posts sort of hackneyed and worn after 8.1 years in China?

  6. oh come on krovvy. that was a good one.

  7. Interesting Fact:
    China…AD 1391 – The Bureau of Imperial Supplies began producing 720,000 sheets of toilet paper a year, each sheet measuring two feet by three feet. For use by the Emperors.

    With over 600 years to perfect toilet paper, you’d think that the softest and best kind would come from China. 🙂 Fortunately for us though, the Chinese haven’t got a patent on the invention! 🙂

  8. Great post! I remember in sichuan, we used toilet paper for everything, for cleaning up spills, blotting ink, dusting, …you name it!

    I found that particularly amusing. out 阿姨 would buy a huge pack of it and use it for everything. Now that I think about our school did the sam thing too.

    Does everyone have a similar experience in china or was I just surrounded by cheapskates?

  9. I’m not sure light487 was trying to be critical or something. But you definitely didn’t sound funny but corny. what a clown!

  10. “洁云”这个牌子的 不错。另外,this type of “草纸“ 算是上海 的特色。

  11. Actually, I have a great love for China that runs deeper than my love for my own country. I wasn’t trying to be funny, just to highlight that China seem to be the first country to invent the concept of toilet “paper”. And to make light of it.

    Your comment is obviously just a trolling comment to see if I will bite but no.. I will only clarify myself and if you still don’t get it, then that is your problem not mine.

  12. when u gotta go u gotta go … any paper will do then haha

  13. Such a funny, funny story.

    Is it so bad to have soft toilet rolls?

  14. Forget soft paper rolls … use facial tissue to wipe! And if you’re balling out of control, silk as disposable wipes.

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