The term “WC” has such a lovely British air, but if we were in the Island Nation this sign undoubtedly would start with a cordial and most polite “Please.” (The first Chinese character 请 is equal, but since most of us are not reading the Chinese, I’ll focus on the English part.)
When I walked into the stall, it took me a while to figure out the notice (this is not too uncommon a situation when it comes to warnings) . Of course you can’t see in the picture, but this was a western style toilet (with a proper seat). It was only later that I realized that they might have had issues because a local Chinese visitor might be confused by the style of toilet – imagine the situation that prompted the sign! The majority of public toilets are porcelain basins submerged in the ground, which you squat over more like a horizontal floor mounted urinal.
It is usually not a problem finding a restroom – toilets are generally a shared commodity because the old style Chinese homes didn’t necessarily have their own. It was commonly shared between the small community that lived in a courtyard hutong (a circle of one story family rooms around a central courtyard area), or a larger public bathroom that serviced a little neighborhood. For this reason, the small public bathroom is something you’ll find all over the city, born from this style of living, and if you’re desperate it will do.
I’ll close this with a piece of advice — always carry your own tissue – you’re unlikely to find any when you’re out and about. And this may sound a little dirty to the westerner, but the tissue is to be discarded in a little waste basket in the corner of the stall, not flushed down the toilet. In more modern buildings, it is likely not an issue. However in the older parts of town, the pipes are smaller, and more given to get clogged and backed up. For this reason, you’ll always find a little waste basket in your stall, filled with … well… used tissues. Often in newer buildings as well, even though it’s probably no longer an issue. I guess once you’ve gotten into the habit it’s a hard one to break.