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Don’t throw paper in the toilet – in Greece

If you’ve been to Greece you may know about the practice of throwing toilet paper in the bin rather than flushing it away. It’s something that I’ve never come across anywhere else in Europe but wherever you go in Greece you’ll see signs in the bathroom warning you, just in case you’re one of those ignorant people who’s never heard of this unusual practice.

Don't throw paper down the toilet in Greece

Don't throw paper down the toilet in Greece

Apparently the plumbing in Greece just isn’t up to it and if I was a restaurant owner that was going to deal with a blockage I guess I’d be putting signs up just to make this clear.

Don't throw paper down the toilet in Greece

Don't throw paper down the toilet in Greece

I do sometimes wonder whether the Greeks couldn’t just start using more accommodating pipes like the rest of Europe but perhaps their sewage processing works just wouldn’t take it either. But then it can’t be great to be putting all this paper in the landfill instead. It’s one of those mysteries that get’s more confusing the more you think about it. Best not to give it too much thought as you knock back the ouzo.

All I can say is that it’s sometimes a relief to get home and know that you can flush without fear of the consequences. If you’ve been to Greece I hope I didn’t spoil your moussaka and chips!

Perhaps you have a few bathroom stories from your travels you’d like to share. But then again…..

Photo credit: Photos are mine but I should credit Rob and Ritsa Wallace who run Freddie’s Beach Bar at Tsilivi, Zante where I saw them.

This post is part of Photo Friday hosted by Debbie at Delicious Baby – head over for more delicious posts and let’s not dwell on toilet talk any more.

More Greek articles to enjoy

The party begins at Zakynthos airport – in Greece
Teenage thrills at the Waterpark on Zakynthos – in Greece
How to run a beach bar on Zakynthos in Greece – Video

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heatheronhertravels' Zakynthos - around the island photoset heatheronhertravels’ Zakynthos – around the island photoset

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

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40 Comments

  • Reply
    Mara
    June 5, 2010 at 12:20 am

    On our honeymoon in Santorini twelve years ago the power would go out unexpectedly, sometimes for as long as an hour, and the Greeks would just shrug their shoulders and go about their business. One night it happened while we were at dinner and we were informed we’d have to choose new things to eat. We did, and then the power came back on and they served us everything that we had ordered – more than twice as much food as we really needed.

    So it’s no surprise to me that they don’t put in bigger pipes. The pipes are already there – why mess with them?
    .-= Mara´s last blog ..Skipping with the steam engines =-.

  • Reply
    Komodo Tour
    June 5, 2010 at 2:30 am

    This is great Information, thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Cate
    June 5, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Greece has not changed since I was there years ago. Similar situations happen eveywhere in Asia and some places you can’t flush, you have to use a cupfull of water to flush. Oh I love my mod cons.
    .-= Cate´s last blog ..Marketplace Express @ St. Pete Florida =-.

  • Reply
    Steve
    June 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I’m planning on going to Greece next year so this is good information to know. I’ve only known of one other place that does this and that was in Winnipeg, Canada. Although it was in someone’s personal home so I don’t know if it was because of the pipes or if that person just learned it growing up somewhere else.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..15 Books to Inspire You to a More Interesting Life =-.

  • Reply
    Keith
    June 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    I think this dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire, when they didn’t use TP. One place I know of on Crete put it rather well:

    ‘It doesn’t go down the pan unless you ate it first!’
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..The Purton Hulks =-.

  • Reply
    Mark H
    June 7, 2010 at 2:45 am

    It’s strange how years of conditioning makes this seem such an uncomfortable practice. It was a huge shock to me when I first went to Greece.
    .-= Mark H´s last blog ..Concert for Canines (Sydney, Australia) =-.

  • Reply
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels
    June 7, 2010 at 3:36 am

    Ha! Apparently you haven’t been to Asia or Mexico, or for that matter, many places in the Caribbean. I always come back and have to retrain myself to put the paper in the bowl.
    .-= Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels´s last blog ..Speed is the Enemy of Cultural Travel =-.

  • Reply
    AngloPolish
    June 7, 2010 at 6:55 am

    I didn’t know about not throwing paper into greek toilets. I have been in Greece, but never found such info. Instead, I found funny toilets which looks like hole in the ground with two places for foots – no chair or anything You could sit on it. Such toilets were also in whole old Jugoslavia countries and in Ukraine, Romania etc.

  • Reply
    Anil
    June 7, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    I get the impression that things run pretty slowly in Greece, I can’t imagine this changing anytime soon since they’re so used to it.

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    June 8, 2010 at 5:11 am

    Lord knows Greece can’t afford to be changing any plumbing these days! I encountered this in India and many other parts of Asia. After living in India for a month – I honestly got used to it and had to retrain myself to throw it in the toilet again!
    .-= Sherry Ott´s last blog ..signs =-.

  • Reply
    Abi
    June 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

    This practice is also alive and well in many parts of Spain!
    .-= Abi´s last blog ..Unusual Journeys: Swimming to South Africa =-.

  • Reply
    mamagoshop.com
    June 9, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Hello! I recently read your blog and I loved it. I was wondering if you were intending to publish additional web content to go in conjunction with this blog?
    .-= mamagoshop.com´s last blog ..Enjoy Holiday with Surfing in Hawaii =-.

  • Reply
    Theodora
    June 10, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Great photo! I have never seen a sign which makes it so clear…

    There’s a great bit in Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals about his sister encountering the Greek paper system (without such Anglo-friendly signage).

    Vietnam, weirdly, has the same issue. Although they do also have hose attachments which are brilliant once you are used to them…

  • Reply
    Caitlin @ Roaming Tales
    June 10, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    It’s interesting that this is the case in Greece, which is part of first-world Europe, but it’s very common in the developing world. I’ve seen it in Central America, Asia and Africa.
    .-= Caitlin @ Roaming Tales´s last blog ..Best of the Web: A carnival of travel and food =-.

  • Reply
    seb
    June 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    You can find the same system in other Balkan countries. And the paper is not always dedicated toilet paper. In Bulgaria, I have wiped my behind with pages from The Arabian Nights, stuck on a nail in the wall for that purpose, and in Croatia, Belgian comic hero Lucky Luke, in a cheap local edition, did the job.

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    June 11, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    It seems from all the comments that I’ve been living in a bubble of the part of the civilised world that flushes the paper – perhaps I should get out and about more to those places where the bin is the norm and then I could really live it up with the Arabian Nights and Lucky Luke. Of course travel does challenge our assumptions about what is normal – what stupid person would want to block up the drains anyway?

  • Reply
    Helen
    August 1, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I have lived in Greece for more than 20 years and always flush toilet paper. Toilet paper is less of a problem than the poo it is used to wipe. Modern paper is made to disintegrate in water quite quickly and unless used in ridiculous amounts causes no problem in modern buildings where standard plastic pipes are used. The only problem could be in very old buildings with metal pipes that may be very narrow and prone to blockage. Of course, if people expect to put other waste down a toilet such as wet wipes, nappies, sanitary towels, condoms etc this would block and pollute the system in any country!! Some modern hotels etc. just put this sign up out of habit.

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    August 2, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    @ Helen Well I must admit that my sister who has also lived for over 20 years in Greece also flushes but as she reckons that she’s the only one doing it, then it doesn’t matter. Using the same principal my mother tell me she always sits on the seats in public toilets as she knows that no-one else is!

  • Reply
    My 7 Links – a delve into the archives at Heather on her travels | Heather on her travels
    July 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    […] Don’t throw paper in the toilet in Greece […]

  • Reply
    juanitogoloso
    August 25, 2011 at 2:36 am

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  • Reply
    Daniel
    September 19, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Same thing in most of Brazil…

    • Reply
      Heather
      September 19, 2011 at 8:30 am

      @Daniel Perhaps we in the UK are more the exception than we think

  • Reply
    Paul
    April 22, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Smaller pipes is what you read when your English brain is smaller than the average European one. You may throw paper towels , condoms, napkins, tampons etc in your sewage system as much as you want but you have to behave with common sense, if you have any space left next to your British arrogance, when you travel abroad.

    • Reply
      Heather
      April 22, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      @Paul I hope that I would not be arrogant faced with different practices that have good reasons behind them – but as most European sewage systems do allow you to flush toilet paper away it’s unsurprising that most visitors to Greece find this a practice that takes some getting used to, although to the Greeks it’s common sense.

  • Reply
    Sanja
    July 28, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    Quote: “You can find the same system in other Balkan countries. And the paper is not always dedicated toilet paper. In Bulgaria, I have wiped my behind with pages from The Arabian Nights, stuck on a nail in the wall for that purpose, and in Croatia, Belgian comic hero Lucky Luke, in a cheap local edition, did the job.”

    That is not true. In all of ex-Yugoslavia paper has always been flushed. That thing you experienced in Croatia might be because they ran out of toilet paper in public toilet and didn’t replace it on time.

  • Reply
    Sanja
    July 28, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    By the way, I just came back from Greece a few days ago and I have to admit I stuggled with toilet a little. I couldn’t put toilet paper in the bin as I found it extremely disgusting, so I carefully flushed one paper at a time, and it still blocked a little, but I managed to unblock it.

    • Reply
      Heather
      July 28, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      @Sanja I was also back in Greece recently but it’s now become second nature to me to put the paper in the bin. It’s still a relief to come home and not have to do that though.

  • Reply
    phil
    August 14, 2013 at 7:00 am

    In S. Korea, most people throw it in a bin next to the toilet, even though S. Korean plumbling has been steadily improving over the last 20 years, and there is no longer a real need to do so in most cases.

  • Reply
    Neo
    February 5, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Hello. I was born in Greece 38 years ago, I have lived in Greece my entire life, and I’m a civil engineer. I have only seen pipes of 10-11cm used for this purpose, even in very old building from the 50s. That’s the typical size in most countries. It’s more of a old wives’ tale than an actual size issue.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      February 5, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      @Neo Thanks for the inside information, so I’m wondering if the pipes are the same as everywhere, Greece has a different custom

  • Reply
    Christos
    February 5, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Old habits die hard I guess. I’ve lived in western europe for years then came back to Greece and lived with my folkds untill I found a place of my own. They were exasperated that I kept flushing toilet paper, to the point that my grandpa wrote a very polite message in old fashioned greek and hanged it over the toilet “You are please kindly requested NOT to throw toilet paper in the toilet. Thank you”.
    This always produced a laugh when my folkds had visitors over!
    (btw the toilet never actually blocked)

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      February 6, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      @Christos What one culture considers strange another culture considers perfectly normal !

  • Reply
    Daphni
    March 27, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Maybe it is also interesting for you to know that in the Greek villages there is no such a system like pipes at all. Instead there are big tanks underneath the houses where all toilet flushings are gathered and emptied every once in a while.. As soon as they are full. Being faced with this kind of toilets, it is certainly not good to throw paper into them.

    But in cities it is no problem at all throwing paper into toilets.
    Kind regards,
    Daphni

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      March 27, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      @Daphni Thanks for your comment an shedding some light on the reasons behind this custom, I guess it’s the same in many country areas all over the world

  • Reply
    Veronika Dalton
    September 21, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    I had no idea that the plumbing in those countries was such a problem. The idea of someone having to empty a trash can full of soiled toilet paper makes me sick to my stomach! I’m so thankful for the plumbing in my home.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      September 22, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      @Veronika – of course the Greeks think nothing of it and I believe it’s quite the norm in other countries too

  • Reply
    Sanja
    October 6, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Actually, I just recently visited Egypt and there was not even a hint that I shouldn’t flush toilet paper; it worked normally in my hotel. I live in Bosnia, which is quite possibly the poorest country in Europe, and we have always flushed our toilet paper. I visited Turkey in 2003 and no one told me not to do it; it worked normally wherever I used it. Of course, it may be different in rural areas, where some people don’t even have a modern toilet and/or plumbing. I don’t know why it’s such a problem in Greece.

  • Reply
    fredwingg
    May 6, 2016 at 11:12 am

    If there’s a problem of blockage then its good to use bin to dispose toilet paper. The toilet was never designed as a waste disposal unit, its purpose is to dispose of human waste, which by the way is designed to disintegrate in water.

    Some people tend to use a lot of tissue and children tend to be the worst culprits for this “again”. And this cause a blockage of toilet.

  • Reply
    go-indochine
    October 18, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Great tip. Very useful for new travellers to Greece. Tks for moking this article. Looking for more from you in the future.

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