Don’t throw paper in the toilet – in Greece

June 4, 2010 by  

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

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Comments

34 Comments on "Don’t throw paper in the toilet – in Greece"

  1. Mara on Sat, 5th Jun 2010 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 =-.

  2. Komodo Tour on Sat, 5th Jun 2010 2:30 am 

    This is great Information, thanks for sharing

  3. Cate on Sat, 5th Jun 2010 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 =-.

  4. Steve on Sat, 5th Jun 2010 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 =-.

  5. Keith on Sat, 5th Jun 2010 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 =-.

  6. Mark H on Mon, 7th Jun 2010 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) =-.

  7. Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels on Mon, 7th Jun 2010 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 =-.

  8. AngloPolish on Mon, 7th Jun 2010 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.

  9. Anil on Mon, 7th Jun 2010 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.

  10. Sherry Ott on Tue, 8th Jun 2010 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 =-.

  11. Abi on Tue, 8th Jun 2010 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 =-.

  12. mamagoshop.com on Wed, 9th Jun 2010 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 =-.

  13. Theodora on Thu, 10th Jun 2010 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…

  14. Caitlin @ Roaming Tales on Thu, 10th Jun 2010 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 =-.

  15. seb on Fri, 11th Jun 2010 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.

  16. Heather Cowper on Fri, 11th Jun 2010 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?

  17. Helen on Sun, 1st Aug 2010 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.

  18. Heather Cowper on Mon, 2nd Aug 2010 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!

  19. My 7 Links – a delve into the archives at Heather on her travels | Heather on her travels on Sun, 10th Jul 2011 2:05 pm 

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

  20. juanitogoloso on Thu, 25th Aug 2011 2:36 am 

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  21. Daniel on Mon, 19th Sep 2011 7:48 am 

    Same thing in most of Brazil…

  22. Heather on Mon, 19th Sep 2011 8:30 am 

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

  23. Paul on Sun, 22nd Apr 2012 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.

  24. Heather on Sun, 22nd Apr 2012 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.

  25. Sanja on Sat, 28th Jul 2012 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.

  26. Sanja on Sat, 28th Jul 2012 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.

  27. Heather on Sat, 28th Jul 2012 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.

  28. phil on Wed, 14th Aug 2013 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.

  29. Neo on Wed, 5th Feb 2014 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.

  30. Heather Cowper on Wed, 5th Feb 2014 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

  31. Christos on Wed, 5th Feb 2014 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)

  32. Heather Cowper on Thu, 6th Feb 2014 1:40 pm 

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

  33. Daphni on Thu, 27th Mar 2014 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

  34. Heather Cowper on Thu, 27th Mar 2014 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

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