For the love of hygiene.

Posted on Apr 18, 2013 | 10 comments

For the love of hygiene.

On Wednesday it happened. The last straw was placed on the delicate little camel’s back and my toes crept right up to the very end of the ledge of sanity. I was washing my hands in one of the women’s restrooms in my faculty building and as I rinsed away the soap bubbles a girl exited a bathroom stall and came up to the sink. She took her water bottle from her backpack, turned on the faucet and then filled up her bottle, turned off the faucet and shuffled out of the restroom (all without washing her hands). All of my figurative internal bugs went crawling around under my skin resulting in a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. Not only did this girl neglect to wash her hands after relieving herself, she then also put her most likely soiled hands on something that she was going to put on her mouth.


This instance was the culmination of a very present problem that I’ve been noticing for some time. So very few girls and women wash their hands after using the public restrooms in Ghent.

This a big issue for me. I hate this for many reasons. Firstly, we are in an academic environment, touching desks, pens, chairs, door handles, cafeteria tables – the list goes on – and I can almost literally see the germs being scattered about. Secondly, I hate this because these people are not being responsible about their health; not washing hands after using the restroom can make you seriously ill, not to mention the amount of illness that is always lurking about in such public places. Thirdly, I hate this because they’re endangering my health, too.

The bottom line is, I don’t want to be ingesting anyone else’s bodily fluids and I don’t think that my peers want that either. So here it is, ladies, my very sincere plea for you to start being responsible body owners. Take one extra minute and join me in the effort to maintain proper hygiene, wash your hands in camaraderie, go forth with your head held high and your hands clean.


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  • Amanda Attig

    Very interesting post! It seems that if someone here would do that, everyone in the bathroom would turn and give her a look of disgust. In China, they do not wash their hands often, but they also do not sit on toilets, they squat over them, and they flush with their feet. They find Americans disgusting for all sitting on the same toilets! ha.

    • Leah@OppositeOcean

      :) Thanks for the comment.
      I guess it’s really all about what we grow up considering normal. I never go without washing my hands but that could be because I worked in the healthcare industry for 5 years. Also, the Chinese mentality about sitting on the toilet has crossed my mind a few times. If you really think about it, they have a point. Hand washing is so easy, though… I just don’t understand why the girls aren’t doing it here.

  • ccd

    I have noticed the same thing and it grosses me out. I belong to a very posh gym in Brussels and 9/10 times the women do not wash their hands after using the rest room. I wonder if it is because in some houses the toilet is in a room by itself with no sink so they aren’t accustomed to it. It also bothers me that many restrooms, including those where I work, only have cold water.

    • Leah@OppositeOcean

      Ugh, the gym seems like a prime place for germs to thrive. How do you resist disinfecting everything? I also don’t know what has caused these people to have missed out on learning this important part of proper hygiene. I should be careful to say that it isn’t every single person that is skipping the washing, but it is, as you say, such a large percentage that I find it really worrisome.

  • MadridMan

    There’s the argument here in Spain – and you know it too, Leah, that “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” When at the gym or at bars or restaurants, I’d say only about 10-20% of the men wash their hands in the restrooms. I don’t know if it’s a conscious choice or just habit, but I’ve heard several Spaniards tell me that washing ones hands too often is actually UNhealthy. Many believe the “gentle” daily exposure to germs help them fight sicknesses. I actually subscribe to that to some degree – but I still always wash my hands because I’m an American and it’s in my DNA to obsess about such things. :)

    • Leah@OppositeOcean

      I do agree with not going overboard on the hand washing, but I think it’s just common sense to wash one’s hands after using the restroom. I am skeptical that any argument could ever exist to convince me otherwise. :) I guess I will continue washing and continue being grossed out by those who don’t. Maybe it will save me an illness or two. 😉

  • freida taylor

    ditto with all the comments but let’s take it one step farther here in good ol’ Belgium and other nearby countries. What is the hygenic opinion on the reusable hand towel hanging on the hook? I cringe to think how many have wiped their half washed hands on that one towel as it hangs there almost saturated with water and with the invisible neon light beckoning all little bacteria in the general vicinity to come lodge within.

    • Leah@OppositeOcean

      The hanging towel is always my very last option. It took me a while to even figure out what the purpose of that thing was.

  • Bij Gebrek Aan Beter

    Interesting post! I think this has to do with the cultural differences and habits in America and Belgium. However, I always wash my hands. But I can understand your point.
    Oh ps, you asked me a question on my blog but I’m not sure you’ll read the answer over there so I’ll post it here as well :)
    Hi there Leah! Thank you so much for your comment :-) I usually make my packages so that they still fit in the mail box around the corner. I simply put on the amount of stamps needed (and sometimes a few extra, just in case) and put it in there. If it doesn’t fit I buy boxes or envelopes at the post office. In that way they’re not unconventional and they can’t complain :p

    Hope this helped :)

    • Leah@OppositeOcean

      Thanks for the comment and the tip about the envelopes! I came across your blog through bloglovin’ and really enjoy all the creative posts (not to mention it gives me a chance to practice reading some Dutch). I send quite a few things through the post to my family in the US and I’m sure my nieces and nephews would be delighted with some creative packages. :) You’ve got some great ideas so I’ll be looking to your blog for creative inspiration when mailing something next. Have a great weekend. :)