January 11, 2023
When Augustine Kaitharath’s family immigrated to the U.K. in the 2000s, they had no choice but to start using plastic cups filled with water to rinse their behinds after pooping. Although Kaitharath loved using bum guns on annual trips to India, he refused the plastic mugs and instead joined the club of South Asians in the diaspora wiping with paper. But when his family installed two bidets in their new home in 2021, Kaitharath gave the jet spray another go. He is unlikely to ever return to toilet paper.
The bidet is the dominant form of cleaning oneself after using the toilet. About 80% of the world uses some form of the bidet, including all of South Asia. In contrast, in 2022, only 12% of Americans had access to bidets and 71% have never used one. Recently, though, that seems to be changing. The bidet is back, marketing campaigns are declaring, as if it is a newfound discovery. But, for many South Asians, it has usually been the norm or, at least, a familiar practice that they may have been forced to abandon.