Culture Clash

In 1990, I went on a school trip to the UK. One of the excursions we were taken on was to a former coal mine which had been turned into a museum. The tour guide showed us the houses where early twentieth-century coal miners lived, their furniture, their clothes, their children’s toys.

Then the tour guide took us into the backyard and showed us a small wooden outhouse.

“Can you guess what this is?” he asked.

We stared at him dumbly because for Soviet children an outhouse was as common as a spoon. We couldn’t figure out what was supposed to be mysterious about the outhouse.

“Well, just try to guess!” the tour guide encouraged us, flinging the door open. “What do you think this is?”

We continued to stare dumbly because it looked like a pretty regular outhouse. Way too clean compared to the ones we were used to but it must have been gussied up for the tourists.

“It’s a toilet!” the tour guide exclaimed. “See? This is where people sat, this is what they used for toilet paper. Can you imagine? That’s what people had to do to use the bathroom!”

We were in our early teens, so we started collapsing with laughter caused by the realization that the tour guide was trying to educate us about outhouses.

The tour guide complained that we were insensitive to the suffering of the British working class, and our principal gave us a huge dressing down.

3 thoughts on “Culture Clash

  1. “The tour guide complained that we were insensitive to the suffering of the British working class”

    Actually the tour guide was being insensitive to the suffering of Soviet youth (not to mention Soviet every other age group)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We weren’t supposed to be suffering. We lived in the Soviet paradise that liberated workers.

      Curiously, much of my experience with outhouses comes from my uncle, a Soviet coal miner, who died never having experienced living with an indoor toilet. He died a few years ago, so it’s not like indoor toilets made an appearance after the fall of the USSR.


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