What Is the Difference Between American and European Toilets?

There are various customs and ways of doing things in Europe that are different from the USA, and certain countries within Europe have unique ways of doing things. Today, I will explain the difference between American and European toilets.

As a general rule, the only difference is the standard European toilet is 2 inches (5 cm) lower to the ground than the standard American toilet. A standard European toilet seat is 15 inches (38 cm) from the ground, whereas, a standard American toilet is (17 inches (43.2 cm) from the ground. 

European and American laws both state a toilet must not flush more than 1.6 gallons (6 liters) per flush. But, in some European countries bidets are required by law. Below, I will discuss the requirements for toilets installed in the USA compared to Europe, and more info about how they differ.

Toilet Dimensions: USA vs Europe

Some regulations are put in place so that toilets don’t use too much water. When toilets were first invented and up until recently toilets used A LOT of water. And estimates are that a toilet uses a vast majority of the water used in a home. The USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that a toilet uses 30% of the water usage in a home.

They also have regulations in place that limit the amount of water that can be used in a single flush to 1.6 gallons (6 liters). The European Union (EU), has also put forth requirements for toilets. They state “flushing toilet equipment when placed on the market shall not exceed 6.0 l/flush” (source). 

Not all countries in Europe are part of the EU. But, it’s representative of toilet customs in Europe. Because there is a diverse range of countries in the EU that are located throughout the entire European continent.

Therefore, the tank size for both American and European toilets is the same. There is also a wide availability of what are called dual flush toilets in both Europe and America. These are toilets that have two buttons. One for a full flush, and the other for a half flush.

SensoWash SLIM from Duravit
SensoWash SLIM from Duravit

Toilet seat height in Europe and the USA: are they different?

According to Kohler a very well-known toilet brand in the USA, the average toilet seat height in the USA is under 17 inches (43.2 cm) from the ground. And that toilet seat height ranges from 15 inches to 19 inches (38.1 cm to 48.3 cm).

Toilet manufacturers in Europe, state that the average toilet seat height is 15 inches (38.1 cm). So, the regular toilet seat height in Europe is slightly lower than in the USA. But, they also say that toilets range in height from 15 inches to 19 inches (38.1 cm to 48.3 cm). Which is the same range as the toilet seat heights in America.

Therefore, the average European toilet is slightly lower to the ground – about 2 inches (5 cm), compared to USA toilets.

Other minor differences between European and American toilets

There are a few other minor differences between European toilets and American toilets. Bidets are reasonably uncommon in the USA. As you may know, a bidet is a water hose that is used to wash your bottom after you go poop. They are often installed with a separate bowl. 

a bidet next to toilet bowl

In some European countries, they are quite common. For example, in Italy, it’s interestingly a law that all homes be equipped with a bidet. It’s been noted on Wikipedia that squat toilets used to be quite common in Europe. These are where the toilet is at ground level. However, they state that nowadays these are only found in very old buildings.

There is a range of different toilet bowl shapes. Some are oval-shaped, whereas, others are more square. But, there is no overall trend in Europe or America for what type of toilet shape is used or preferred. And most toilets are oval in shape.

It has been noted by many Americans that visit Germany that their toilets are a bit different. They have less water, and a traditional German toilet has a flat shelf at the back. And where the water is, is more to the front of the bowl. 

These toilets are now not very common. But, it’s reported that it’s very when you take a poop for it to stick to the back of the bowl. This means you need to use a toilet brush every time you use the toilet. Many Americans found this very strange.

American Standard ActiClean
American Standard ActiClean

How Do People Poop in European Toilets

Different countries have behavior and customs that are considered polite or impolite, which can often take a bit of getting used to for a person new to a country. So, how do people poop in European toilets?

As a general rule, a European toilet can be used in exactly the same way as any other toilet. You take a poop or a pee and then flush it. They are also on average the same size and shape. It’s common in some European toilets to have a bidet next to the toilet. 

It’s also been noted that in Germany and Switzerland, men sit down to pee. This custom likely is observed in other neighboring countries as well. It’s believed that this is to stop small amounts of urine from splashing out of the bowl, and it makes it easier to not miss which requires a person to clean up afterward.

How Do Europeans Use the Toilet

Europe has about 44 different countries, and many cultures and ways of doing things are quite similar. Whereas, others are dramatically different. Here’s how Europeans use the toilet.

Overall, Europeans use the toilet in exactly the same way as other countries such as the USA and Canada. The toilet dimensions are also largely the same. The two minor differences are that in some European countries males sit down to pee, and Italian toilets must have a bidet.

signage in some European countries that men should sit down to pee

Italian toilets by law must have a bidet installed next to the toilet. However, virtually all other toilet customs are identical. A toilet is also private so if you don’t follow a particular custom, it will be fine provided you clean up thoroughly after you use the toilet, and no one can tell how you used it.


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