Can I use the bathroom... er... toilet room... er... WC?

Israelis tend to think it's gross to have a toilet in the same room as a bathtub. I've seen a few houses or apartments with everything in one room, but most Israeli homes contain a toilet room and then a separate room with a bathtub, shower and sink. Nicer homes have a little sink in the toilet room, but in our apartment we have to angle out of the toilet room (attempting not to touch anything in the process) and into the separate bathroom to wash our hands. This is especially fun when a guest happens to actually be taking a shower when I just used the, er, toilet room-- although I guess it's nice I can use the toilet at all when someone else is showering!

All this leads to a little terminology confusion. I'm used to calling it all the bathroom, or the ambatia in Hebrew. But when I ask where the bathroom is at someone else's house, people tend to think I'm looking for a bubble bath. So then I have to figure out what's the word for the room with just a toilet-- restroom? Toilet room? Powder room? Maybe WC, the British word for "water closet," and, incidentally, what they call toilet rooms in French (Veh Seh). In Hebrew, the correct word is shirutim, "services," but I tend to forget this. Once, our drains clogged when we had American guests. I took one of the guests to use the bathroom--er, WC-- in our neighbor's apartment. But when I got there, I completely blanked on the right word, and I ended up asking if the guest could use their "asla," their toilet. A little graphic. I've never quite been able to look the neighbors in the eye since.

So if you want to be Israeli, just remember to ask for the shirutim, not the ambatia. It's also a good idea to remember that the plural of shirut (one of those group taxis) is moniot shirut, not shirutim... I've also gotten weird looks when ask if shirutim come to this bus stop.

Ah, good times. Maybe I should stick to posting about my dirty dishes. :)


  1. Funny! Rega. . . so when do we say beit shimush?

    Here's one for you. Once I took a visiting American friend to visit Kibbutz Hazorea (where I had lived for ulpan). The friend wanted to know if they held Shabbat prayers in the community so she asked our hostess, "Do you have services here?" Our dear Yekke hostess stood up and said "Of course" and proceeded to show her to the WC !

  2. That is a funny post! I also hear beyt kise when I visited. But thanks for the heads up regarding the cabs.

  3. Dina, that's hilarious!! And I completely forgot about the words beit shimush and beit kise. Hmm. To be completely honest, I barely knew them and haven't really heard them, but that could be just me...

  4. Well, beit kise came from a much older woman. So, it's probably quite archaic. I've never heard it actually in use besides that woman.

  5. Nothing's more important than knowing how to ask for the "loo."

  6. Great post, Maya!

    I remember in school, when we were learning German, the teacher wanted us to speak entirely in German while in class. Of course, someone eventually needed to use "the services" and asked her to translate -- she told us to raise our hand and say "Ich muss" which translates to "I must!"

    Ahh, the subtle nuances of learning a new language :-)

  7. Excellent post :)

    As a native Israeli I must say I never heard anyone use "beit kise", although you could find it in very old books, I guess.

    "Sherutim" (not "shirutim") is most common. Some people use the other euphemism - "nohiyut" i.e. convenience. "Beit shimush", while perfectly correct, is somewhat direct - I think "sherutim" is usually the word of choice.

    That said, I think the notion that most Israelis think it gross to have the WC and bathtub in the same room, is incorrect. It is quite common to have both in one room. Also, it is rather uncommon to find a toilet in a separate room without a sink. I think most houses/apartments built since the eighties built with the toilet in a separate room (which is not very common nowadays) would always have a sink there.

  8. This is just one of the things I really HATE about living in Israel! It's just so grossly unsanitary...not to mention it's a living Hell for claustrophobics!


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