You are here

Personal hygiene

» RCLT fieldwork manual home

Bathing and toilet facilities are likely to be very different from home. Your hosts may assume that you know exactly how to behave but you might not. You might need to ask some of your hosts how you go about bathing. You might have an audience when you bathe and any of this might be embarrassing.

Questions you need to know the answers to:

  • Do I know who to ask about bathing and toilet facilities and customs?
  • What personal supplies will I need while I am in the field?
  • How will I maintain my supply of these?

In an Indian village the usual custom is to prepare bedding only just before sleeping time; whereas in Australia guests are shown their beds and the bathroom pretty much as soon as they arrive. After arriving, therefore, I always take a look around to find out where water, bathing, toilets and other facilities are.

-- Stephen Morey

When travelling or when staying in an unfamiliar area, I sometimes faced the problem of people not even leaving me alone when I had to go to the toilet (or the bush). I had to learn to ask people that understood my distress to "guard" the area, in order not to be under constant surveillance by curious people. With regard to sanitary conditions, I think it is always good to expect the very worst that one can imagine a toilet to be and then to feel a little relieved when the conditions are 'only' bad.

-- Yvonne Treis

On my first trip the village, I was very surprised when people told me I could "have a shower" when we would arrive. What they meant was that they could bring up a bucket with water from the river. Like other "tourists" visiting the Sepik river, I hesitated to jump into the water. The water is very muddy so that you cannot see what is under the surface, and people would constantly ask me "Are you bathing?" when seeing me in the water. Later, playing in the river with the children became one of my favourite pastimes.

-- Gerd Jendraschek