Où pisser?

I was going to be polite and title this post ‘Faire pipi.’ That is the more polite French expression for urinating. Non-French natives, take note: ‘pisser’ is only used for animals or among males.

But then I thought: why mince words? Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m pissed (annoyed, not drunk) about how often the topic of where to go still comes up. And why, after all these years, so many stairwells and street corners in every French city still reek of urine?

My original post about the dreaded Sanisette is one of the all-time most viewed on this blog. And my ode to Madame Pipi was also highly appreciated. By now I would have thought we’d exhausted the subject. Mais non! Imagine my surprise when this video landed in my newsfeed.

Seems that comic Swann Périssée was commissioned by the city of Paris to make a point about the blight of public peeing. It certainly captures the essence of the problem in authentic French fashion. Someone apparently thinks that humour will work where fines and public outrage have failed. I’d say that rather than fancy campaigns they should invest in a few more pissoirs or public urinals.

Mais, I hear you say, they have! Et oui, that the was the scandal of the summer. The new ‘uritrottoirs’ – a scanty public urinal in a flower pot that has Parisians making rude mouth noises. And they decided to test it on the ultra-chic Île Saint Louis of all places!

Firstly, where is the female version? Surely we are not intended to sit on the thing?

Secondly, even for men, it provides almost no privacy. While the French are obviously far less concerned about modesty, the proximity of this urinal to passing tourists on the banks of the Seine leaves little to the imagination. I fear that in many cases the shy bladder will prefer a dark corner of the ‘trottoir’ or sidewalk rather than these highly public places.

This report from France3 emphasizes the ecological component but at a cost of 25,000 EUR to operate just a few on an ‘experimental’ basis, economic is not part of the equation. And I am not convinced they offer an improvement over the original vespasiennes.

Interested in knowing more about the history of the urinal in Paris? Check out this excellent post from Parisian Fields.

And, believe it or not, there is even a guide book on where to pee in Paris.

Do feel free to add your own wee comments!


  1. Taste of France · September 27, 2018

    I saw this video a few days ago–the creativity is impressive. Not sure it’s going to work, though.
    I don’t think street-peeing men (since not all men do it, but certainly a large number do) are concerned with privacy, considering the number of pee stains on walls far too high to have been made by dogs…and the number of guys I’ve walked past who have been unashamedly relieving themselves against trees, potted plants, walls right in the middle of Paris. They seem entirely unconcerned about privacy–they don’t see it as their problem but as my problem and it’s up to me to avert my eyes or go down a different street. Women have always faced a lack of potty parity, since you don’t find women relieving themselves out on the street, with or without pissoirs. More of those self-cleaning public toilets would be welcome, and if guys go in the uritrottoirs, that’s fewer people waiting in line.

    • MELewis · September 27, 2018

      A lack of potty parity – true! I suppose it’s partly to blame on nature and also on tradition: back in the day, women didn’t have the freedom of movement men did (in some cases, still don’t…). I agree a multitude of options is best — those self-cleaning sanisettes are certainly the best option for privacy. But I would be inclined to want to go further. Why not outsource all of the tourist area toilets to a private company like McClean and use the revenue to create and maintain free public toilets and baths in strategic quartiers for the homeless? The tourists would probably be happy to pay for clean facilities and those who can’t afford them would still have a decent option.

  2. Gus Fergusson · September 27, 2018

    Its not confined to Paris. In Shrewsbury you can add faeces and vomit!
    Surely the sanisette is the most hopeful solution yet?

    • MELewis · September 27, 2018

      I’m for any and all solutions that offer people a needed place to do their business. The sanisette is certainly a good option!

  3. davidprosser · September 27, 2018

    I have always wondered if Paris offered you ladies a pissoir equivalent, alors it seems not., and now the offer of a free street pee for the gents is not to be, unless the gent is brazen or perhaps desperate. The thing on offer is not communal as the pissoir is but singles out the user to an audience.I can’t see them catching much attention. And still the ladies are ignored.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · September 28, 2018

      David, how lovely to see you out and about! Leave it to you to be concerned about others less, shall we say, gifted in the peeing department. 😌 We women are twice disadvantaged as I’m fairly certain we make more frequent trips to the loo and have more clothing to deal with in order to do the deed. But our needs are sadly not taken into account by urban planners. Why? Perhaps because they are men and far less considerate than yourself? Mystery… As for the lack of privacy, I’m afraid the ‘pipis sauvages’ will continue. Gigantic hugs to you!

  4. phildange · September 27, 2018

    What a direct title, coming from a lady ! Where has your Victorian Anglo-Saxon breeding gone, good gracious ? Does the geographic proximity of Tronald Dump start affecting your manners ?
    BTW, pisser is considered as a rude word and faire pipi is for children . I’m afraid that beside “uriner” French has no correct and practical verb for “la miction”, AKA “l’urination”, only a few dozens of colloquial, imaginative expressions . (That should say a lot about French psyche I guess) .
    I agree French towns lack cruelly of pissing rooms, and this ridiculous and aberrant novelty illustrates the ridiculous and aberrant running of French spheres of power . Promised, after the next revolution we’ll sort this problem out .
    On a personal point of view, having grown up in a free time as a bloke deprived of all sense of decency I must confess I don’t remember a single occasion when “faire pipi” happened to be an issue . But I sympathize with other living species such as women or well educated folks .

    • MELewis · September 27, 2018

      Never did have much lady-like sensibility but the proximity of DT certainly offends me! As for the language, English isn’t any better than French. You can say ‘to pee’ without shocking most people’s sensibilities but it’s not a proper term either. Yet ‘urinate’ is somehow medical sounding. I always say ‘take a leak’, once again proving my appalling lack of good breeding. 🤭

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