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Watering the trees

Ok, what is up with all the boys peeing in public in France?

I have seen it several times since moving here and again today. It kinda reminds me of the dog doo. It’s dirty and it’s gross.

The little boy I saw today didn’t even want to pee on the tree his mother told him to go and pee on. Why? Because, he didn’t want myself and my girls to see him. He had the common sense to care that it was inappropiate. You know what his mother told him? She told him to pull his pants down good and low so he wouldn’t get any pee on them. I couldn’t believe it! She was dressed very nice and seemed educated. Yet, she had her son use a tree to pee on like a dog would. Now, I know they can’t live far because I see them walking all the time. Why couldn’t her son wait until he got home? I never see little girls peeing in public but only boys. So, girls are taught to wait while boys are told to pee on trees. I don’t get it.

I have seen boys peeing on trees right in the middle of Strasbourg. I was embarrased when my father on his first trip to France saw a little boy being forced to pee on a tree in Place Kleber. If you know Strasbourg you will understand how surprised I was when my dad told me about it. Place Kleber is very busy. The boy’s grandmother made him pee on a tree when there are public restrooms right there under the ground. All the kid had to do was walk down some stairs and go to a restroom in privacy.

I love France and I hate generalizations. However, I have seen it with my own eyes enough that I am worried.

Can someone tell me that I am just unlucky and all the idiots wait until I am around or my family to have their sons pee on trees like a dog? Someone tell that this is not a normal practice in France. Please. I am trying not to believe that it is. However, I am starting to think it may very well be after seeing it today not one month after I saw it last being done. I have seen this at least 10 times since living here.

I love France and this is by no means a reason for me to want to move. I just want to understand why I keep seeing it.

Is this a cultural difference or unusual behavior?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • lapagefrancaise May 5, 2006, 9:36 pm

    It’s just AWFUL isn’t it? I hate to disappoint you Pumpkin, but I see it all the time too. Although actually, I don’t see little boys doing it as often as grown men. At least once a month I will walk by a tree and there’s a Frenchman peeing behind it. However, before reading your post I didn’t realize that French mothers actually encourage it in their sons. That explains a lot. This is one cultural behavior I really just can’t get used to.

  • Pumpkin May 5, 2006, 9:46 pm

    I will say that in the States I saw men peeing in public while living in Cincinatti. It was a huge problem mostly after baseball or football games where large amounts of alcohol were consumed.
    But, it is true that I have seen on occasion grown men that didn’t seem drunk peeing against a wall or tree and usually they don’t try to hide much if you know what I mean. These are men that are not bums and are dressed normally. I think it must be pretty common. My husband has stopped on the side of the road and went into the forest when he had an emergency. However, I don’t know how many men I have seen just peeing on the side of the road and not even trying to cover anything. I don’t know…I think privacy and self respect are important. I really don’t care for my children seeing this behavior but I guess it is a part of their culture since they are French as well as American. I will never get used to it no matter how many years I live here.

  • Julie May 5, 2006, 11:30 pm

    Ugh! I know what you mean. There is this one lake my family likes to swim at. I don’t like to go there anymore because I saw a grown man change right out in public by the picnic tables. I almost puked. He just whipped his speedo right off….part of me is laughing….now. Before I was so shocked I almost died right there. I told my sister, “That man just changed!” I don’t think she even believed me.

    Another time at the same lake I heard a mother tell her son to pee in the lake. He was asking her to take him to the bathroom. And she said very firmly, “Just do it in the lake.” Sometimes its so impossible to believe. Needless to say I avoid the beach now.

  • Pumpkin May 6, 2006, 7:22 am

    I don’t understand why people do things like that. Do they really think we want to see them? Geez! :) Maybe, saying something to embarrace them would make them think twice before they did it again. Too bad I am too shy to do that.

  • Wendy May 6, 2006, 9:07 am

    It’s normal. And I am sorry to say, that Fabien does it all the time. I hate it and walk away from him but he justs whips it out and pees. Nathan is more civilised and refuses. I hope one day I can drum it into Fabien that it is just not on. But he has enormous penis pride, that kid, and getting him to keep it tucked away is hard work! BUt yeah – it is normal around here..I see it all the time..grown men too…I get around a lot and it’s all over the place.

  • Jube May 6, 2006, 9:20 am

    Okay, I will try to reassure you:
    You are right to hate generalizations because peeing in the street is NOT a normal practice in France. By that, I mean that a great majority of French people will think it is as disgusting as you think it is.I would never, ever do that, and I can’t think of any of my friends who would even think about it. My parents never taught me to do it in the streets, and I have never received any kind if instruction at school that would encourage this kind of behavior.

    Still, I can’t deny that it does happen pretty frequently in France (I have heard it also happened in certain parts of Spain, at least in Valencia.). Like you, it really bugs me when people do it. I just want to smack them on the head while they’re doing it, but I’m a whimp so I don’t do it.
    The street are already loaded with dog crap, I do not think human urine is necessary.
    It is the same thing with paper. I was waiting at a stoplight the other day, and I saw this girl waiting to cross the road. She was holding an empty pack of cigarettes, and although there was a thrashcan right beside her, she didn’t bother using it, and dropped the pack on the floor. I would have told her but I was in my car. I told a guy once, he pretended he didn’t hear me. I agree with you. We should just tell them when do it.

    The streets I have seen in certain parts of Europe (Northern Europe mainly) and America were cleaner, that’s for sure. I’d say that peeing in the streets in France is more acceptable…only to morons.

  • Pumpkin May 6, 2006, 9:48 am

    Wendy, Tell that boy he will scare all the girls away if he keeps doing that!  :)


    I think that you are right Jube. Because my husband, French, would die before he were to pee in public like that.

    My husband yells at people all the time if he sees them throwing things on the ground. I have to say that in Ohio people were bad about throwing trash out of car windows…it’s getting better than when I was a kid.

    In Cincinatti drunk men peeing in public was so bad that the city starting handing out huge fines. I think it is better than it was.

    I wish that they would hand out more fines to people not cleaning up after their dogs, peeing in public, littering or parking illegally in France. Do they not see all the money to be made? It would be a goldmine!

    Yesterday I was really mad about what I saw. I think mostly because the kid didn’t even want to do it but his mother made him. I felt like she publicly humiliated him.

    I wish I weren’t shy! I would have said something to her.

    I am surprised that more people don’t yell at these people. Because, from my experience in France it is not like a French to be quiet when something bugs him or her. For some reason everyone just turns their heads and pretends not see this behavior. I don’t know why.

    I agree with you….I don’t think it’s normal behavior in France but it does happen alot.

  • carra May 6, 2006, 11:18 am

    You are lucky you only saw children peeing! The first time I came to Paris I saw at least 3 kids in one day being made to poo in the street! I find both actions disgusting and I am not surprised that grown up men do it, I’ve been out with few Frenchmen in the past and it seems like their mother’s are really important to them! So if mummy says pee against the tree he will! About the fines and goldmine… I think if they would introduce laws like that in France the whole country would go on strike! But I guess we just got to learn to deal with it.. Anyway Frenchmen and peeing against the trees is probably a shadow of the past, you should know about the old public men’s peeing facilities! And another thing my husband’s friend married a Philipino girl and when she came to England she used to make him stop on the motorway because she needed to pee, she would squat on the roadside there and then! What an embaressment for other women! I can’t deal with peeing in public, romans invented toilets long ago and we all should know by now how to use them!

  • samantha May 6, 2006, 2:35 pm

    I too see grown men peeing a lot more than small children (though yesterday I did hear a grandma tell her grandson to just go around the corner and pee on the side of the CHURCH if he had to go so bad). Whenver I drive the 20 miles to the farm, I see at least one, if not two men stopped on the side of the road, relieving themselves…what always surprised me the most is that they don’t bother to find a tree or hide themselves at all, they just stand by their car and let it flow.

  • Pumpkin May 6, 2006, 2:51 pm

    I saw a man peeing on the church near where we live and it made me furious. I don’t know…I am not overly religious but there is something about peeing on a church or any religious building for that matter that smacks me the wrong way. I do see men doing it too all the time and not hiding. It is not just little boys that I see. However, in America I did see men doing it and not really little boys. Although the men in America do try to cover themselves or go into the trees. In France, they don’t. One guy even smiled at me when I looked up and happened to see him standing there peeing. I was so embarrased and shoved the girls into the car.

    It is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

    I really don’t think most people (in France) agree that it is ok but I don’t see them doing anything to change it either. For some reason it is kinda ignored like the dog doo. Everyone just keeps walking or driving and doesn’t really pay any attention to it.

  • carra May 6, 2006, 3:45 pm

    Pumpkin, i guess we got to learn do ignore it the same way that French people do! Like the fraze I hear very often at home, put up or shut up! Though it’s still disgusting!

  • Jube May 6, 2006, 4:29 pm

    ” For some reason it is kinda ignored like the dog doo”
    France is one of the most visited countries in the world. As you well know, tourism in France is a huge thing. The authorities are well aware of the importance of keeping the city clean, be it just for economic reasons.
    The dog crap issue is far from being ignored. A lot of people complain about it, and it has been an issue for some time, particularly in Paris. Mayor of Paris Jaques Chirac launched a campaign against it a long time ago. The city of Paris has these machines especially made for vacuuming the dog crap on sidewalks, called moto-crottes, and I think (but I am not sure about this one) that you can be fined if you are caught letting your dog soil the sidewalk.
    No later than today, I saw a humorist on TV (Popek)having a sketch about it, saying that the “trottoirs” should be called “crottoirs.”
    The thing is, despite everything, there is still a whole bunch of lazy bastards who just don’t care and who will let their dogs do it on the street. I guess all we can do is make these people feel bad and yell at them.

  • samantha May 6, 2006, 7:31 pm

    Jube, that’s fine if it’s happening in Paris, but what about the REST of the country? You of all people should know that there’s more to France than just its capital.

  • Pumpkin May 6, 2006, 8:21 pm

    Jube, I didn’t know about the vacuuming! My husband did and was shaking his head yes when I was telling him about it. He agrees with you that it is a whole bunch of lazy people that are not responsible. So, do I. I think the only thing we can do is yell at them. I will have to get over being shy!
    I did see a young man that had trained his dog to use the restroom in the street (on the edge where the cars park). I always told him Bonjour and gave him a huge smile.
    In Strasbourg they put up signs to encourage people and some cities even have bags to put the doo in for free and available on the streets (Obernai is such a city) but not everyone does.
    In Strasbourg the people should get a fine as well but I don’t think it enforced too much. I did read a letter in English from a tourist from America, I think, that was complaining about all the dog doo in Strasbourg…the magizine for the city actually printed it. I wish I had kept it but it was before I started blogging.

    People are lazy if they are allowed to be.

  • Jube May 6, 2006, 9:07 pm

    I talk about France, then focus on Paris. The moto-crottes may only be used in Paris, however the fines concern the whole country. It is the same with the exasperation people feel.
    In a lot French cities, you can find bags on public display.
    By the way, I imagine you know that I live in Nice… Would a true southerner like me ever reduce France to Paris?

  • samantha May 6, 2006, 9:52 pm

    I don’t know, I think a lot of French just accept is as part of life here – it’s always been that way, so if you haven’t lived abroad, how would you know any different? Almost every time I’ve pointed it out to someone, they say “Oh, I guess I’d never thought about that before”.

    And I only meant that just because action was being taken in Paris doesn’t mean it’s being taken anywhere else in the country. Yes, it’s illegal nationwide, but have you ever seen a policeman giving a fine to a dog owner? I sure haven’t. I just wrote a post a few weeks ago about how they’ve put up posts with doggie-doo bags around my town, but that no one ever uses them – in fact they let their dogs pee right ON the post and poop right in front of it and then just walk away. They (gov or city officials) need to run add campaigns or publicize this more if they ever want things to change – and even then, I think it is something that will take years to happen, it won’t just be an overnight process. Until then, watch where you walk!

  • Pumpkin May 6, 2006, 10:16 pm

    Sam… Jube, said it well in one of his comments above….

    “The thing is, despite everything, there is still a whole bunch of lazy bastards who just don’t care and who will let their dogs do it on the street. I guess all we can do is make these people feel bad and yell at them.”

    In Strasbourg there are many campaigns and signs and it doesn’t matter. I think people have to start yelling!!! BTW, my mother who lives in America had to run out and yell at some lady that had been letting her LARGE dog poo poo in my mothers front yard almost every day. My mother was so mad she ran out in her pjs screaming at the lady that she has her own dog to clean up after and doesn’t need to be cleaning up after the ladies too. The lady just crossed the street and pretended not to hear my mother but the dog hasn’t done it in my mom’s front yard again. ;)

    Yelling works.

  • Jube May 6, 2006, 10:35 pm

    It is true, a lot of French people accept it. Still, it is a minority of people. You don’t need to live abroad to realize crap is nasty.

  • margalit May 7, 2006, 6:40 am

    I’ve seen a few boys peeing outdoors in Nice when I was living there, but I had no clue that it was encouraged by Maman. I figured it was just something that boys do. And then I had a boy who would rather DIE than pee in public. He would never pee on a tree or anywhere outside, ever.

    Whilst in Paris I saw a woman pee in the street. She cupped her hand under her skirt, which was l lifted up around her waist and peed into her hand, and then it dribbled into the street. I figured she was just another nutcase, but now I’m wondering….


  • Pumpkin May 7, 2006, 8:15 am

    I have never seen a woman doing it here in France but I guess some of you others have. In America, I saw women peeing sometimes but again it was due to large amounts of alcohol being consumed and no public restrooms nearby.

    I think it is uncommon for women. And, in her hand when she could have just done it on the street…nut case.

  • samantha May 7, 2006, 10:34 am

    I honestly don’t think it’s a minority of people – and I’m not judging France for it, it’s part of life here. Not cleaning up after your dog is something that crosses all social groups – from the SDF living on the street to the hoity-toity woman with a tiny dog to the little old grandma walking her companion. I don’t think they are doing it to be mean or selfish, I just think people accept that dogs are going to crap, and better outside than inside.

    I also don’t agree with this “You don’t need to live abroad to realize crap is nasty.” Many countries have quirks that could seem gross or disgusting to outsiders (like eating bugs), but that the natives never think twice about because that’s how it’s always been done. As I said above, most French people I talk to about this reply with “Oh, I guess I’d never thought about it before” – because it’s always been done that way and the majority of society accepts it.

    If they were really in the minority, don’t you think more people would be complaining about it and/or yelling at them? If that’s true, the problem would’ve been solved a long time ago.

  • samantha May 7, 2006, 10:53 am

    Just wanted to say too that this is based on my opinion and experiences, obviously you and Jube don’t need to share my feelings.

    And btw, that peeing in the hand story IS really gross….maybe she another foreigner and not even French??

  • carra May 7, 2006, 11:17 am

    About dog poo… When my Charlie (four legged friend) was really tiny his daddy (or my husband) gave him some chicken (which is BAD for puppies) I remember walking the poor thing that night and he had an accident on the pavement and it was simply too thin to pick up, I felt unconfortable about that but even with a bag it would’ve be disasterous! I was embaressed but my Charlie was taught to always do his busines under or next to green plants where in my opinio it’s ok to do, because no one will step in it and it doesn’t do any damage to the plans either… That night it rained and the “accident” got washed away. I think if the owners just would bother to teach the dog to pee and poo somewhere under a big leaf! :) and noone would step in it; it would be alright, because that’s all that’s annoying us a fact that our little ones who don’t really watch were they go do step in it! I think it’s a lack of respect. We all know dogs god to do their business, it’s just where they do it!

  • Pumpkin May 7, 2006, 11:48 am

    I think that Jube or I said it was a minority on the dog doo but the peeing in public. The dog dooing is out of control and I think that everyone that lives in France knows it. However, the cities don’t enforce the law..it is not legal to have a dog and not clean up after it in France. However, many have dogs and don’t clean up after them. I hate walking my kids to school because of the dog doo..it is like an obstacle course and with two small children and a stroller it is not easy to do and sometimes I just give up the sidewalk all together and walk in the street if no cars are coming.
    I can remember in America having a similiar problem with dogs dooing in other peoples yard but after people started getting fined and others like my mother yelling at them for letting their dog do it and not clean it up, it changed over time. I think that most French don’t like it and are aware that it is not clean. However, until people start getting fines all over France and everyone starts saying something to these lazy people then it will never change. I agree with you except that the dogs have places specially for them to go in many cities yet the owners still don’t make them wait to do it there. I think it is because no one says anything to them. I am tired of my kids getting on them or me having to watch constantly and I am goin to start saying something. I am sick of it!

  • mothergoosemouse May 7, 2006, 2:40 pm

    What an interesting discussion! When we visited Paris five years ago, I didn’t see anyone urinating in public, but the dog doo was a major problem (especially in Montmartre where we stayed).

    Pumpkin, I didn’t know you lived in Cincinnati before. I am from an area just north of there. Cincinnati has not improved over the years, unfortunately.

  • Anna May 7, 2006, 5:35 pm

    It is the same in Germany. Mostly on playgrounds parents encourage their children just to pee behind a tree. I was a very happy child, as my parents’ house is only about 20m away from a playground – and every time I saw a kid peeing outside I just told him that he can use my parents’ restroom. Result: in summer the restroom of my parents’ house was really busy…

    When I was staying in China, I was really shocked to see that small children wear trousers with opening holes on their backside. So parents do not need to pull the trousers down, they just open the holes… And I got really really shocked when a small boy (about age 4) was peeing in the middle of a pedestrian zone. He was laughing and tried to pee on his dad – so he really peed around and you had to be careful that he did not pee on you when passing him.

  • lapagefrancaise May 7, 2006, 7:47 pm

    I always clean up after my dog, mainly because I don’t want to live on a street covered in dog doo, but I always get the strangest looks when I do it. A couple of weeks ago, a little old lady actually stood in front of her door, which she was just getting ready to go through, and just watched me with her jaw practically dropped. I got so uncomfortable that I just stood there and stared back at her until she went back in the house. I’ve rarely seen people in Paris picking up after their dog. Then, a few days ago, a different little old lady actually stopped to thank me for picking up the poo. I agree that it happens both here and in the US though, not everyone is willing to clean up after their dogs, which unfortunately can give the rest of dog owners a bad name.

  • christina May 7, 2006, 10:21 pm

    Yep, as Anna says, letting little children, including girls, pee in public is pretty common in Germany. They just hold them up and let them at it. I never encouraged my kids to do it though, and they never wanted to.

    And let’s not get started on the dog poop problem! Ugh. I wonder if all of this has to do with a lack of respect for public property? I don’t know.

  • Pumpkin May 8, 2006, 8:03 am

    Mothergooose, I lived in Cincy for a little over a year and then moved back to the Dayton area where my family lives. I love Cincy in the summer. We would go to Mt Adams often because it gave my husband the feeling of being in Europe. Do you know he made me walk all the way from the bridge on the NKentucky side to the church in Mt Adams? Now, it wouldn’t be a big deal (we walk everywhere and for hours) but at the time I thought that he was crazy!

    Lapagefrancaise, I have seen one man in two and a half years pick up after his dog and my jaw just about hit the floor ;) I was surprised to say the least.

    Anna and Christina, I didn’t know Germany had that problem too. I hadn’t seen it while visiting there. However, we don’t go to the parks too often and stay in the touristic areas more.

  • Meredith May 8, 2006, 3:39 pm

    I haven’t read through all the comments, but I know that a child peeing outside when no public restroom is to be found nearby, well this does not shock me. It can be a real challenge to find a clean public restroom in france. Not all stores have them like they do in the USA. This unavailability has led to the obvious pee outside solution. I don’t like seeing grown men doing it though, they could try a little harder to find a WC. But even when you do try and search one out, as I once did when I was seven months pregnant and this was very visible, and I was refused toilet use by several gas stations coming home from the mountains at night, well I did what a very pregnant woman had to do, I went and peed behind a tree on the side of the mountain road late at night.

  • Pumpkin May 8, 2006, 4:19 pm

    I think it is not really that kids can’t wait but that they just do it. The little boy I saw couldn’t have lived more than a few blocks away. Also, I have seen them doing it right in the center of Strasbourg where public restrooms are everywhere.
    I usderstand that when you gotta go..you gotta go. I think what I am seeing is beyond this. However, like I said I think it is a minority of people that are doing this. It is not somthing that I think the majority of French would do. I think most French would tell the kid to hang on until they got home if possible. I know with my oldest daughter and my three year old I have had situations that we had to find a restroom in a hurry. But, they never peed in public and they somehow held it until we found something.
    I also don’t have a problem with people going on the side of the road and hiding behind trees. However, most of the men I see don’t really try to hide anything. ;) Again, I think it is not the “norm” but it happens alot.

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