What to know before you have to go: A global guide to toilets.

New York to New Delhi, Tallahassee to Tokyo—wherever you roam, you’ll eventually find yourself cross-legged and in need of a bathroom. Sometimes you’ll be blessed with a next-gen john; other times, you’ll have to make do with a hole and a bucket of water. Bookmark this explainer on navigating the world’s restrooms, and plan your vacations accordingly.

Japan

In the Land of the Rising Sun, there’s good news and bad news: You may have to straddle ‘n’ squat, then use the bucket of water and your left hand to clean yourself. (On the upside, now you know why people shake with the right!)

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(Photo via Flickr/Ben+Sam)

Or you might luck out with one of these high-tech toilets that are common in Japanese homes. Just look at all the buttons! These babies have self-cleaning sprayers that aim water at whatever target you choose, and a blow-dry function that finishes the job. The robot toilet even lowers its own lid and deodorizes itself while you zip your fly.

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(Photo via Flickr/Achim Hepp)

Mexico

The wastebasket next to the toilet means the pipes can’t handle paper. So use your squares sparingly and toss the used tissue in the trash. And how ’bout a courtesy wrap before you place it in there?

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(Photo via Flickr/Bill McChesney)

India

The oddball shape of the toilet seat means you’ve got options: Sit, squat or stand.

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(Photo via Flickr/Robert Cudmore)

Germany

Strange how a country so renowned for its sense of design could fall so flat (literally) with the toilet. Examine a German john and you’ll see a hole up front and a water-free platform in back, for inspecting your goods. When you flush, cross your fingers for a clean sweep!

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(Photo via Flickr/david_jones)

Greece (and Brazil)

Greek toilets flush with the push of a button … but not just any button. Often, the toilets flush using the power of compressed air, which means you have to hit the button with lightning speed to trigger an air burst capable of triggering a flush. (Don’t confuse these with the push-button toilets of Brazil; for those, you hold the button down until you deem the flush complete.) This Greek stall gets bonus points for the kiddie potty.

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(Photo via Flickr/Lenora Enking)

France

To the uninitiated, French stalls look like they doubled down on toilets. But look closely: That sinklike fixture is a bidet, and once you’ve used one, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Squat over the bowl—face front or back; the world is your oyster!—and use the water stream to freshen up.

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(Photo via Flickr/jay.tong)

Also common throughout France are free public toilets that smartly auto-clean themselves after each use.

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(Photo via Flickr/La Citta Vita)

Sweden

Think of Swiss urine-diversion toilets as another way to go green: By separating urine from solid waste via that tiny hole up front, liquid waste can be sanitized and used to produce agricultural fertilizer.

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(Photo via Flickr/SuSanA Secretariat)

Australia

Looks like a normal toilet, right? That’s ’cause it is. Sorry to disappoint, but the old myth that Australian (and other Southern Hemisphere) toilets swirl counterclockwise via the Coriolis effect is only partly true: Many do flush in “reverse,” but that’s only because the jets that circulate water are positioned on the opposite side of the bowl.

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(Photo via Flickr/Mr. Roboto)

United States

Americans value freedom—the freedom to choose between this …

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(Photo via Flickr/Charles Knowles)

… and this. A touch-free toilet that self-monitors for leaks and overflow? It’s the American way.

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