Toilet Paper Culture: an Australian Viewpoint from Croatia

Total Croatia News

SJ Paterson and the Ballad of Dunny Roll, which you can see in full in the article below.

April 3, 2020 – Australian toilet paper culture made global headlines last month, as fights broke out in supermarkets between people hoarding due to coronavirus. A little Australian insight into the whole toilet paper culture from an Aussie in Croatia. 

One of the more interesting reads in recent days on TCN has been the new series called Foreigner Self-Isolating in Croatia: Do You Feel Safer? It looks at the experiences from expats living in Croatia from all over the world, and so far there are contributions from Romania, Germany, Spain, USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, India, Hong Kong, UK and Ireland. I decided to contribute my thoughts and sent my answers to Paul, which will be online shortly. But he was delighted to hear from me, for I was the first Australian to answer, which meant I had an extra task. This extra task has turned into the article below. 

As an Aussie in Croatia, I got the bonus question about toilet paper, and the heavy task of responding on behalf of my fellow citizens on the topic. 

To clarify, I am a dual Australian Croatian national. This means I have enough toilet paper –  even alcohol – but being in Croatia, now I don’t have any yeast to make donuts and stuff.

The toilet paper thing puzzles me, too. There is no shortage; it’s ‘an artificial famine’. I have read up academic and anecdotal views to try to understand it. This is a culmination of my findings. 

I woke up one morning – 4th March – to see a witty friend post this:



I knew it was going to be a good meme day. 

A Lebanese-Australian man’s video about “Australians looking like idiots” went viral. And for good reason. His 84-year-old uncle – who carried him as an infant through war zones – called him from Lebanon to check in. In Australia we all know the overseas relatives never call.

This was serious.

Above: A senior in Australia facing empty shelves – no bread. Senior specific hours and “Basics Boxes” are now being offered due to the stockpiling by panic buyers.

Factor 1: The Fires

To be fair, Australia was just coming out of apocalyptic bushfires. May I repeat: A-PO-CA-LYP-TIC. For those who haven’t been to Australia – or even have – if you were to visit one beach a day in Australia, it would take you 27 YEARS to see them all. It’s a big country. There’s a lot of bush (trees) and it was also the peak of summer. So everyone was on one big beach. Not true – that was Bondi after social distancing was announced. Still. It was hot. Cities were covered in smoke from fires for weeks – the smoke even reached other countries. Australia is an island. Think about that. New terms became mainstream on the news: “megablaze” and “ember attack”. Two – you guessed it – mega blazes, eventually merging between the state of Victoria and New South Wales. This is like all of Poland burning through and coming into Dalmatia. No it’s not, but I’m going for effect. It was mega.

People are still sleeping in tents.

My family were among the many stuck for days on holiday coastal towns with red skies, people and horses seeking safety on beaches, roads closed. At times, there was no water supply. Power would go out. A drive which took 2-3 hours took 2-3 times that – if the road didn’t get blocked by falling, flaming trees. Lives, wildlife and livelihoods were lost.

This, clearly, disrupted supply chains and business sectors, particularly tourism. So the panic buying isn’t a total surprise, given the timing. What is surprising is going from the solidarity and care shown around the fires to communities in these burnt out places – to now all-out supermarket brawls. 

A sense of fear and lack is looming with COVID19. 

Australia has never faced a significant physical threat (natural disasters aside). Toilet paper has become a symbol of control in an uncertain time.

Factor 2: Status, Culture and Control

I could harp on about how relative status is here – but Seth Godin does it better, so I won’t. What needs to be considered is Australia is dubbed The Lucky Country. Anyone – people who don’t even speak the language, can come to Australia and thrive through hard work and fair dinkum-ness. Sure, a lot has changed. The living ain’t cheap. As such, many living standards are high. Toilet paper can be classed as a symbol of this status everyone is working so hard for – if you deprive someone of that, you’re depriving them of their hard work.

Just to note, compared to Europe, nobody – nobody charges you to use a public toilet. It’s just a given – which is what Aussies expect, subconsciously, about the toilet-going experience. Enough toilet paper is thus seen as a ‘right’ vs a privilege.

Toilets are also immortalised in film and song. One of the most popular Australian-made films is ‘Kenny’ – a mockumentary about a plumber guy and the portable toilet industry. And one of the most famous country singers, Slim Dusty, gives an ode to the dunny with his song Redback on the Toilet Seat. 

We know going to the loo can be dangerous, but it doesn’t need to be. Toilet paper is part of that safety.

Factor 3: Spiders and Supermarkets. 

What is strange is Australia is a country where everything can kill you, and we still walk around barefoot. The sun, the sea (rips), sharks, spiders, snakes – yet we go along our merry way at ease living with these threats. Take our toilet paper away, and we (some) become monsters. 

A friend in an affluent suburb reported their small supermarket had plenty of toilet paper. Even in the peak of panic-buying! This could be related to socio-economics and more shoppers at one time in suburban centres. Also, it does take up a lot of room on the shelves, so when it disappears, you notice. 

The scenes we’re seeing – of fighting in supermarkets, is, unfortunately, a response to the fear and sense of lack many feel right now. 

There is plenty of toilet paper in Australia. It just gets bought up by a certain type of consumer.

The best response I found was chef Adam Liaw who is always articulate and hilarious:

“If you are one of the people who has panic-bought a 6-month supply of toilet paper I think you should go home and look at your enormous pile of toilet paper and think about what you’ve done.

That, and:

Just imagine if, after everything, you finally went out for dinner to a Chinese restaurant and ended up getting coronavirus from Tom bloody Hanks.

I’ll leave it there. 


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment