We need to talk about dog poo

This morning as I dragged Cooper around the block on his lead (he can be very obstinate when he wants to go in a different direction to you!), I thought about how hard it is to clear up your dog’s poo when there are so few bins on the street. One, on my usual walk, to be precise. And as night follows day, Cooper will always, ALWAYS, do his business after we have passed that lone receptacle. Nevertheless, I dutifully bag up his offering and carry it round with me until we either get back to said bin or reach home. After all, I’m a Brit: it’s what we do.

The dog park we frequent is another matter: bins dotted about everywhere, each one close to the main path, ready and waiting for the deposits. But sadly, even this doesn’t seem to make the slightest bit of difference: the park is littered with dog turds of all shapes, sizes, colours and smells. It is particularly bad at the moment, thanks to there having been no proper rain for months. But it’s not the lack of rain that is putting the poo there in the first place: it’s the local population who simply don’t have a culture of picking it up. And yes, it is pretty revolting.


So why do I feel the need to share this story with you? After all, who wants to read about dog crap when you could be reading about sunsets and cocktails?

Well, mostly because this is exactly one of those small (but not insignificant) things that can trip you up as a new expat somewhere, one of the culture shock traps perhaps no-one will tell you about and you yourself won’t even have thought about until you move. One little thing like this on its own may not be a problem, but lots of little things added together can be. Especially if they happen slowly, one at a time, drip fed into your psyche until one day you reach your limit and you blow – without really understanding why.

Half way through writing this post I downed tools and walked to our local shopping mall to pick up a bit of food shopping. As I did so, I thought about what other little things were “different” from what I would be used to back home. Not better, not worse, but different. There were loads – the way people cross roads, the way people drive, the type of food available in the shops, the etiquette at the check-out tills in the supermarket, the types of childrens clothes for sale, the rubbish on the street…..after you have been here for a while, you get used to it all but when you start looking at it through a newcomers eyes it reminds you again what it is like to have to adjust to a totally different culture. The trips and the traps are everywhere.

But back to the dog poo. One of my newly arrived friends here (she will know who she is if she is reading this!) stated the other day that she wanted to start a campaign to clear up the dog mess in the park. It’s a great idea and I’m behind her but really, even if successful, it would be a drop in the ocean (or in the mounds of poo). Ultimately, as expats, we might be able to make small differences to our immediate surroundings but we can’t control the wider world we live in. So in the end we just need to get used to it, go with the flow, embrace the differences – or, at least, live with them.

So next time you go out for a walk and find yourself stepping around or over a bit of dog crap on the floor stop and think. Does it bother me? Did I even notice it? Am I even letting my own dog do his business and leaving it on the path? All of these things will help guide you as to which part of the culture shock cycle you have reached. And if it’s the latter, if you are so comfortable in your surroundings you’re at the “living like a local” stage then congratulations! Hopefully this means you have fully intergrated and can now enjoy your expat life to the full.

So this is the time to start encouraging your nieghbours to pick up their dog crap. Good luck!


Photo credit: Phil Thirkell


7 thoughts on “We need to talk about dog poo

  1. Haha! I have started writing about this exact topic several times and keep putting it aside, thinking how do I add photographs to THAT post! I don’t think I will EVER get used to the poo left all over the sidewalks here in Copenhagen. I have been told that it is much worse in other countries, but compared to where I am from, it is much worse here. It is all relative I know. When I’m having a bad day, not feeling connected – I definitely FEEL the cultural differences much more strongly. And then I see ALL THE POO and ALL the cigarette butts that litter the streets. On a sunny beautiful day where we have had a true Danish experience (like yesterday!) it doesn’t bother me as much and I can’t think of a better place to be on a summer’s day. That being said, I would love to be able to walk down my sidewalk without fear of stepping in a big ole pile of cultural differences. Cheers from Denmark! Erin

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ^ “And then I see ALL THE POO and ALL the cigarette butts that litter the streets.” My husband and I were talking about this yesterday. Same situation in Warsaw. I’m nervous to walk around in the dark because dog poo is literally everywhere. At least the cigarette butts won’t ruin your shoes. 😉 But the smoke… easily my least favorite thing about Europe. It’s unreal.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m reading Clara and I’m sticking to my campaign to get people to clean up their dog poo (I promised myself I’d do something about the mounds and mounds of trash that piled up on the beaches and bays at our last posting, and sadly I never did). Please don’t let me get “so comfortable” that I stop cleaning up after my dog … or wishing others would do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am slowly catching up with my reading list after our SA trip! Great post, well done on how you weaved the dog poo into the wider fabric of expat life and culture shock and how you don’t see certain things after a while. It was great to be back after 3.5 years and being able to see Joburg through newly-arrived eyes again!

    Liked by 1 person

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