Derek Thompson:

merican exceptionalism takes on many forms, both flattering (our immigrant-founded start-ups) and unfortunate (our health-care prices). But perhaps no part of life in the United States is more unambiguously exceptional than this: We have so many damn bathrooms.

And the world wants to know why. The internet is filled with long threads, on sites such as Quora and Reddit, in which users swap theories on “What’s the American obsession with bathrooms all about?” and “Why do houses in the US have so many bathrooms?” “There are so many incredible America decadences that are mind boggling to foreigners when we first arrive here, and the sheer number of bathrooms in suburban houses is very high on the list,” Tom Gara, an Australian who edits opinion pieces for BuzzFeed News, wrote on Twitter.

America’s love affair with private washrooms emerges from the country’s most obvious gift—an abundance of land and an eagerness to develop it. The typical new single-family house in the U.S. is twice the size of the average urban or suburban dwelling in the European Union—more than 2,000 square feet versus approximately 1,000 square feet. Compared with their overseas peers, Americans simply have more space to wash up.