It’s been a while on here since I’ve had something negative to say about Germany, but in the interest of balance, let’s talk hot water. Or more accurately, the lack thereof.
I may have been in Europe for four years now, and there may be a lot of things I have gotten used to that were strange at first. Examples include, but are not limited to: lack of personal space, old people in sk8tr shoes, American flag clothing as a fashion statement, purple hair on women, love of pantyhose, public transportation shenanigans, kids everywhere at all hours of the day, and the occasional genitalia sighting. But there is one thing that I cannot, and probably will not, get used to. Because I am an AMERICAN. And we have rights.
Rights to life. Liberty. And the pursuit of a hot shower.
I believe that one of the great joys, pleasures, and yes, rights, of our modern world, is the right to take a 40-minute hot shower. Especially on Sundays. Or any day when time is really not a factor. But alas, in my current life that is not to be.
When I lived in Prague, we had a pretty decent hot water heater. Two, actually. You were likely to scald your skin off if you were the first one in the shower in the morning, and God help you if you stuck your hand under the faucet in the kitchen to do dishes without letting it run for a minute first. But since there were four of us, it was not always a guarantee that there would still be hot water when you rocketed out of bed and realized that you were already late.
Moving to Germany had me excited at the prospect of a shower of my very own. When I found my Fortress of Solitude, I knew it wasn’t perfect as it had a very small standing shower, so I would be a little cramped. The building was built in the mid-’50’s, so it is a little bit older, and I wasn’t expecting a fully-equipped luxury bath or anything. But I could live with it. Maybe if I hadn’t had a few too many beers before viewing my apartment for the first time it would have occurred to me to ask what the tanks on the wall in the kitchen and bathroom were for, but thanks to the Irish Pub and the pour-happy barman, it didn’t. And now… this is what I have.
Yep, that there is a hot-water tank. It supposedly has three settings, which you can see below.
When I first moved in, I set it on ‘e,’ thinking that I would be economical. And it says that I should get 1.5 showers out of that, so… that’s enough for just me, right?
No, it’s not. Not even close. Maybe if you’re a “turn the water on, wet, turn the water off, soap, turn the water on, rinse, repeat as needed for shampoo/conditioner/soap/whatever,” it works, but for me, not even close. I would run out of hot water before I got to rinsing the conditioner out of my hair. Not cool.
So I cranked it up to three, and for the last year or so, I’ve been dealing with it. It’s alllllllmost enough, but if you’re a lady who wants to shave her legs (which is already incredibly awkward in my small standing shower), you will want to turn the water off while you do so. This is particularly enjoyable in the winter months, when the bathroom is freezing cold.
All in all, the situation was not ideal, but I was trying to make do. Then I started dating someone, and all of a sudden, I HAD TO SHARE MY HOT WATER. This was a problem. It turns out that if you push that white button on the left, it will start to heat the water immediately after you shower, instead of on its normal 24-hour (or whatever) cycle. However, you should probably plan on waiting a good hour after the first person is finished to use it, or there will not be enough water yet. Some mornings it has been no problem, and some mornings I have had to force BV to shower first, or risk having nothing hot left. It wouldn’t be intentional, that’s just the way it works.
As for the kitchen….. Oooooh, the kitchen.
Like I said, the building is a little bit older. Plus, we’re in the land of efficiency here. So why have hot water all the time if you aren’t using it? Right? Of course. That stands to reason.
This is what passes for hot water in my kitchen.
The midget-sized tank is filled by turning the left-hand knob below, and heated by turning up the temperature and pushing the button. It gets very hot, but it goes very quickly if you’re washing a full load of dishes. It’s not possible to leave it on all the time, so this means that every time I want to wash dishes with hot water, I have to fill it, turn it on, wait, and then wash the dishes. This is a pain in the ass. This is also why, if you come to my house unannounced, there will probably be an enormous pile of dishes. What I usually wind up doing is this: I fill up this tank and start heating it, and also fill up my kettle and heat that. The kettle is much faster, so I put all the dishes in the sink, and pour in the kettle water. Since that is boiling hot, I either put in some cold water, or let it sit for a few minutes to cool down, and then wash the dishes, using the hot water from the tank to rinse things. I end up filling the tank again at least 2-3 times during the course of the dish-process, depending on the number of dishes or how bad they are that day. Again, this is a pain. In. The. Ass.
Moral of the story is: if you’re buying or renting in Germany, beware the hot water heaters. If I should move, you bet your ass I will not be dealing with this again. It’s 2013, I live in the civilized world, and some days, you just need that 40-minute hot shower.