Hot or Not?

-Or- First World Problems.

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.     

10 thoughts on “Hot or Not?

  1. Ewwwww. I'm glad I don't have that particular “feature” in my apartment. Our building has proper hot water.

    Also, my bathroom has its own heater, which is nice. There are three heaters in my apartment, and I tend to leave the bathroom heater on long after I've stopped using the other two in the springtime. What can I say- I *really* hate a cold toilet seat.

  2. Oooh, that's horrible! I'm so glad both the places I've lived in Germany have had proper heaters that keep the water warm all the time! In my old flat, I had one boiler in the kitchen and one in the “bathroom” (that wasn't really a bathroom), but they were the kind that switched on when you turned on the hot tap and heated as you went along.

    My boyfriend's dad has a shower that's heated using solar power and I always have to turn it up as hot as it will go to get a decently warm shower!

  3. We don't have one of those now but I've seen them in every apartment we look at in the UK. God help me. I need the hot shower. I need that one horrible environment-destroying thing. I don't ask for a car, I don't ask to eat meat every day, I don't ask to stop separating my trash. Just please, please don't take my long hot shower away. I don't care how horrible it makes me. It's for my health!!

  4. As well you should be be. Avoid at all costs.

    I do have a heater in the bathroom, but it's not super effective. Plus I have to leave the window open whenever I shower, because my bathroom is prone to mold. I need to talk to my landlord about stripping the wallpaper because I'm convinced it's full of the stuff. Fun!

  5. Lucky girl… I'm jealous of your modern conveniences! And I've heard some stories about the solar power heating. 'A' for environmentalism, 'F' for convenience. Not worth it for me, sorry. 🙂

  6. Oh no… I hope you're able to find a place that has normal heating! And I'm with you 100% on the need factor. Gotta have it, no question about it. The only other thing I would add to the 'good for me, bad for the environment' list is a dryer. I don't need it all the time, but I would love to be able to dry jeans in less than three days. I only have three pairs, so I really hate having to plan my washing out. Oh, and I miss towels coming out all hot and fluffy. I may have gotten into a slight disagreement with an environmentally-minded German about this over vacation, but neither of us budged on our positions. Stand your ground! 🙂

  7. I guess we've been kinda spoiled in our apartments in Regensburg. First one had a giant natural gas boiler for the whole building (11 units), and the hot water was metered to each consuming apartment. Almost never had a problem. Also, that apartment had a cistern for rainwater collection and we flushed our toilets with that, which is much cheaper than processed city water.

    The current apartment has its own on-demand water boiler. When you turn on the hot water tap at the sink or shower, it kicks in after a few seconds and heats the water right before it comes to you. No pilot lights, no tank of hot water sitting around waiting. That's also the source of the heat in our radiators. Alas, the system is more complex and needs more frequent maintenance, but that's what our Nebenkosten are for.

    Those electric heat-up-the-water-you're-going-to-use things are maybe okay for a small kitchen at the office or something, but I wouldn't want to shower via one of those. Ugh.

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