The other day, I was vacuuming my house and was totally in deep thoughts when, all of a sudden, my vacuum cleaner died on me. The sudden silence woke me out of deep contemplation about a plot twist in my next novel, but I knew immediately what had happened. The plug had fallen out of the plug-in … again. A problem I have come across ever so often meanwhile that dealing with it has become a common measure – bend the contacts either in or out and plug the device in again. In other words, plugs of a lot of US household items don’t fit to perfection until you make them that. In Germany, plugged-in means plugged-in – unless you really tug hard and want to run the risk of severing the cable from the plug-head.
Vacuum cleaners – that is another keyword. Back in Germany, I had a nice light-weight drag-behind canister one with big paper bags into which the dust was sucked. Here, in my first years, I carried a really heavy monster – latest model of a well-known brand, mind you – upstairs and downstairs, moving the entire weight of the canister along with my wrist while vacuuming. I simply didn’t get the concept. Why would the canister be halfway up the pipe? Why did it take acrobatics-cum-weightlifting to take the appliance apart to either make it reach underneath furniture or to make the canister come apart? What was the advantage of opening and emptying the “anti-allergic” filter and canister over a garbage bin when in a moment I would covered with the dust I had just vacuumed? Even better, I saw that German friends on Facebook were just proudly announcing they had purchased such a wonder vacuum cleaner. I could only shake the dust out of my hair. After a lengthy search, I found a US-made vacuum cleaner that fit my German standards, by the way. That brand name is the equivalent to a Greek exclamation of joy on finding something. Just saying.
Another fossil is the washing machines that obviously are the most common models, those top loaders with a spindle inside. Don’t ask me how many of my family’s clothing items have become entangled in the spindle or between the spindle and the bottom and got outright shredded. There must be a secret contract between the producers of such machines and the clothing industry, I’m pretty sure. The only time in Germany I ever ruined clothes was when I accidentally put a red item into a load of white laundry to be boiled. Exactly – the resulting pink was my fault. If I wanted to shred something, I’d have had to go to different measures.
And what about all the strangely arranged switches at the back of a stove, so you have to scald your arms while reaching over steaming pots when cooking? Or a hand blender that is falling apart after only five years in all the wrong places, while you’re blending, whereas the German thing I used to have was still as new after 15 years?
Rant over, because I have a hunch that any American coming over to Germany will have their own little grudges. You will find that in your new German home there are rarely built-in kitchens – yes, you are supposed to design your own. If you are lucky, there’s a sink and a stove coming with your rental. Ceiling lights? Those cables in the ceilings are all yours to deal with – or call in an electrician to attach all the lamps you painstakingly bought for your last apartment and that now look lopsided or too long or too short in your new abodes. There are no ACs for hot summers. Forget about washer or dryer coming with your rental – all yours to buy. And telephone and internet services are rarely a pleasure to deal with – not for Germans either, by the way.
Indeed, nothing is ever perfect. Nowhere. All you can do is tell yourself that if everybody else deals with these things, so can you.
I’m still switching on the wrong hobs on my stove top every once in a while, because there is no logic in the array of buttons. Occasionally, I ruin a piece of clothing in the washer – reason enough to get myself or somebody else something pretty and new. I will have to buy a new blender some time soon and save somebody’s job in doing so, I’m sure. But my little vacuum cleaner happily glides behind me everywhere I need it. And, for sure, I have learned to bend plugs.