American Expat Experiences Blind Rage Using Shower in Germany

Shower stall in a bathroom in Hannover, Germany
“Look, Mr. Shower, you don’t like me and I don’t like you. Let’s just play nice in front of The Wife, okay?”

Let me begin by saying I love our apartment here in Hannover, Germany. I love it! My wife did a spectacular job finding us the perfect living space in the perfect neighborhood. I’ve been living here since September and I have no complaints whatsoever. No complaints, that is, except one: the shower.

German bathroom ventilation
Neither one of these holes are into ‘fresh’ air.

There is no fan in our bathroom. You see that window in the picture above? It doesn’t open. See that fan-looking hole on the right? That’s not a fan; it’s a simple duct connected to each apartment in our building from the ground floor all the way up to the top. It is the reason we catch whiffs of cigarette smoke drifting into our apartment from time to time. (I suspect it comes from those old, sour-faced cancer-donkeys living beneath us.)

Without proper ventilation, our bathroom fogs up something fierce whenever one of us takes a shower. To compensate, The Wife and I plug an oscillating fan into the wall and set it precariously on top of the medicine cabinet. It doesn’t do much for the condensation on the mirror, but it does a fantastic job of reminding me I will someday be electrocuted as I scrub my pink parts.

I suspect this design stems from the Iron Maiden.

Not only is our shower stall tiny, but it has no shower curtain; only the cold, unforgiving sliding glass walls you see in the picture above. Before arriving in Germany, I never realized how much space I really need in order to cleanse my American body. I mean, I knock my elbows into everything. The sliding walls, tiles, mirror, bottle racks, shower handle… I’m like the Tasmanian Devil in there.

And there is this one special moment — it happens during every shower — when my vision goes red and I experience a perfect, poetic sort of blind rage. It’s after I have managed to smash my extremities into every single object around me. After I have dropped my razor for the third time, bent over to retrieve it and knocked a bottle rack from the wall with my forehead, sending my wife’s girly hair products clattering to the floor. It’s right when I am standing back up, about to take a deep breath and count to ten… when I bonk the back of my head against the hot water controller.

Instantly, scalding hot water sears my flesh and sends me up to Rage Level: Bill O’Reilly (Warning, video contains awesome swearing). That’s when I slap the lever back toward cold, which hoses me down with an arctic blast so cold my plums shrivel up and let me know they won’t be making another appearance until spring.

German shower stall
German Shower: 1, American Body: 0

There is one good thing about German showers, however; the shower heads are mounted on handles. I haven’t seen too many showers with handles in the States — mostly in fancy hotel rooms — but Germans love ’em. And I am forced to admit it is quite nice to direct the flow of water wherever I want it, even though the rest of the shower makes me so angry I could flip off a box of kittens.

But let’s not kid ourselves here; shower handles are unnecessary. The only reason Germans like shower handles is because they let you spray warm water directly on your cinnamon ring.

Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”

For another great article complaining about German showers, check out The Adventures of Heidi Hefeweizen.

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45 thoughts

  1. Fantastic! I must say, I hit my elbows every time I took a shower when I was at my gf’s this past month in Mainz, Germay. I love the Tasmanian Devil comparison! :-D What’s even better was that our shower is in the kitchen. Sure, we have a window, but not a smidgin of privacy for washing ye old “cinnamon ring”!

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      1. It was great! I hope to write about it soon, but I am dealing with massive, and quite unexpected, jet lag right now. I love reading your posts about your “adjustments” to the European lifestyle. Keep ’em coming!

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  2. Alternatively, you could have our experience–we don’t have a shower stall, but rather there is a long, skinny bath-tub, where the actual flat surface on the bottom of the tub is not as wide as my foot is long, and the bottom of the tub is about 10 inches higher than the floor outside the bath tub. If you’re not expecting that when you get out of the tub, it’s a rather rude awakening. We have the typical shower/handle thing (without which cleaning one’s body in this country would be virtually impossible). We can’t put up shower doors (because the walls are plaster and they’d fall out). We have instead a shower curtain. However, shower curtains apparently aren’t designed to completely surround the shower area, which means that only about 3/4 of the tub is enclosed by the shower curtain. The long side of tub is along one side of the bathroom wall; at one end of the tub, there’s a tile wall separating the tub from the toilet. However, at the other end of the tub, there is, well, NOTHING (except of course the lavatory). So, we have to carefully position the shower curtain to cover THAT end of the tub (and wet the outside of the shower curtain a bit so it will stick to the wall and make a seal), and then bring whatever is left of the shower curtain around as far as it will go. If you’re not really careful in how you position the shower head, you can make a real mess. And, the space enclosed is so tiny that, in the dead of winter, if your naked body brushes up against the ice-cold shower curtain, you’re in danger of slipping in the tub. When we have guests, we spend about 5 minutes telling them how to use our shower so that they don’t drench the bathroom or meet their deaths in our bath tub. (It’s awkward enough having a dead body in your bath tub, but explaining a dead body to authorities who don’t share your language might elevate the awkwardness quite a bit. And, as most of our guests are from the US, there would be the complicating factor of returning their bodies to the US.)

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  3. I share your pain. It took me months to limber up enough to not pull a muscle whilst trying to wash in these death trap showers that Thumbelina would find snug. Have you encountered the showers, like the one in my apartment, where the part of the plumbing where the hot and cold water come to co-mingle is located outside of the wall? It’s really awesome when you bump up against it because Germans like their hot water heaters to essentially have a direct line to hell. Results in the burning of some rather sensitive parts. TMI?

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      1. Beats the hek out of me. Quite frankly, there are some things I’ve run across and experienced living here that I doubt I’ll ever really understand. Yet, I love living here. It’s just too bad that they’ve not discovered the joy of “real” cereal that not only puts you in a sugary coma, but actually tastes good and does not resemble bird seed.

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  4. First, congrats on finding a decent flat in Hanover. I hope it is decently-priced too, because my sister has nothing positive to say about the property market in Hanover.

    Second, do you really prefer shower curtains over glass walls? You know, these things that, at the slightest draft (which is generally not avoidable unless you like your water to have room temperature), swing up and stick to your body or, alternatively, fold up on themselves, rendering themselves completely useless as protective barriers between your shower and the rest of the bathroom? You can’t be serious.

    Third, stop whinging, you whiny pussy of an American Weichei. And learn to appreciate the blessing that are shower handles. Sheesh! ;-)

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    1. My wife did a wonderful job researching apartments here in Hannover. We actually found the one we wanted while still in America. We’re just a young couple though, so perhaps our flat would seem like hell to your sister. :)

      Glass walled showers are great… when they’re big enough. Too small and you’re likely to put your elbow through it. :)

      I had to look up “Weichei” in order to understand you just called me a wimp. :) Now I am going to call my wife a Weichei every chance I get, and I will blame it all on Sandra Parsons. :D

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      1. Hey, what do you think how old I am?! Or my younger sister for that matter?
        As to the Weichei, I could also have called you a Warmduscher which would not just be as befitting but also a nice pun. You should really ask your wife to teach you more of the really important German vocabulary. One of the first words I taught my husband for instance was Pobacke. Very important!

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  5. Ah… yes. European showers. Definitely don’t miss those! I have encountered some that didn’t have a shower head with a handle- it was just affixed to the wall, usually positioned for a midget, so I’d have to squat down or get on my knees just to get my head under it- and I’m convinced that all European-style shower stalls should have handles on the shower head. Since you have no room in the stall to turn around and maneuver your various parts under the tiny, weak stream of lukewarm water, you have to be able to position the shower head exactly onto the part you are trying to wash. Otherwise, half of you won’t even have gotten wet by the time you get out.

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  6. As a German, I do find this quite amusing to see how you struggled with something simple as a shower. I grew up with “Small” shower stalls (though I was used to it) and sliding glass doors. I do find curtains quite annoying actually because they cling to your body and are so… Annoying. Ha, English fail – sometimes I just can’t find the right words. However, you’re not alone with the bad ventilation system. Unfortunately, many appartments in Germany have poor bathroom ventilations, at least as far as I’m concerned. Stay strong though, don’t let the shower bring you down. ;)

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      1. I used to live in a small town nearby Cologne, but my mother decided to move to Sweden four years ago so that’s where I’ve been staying ever since. I do plan to move back later, but I don’t know when just yet. :)

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  7. If you want to see a real chamber of horrors, look at virtually any shower in France. You’d swear you left the developed world behind.

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  8. I had a shower from hell in a hotel in Venice. Some warped designer’s idea of modern, I guess. You had to smash yourself up against the wall to shut the sliding glass door because it was on a curved rail. After the second day, I took baths instead.
    My Japanese shower has a handle and the water temperature is preset. Bliss.

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  9. Everything you’ve heard is true, although not in this old house. The toilet flushes and that’s about it, but many “warmlets” or “washlets” have heated seats, both bidet and bum washer complete with hot water and a blow dryer. Many will play music to cover the sound of whatever you’re doing. Some have a lid that opens and closes automatically. Some are spotlit from underneath. (Dunno what that’s for.) A friend just bought a house that has a beauty shop style sink, heated floor, and tub big enough for a family of four complete with jacuzzi. She complains that it takes too long to fill. It’s always something….

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  10. Ours never seems to want to stay up even if you tighten the thing. My husband is 6ft2 and it lays like limp noodle pointing inwards towards the wall.

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  11. Hi, and thank you for liking a post on my blog (Hilde in Amerika)! Being the opposite of you (a German wife living in America), I had to check you out when wordpress sent me the notification. I am glad I did, because I think you are hilarious!!!

    I am having the opposite bath room problems here, and I am sure they are culturally caused. First, the toilets here are basically water containers, and by using them, you will get your whole behind splashed with toilet water and your own excrements which are jumping back at you with the jumping up water. My solution: I am going in a plastic bucket with no water in it, and then I am plunging the contents into the toilet with the water. Yeah, this might be disgusting for you to read, (and my American husband is shaking his head), but that is still better than getting splashed by excrements every time.

    I have brought my fancy shower head from Germany (a French brand, but I don’t want to brag), and luckily my husband was able to attach that thing onto my shower.

    I hate American showers! I love to travel, and I am deciding on a hotel by their bathroom facilities! I am not kidding! This terrible “tub and shower combo” is pure hell, and I will not use it! It is neither a tub (because it is too small for any adult, you are only sitting having your legs under water, nothing else!!!) nor is it a shower! This pathetic wall installed water fall coming down – how will I get all body parts clean from that?

    I am always saying that these unusable bathrooms are designed by men. Only a guy can get clean with a wall mounted water stream. Please ask you wife if you don’t understand my point! Female genitalia are not back or front, they are basically beneath any spot that water can reach if coming from a wall mounted point. There is simply no way to wash the soap off that way!

    Any hotel offering me such a facility will not only never see me (and my money) again, they will also get a bad review on my Tripadvisor account. A hand held shower head is a MUST and a very simple necessity. A huge tub is a wonderful extra, and I am willing to pay for that in hotels, but the hand held thing is just a simple thing I can’t be without.

    While I am at it: the lack of good bath rooms in Pennsylvania (I have not seen other houses elsewhere) were the reason we had to search over 2 years until we found the house to buy. You can find great houses, but they are either with pathetic tub/shower combos, or they are in a location you don’t want to live, or they are too expensive. When I found my house, big enough and in the spot where I wanted to live, I had to make compromises on the interior: only American style bath rooms and American water bowl toilets. At least there was a shower stall, and my French handle could be attached.

    But I am missing my German bath room so badly! I had a nice shower stall (with plastic transparent walls, as glass is more expensive) and a tub that was really a tub. I don’t know what Americans are thinking when they call their small thing a tub. You can wash two 4-year-olds in that, but not one adult, and absolutely not 2 adults!

    Oh, and don’t have me started on that shower curtain! I have not seen such a thing until I came here 10 years ago! What is wrong with you people? You have to cover your body from your own family’s views? Or why is that thing there? We have had tubs in Germany for many centuries, and never was such a thing as a shower curtain invented! We just SAT in the tub! Why would you want to STAND in a tub? This is beyond me!

    I am troubled when I am picking up comments that imply shower curtains are now also available in Germany. Another cultural invasion we didn’t need. Just like the idea that women should shave their legs! Unthinkable for German women around 50 (like myself), but when I talk to women 10 years or more younger, they have been brainwashed by the cosmetic industry that they actually do need to do that, if they want to be attractive. This is yet another American thing unneeded!

    Where in Hannover are you? I have been living in and around that city for decades, but also lived in and around Hamburg and Bremen before I left for rural PA.

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    1. Hello Hilde! Thank you for the enthusiastic and insightful comment!

      I love your use of the word “excrements.” It’s adorable.

      Wait, do you seriously go poo poo in a bucket?

      We all have our cultural habits, it would seem, but I draw the line at sasquatch legs. A nice pair of smooth lady legs are fantastic. :)

      We’re right in the middle of Hannover. We can see the New Town Hall and everything.

      Will you ever move back to Germany from PA?

      Thank you again for the comment and have a wonderful day!

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  12. Hello!
    I am a German Exchange student currently living in Michigan, USA. So I enjoy very much reading about somebody who experiences the culture shock the other way around and compare them to my own. It is nice to be confirmed in my opinion sometimes (public transportation, cereal) or in things my host family/friends have said about ways I act (environmental awareness, cleanliness). This post was especially interesting to me, since I have bee having the shower conversation a lot with my friends recently. We were equally shocked about the fact that we turn off the water for using soap and they don’t. “How do you not freeze? How can you use soap?” “How does your soap not wash off immediately??”
    I have divided opinions on our shower here in the US. Luckily, the shower curtain doesn’t bother me, it stays where it are, in contrast to the one my dad had in is old house. That devil’s thing loved to stick to my skin. That’s why I prefer the sliding doors.
    I am very lucky with the shower head here, it is detachable! For me that is very important, because I have long hair and the decreased water pressure when the shower head is far up makes it hard to wash the soap out. The only thing I am missing is to move it up and down while it is in the handle. Oh and the pressure regulation!! Here, I can only control how hot it is, but not the pressure, I find that frustrating.
    And your shower stall is not tiny! :o I would love for you to try our shower at home, it is the smallest prison ever, even I with my 5.5 hit extremities in the wall. And then the f** thing has a “DachschrΓ€ge” in it additionally!
    Last point: the walls. At home they’re made from tiles, instead of these fancy premade stalls with walls here, that I truly enjoy! It is not fun when after you took a shower the first thing you have to do is scrape the water off of the walls witha rubber scraper and then wish off the metal parts with a towel because your german mother wants it to look nice…

    Long comment, but this is the opinion about showers from someone who experiences it the other way around :D

    Have a wonerfuk day in awesome Germany!
    Eileen

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  13. As a kid I once spent the night in a Venezuelan brothel with my parents (long story). There you would get electrocuted every time you turned on the shower. My dad went to the madam to complain and she just handed him a rubber mat to stand on…
    It worked though.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. They are both shrinks….I think they wanted me to learn from an early age that sometimes in life you gotta chose between cumstained sheets and electrocution.

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