6. The fear of dryers
Germans feel about dryers as North Americans feel about washing their clothes with hot water – we dread it. Funny enough, both have the same motivation: protecting their favorite clothes from deteriorating. However, Germans love washing their clothes hot, so that even the nastiest germ will be knocked on its heals. While heat in hot water is widely accepted though, heat in hot air is a reason to panic for Germans. Rumor has it, that dryers are the enemies in the fight against fabric decay (and waste a lot of energy and therefore money!). Hence, Germans prefer to hang their clothes. They even have a dedicated room for this task – the attic. Clotheslines will be suspended from one wall to the other, and neighbors in apartment buildings come together for chats while hanging up their clothes.
7. The finest windows in the world
“When I think of Germany, I think of solid windows. No other country can build such solid, beautiful windows”, chancellor Angela Merkel once said in an interview1. This might be an odd thing to say, but I agree. In no other country are people as obsessed with windows as in Germany. It’s not that they care about the aesthetics though – it’s all about energy efficiency. According to German energy conservation regulations every building (except heritage buildings) have to meet a certain level of energy efficiency. This effectively banned single glazed windows from the market. Though they are not technically illegal, since they usually cannot meet the energy conservation standards, and violations will be avenged with a penalty up to 50,000 €, chances are low you will see a single glazed window in Germany. Since good insulation also saves money on expensive heating, the trend is now even moving onward to triple glazed windows.
8. The radiator regime
As we just learned, heating is expensive, and Germans usually try to avoid expensive. Germans would not be Germans, if they hadn’t come up with a cleverly thought out system for keeping their heating costs down. Radiators are most commonly used and they are usually mounted right underneath the window. This is how ventilating rooms during winter became a choreography – also painfully acquired from an early age. This is a big deal and it even has its own name: ‘groß Durchlüften’ (english: the grand airing out). When attempting to ventilate the room, your life comes to a stop. You turn off the lights (so no bugs come in and no neighbors spy), you turn off the heat (so the radiator does not continue to heat while all the nice hot air goes out the window) and you open the window all the way (German windows open two ways: vertically, which opens just a crack, and horizontally, which allows you to open the whole window like a door). Then you wait. In the dark and freezing cold. After about 15 minutes or when the room is aired out to your satisfaction, you may close the window, turn up the heat, switch the light back on and continue with your life.
9. The plot with the plug
In a lot of German households leaving electrical appliances on ‘stand-by’ is considered an absurdity. Powering that little red light on your TV, DVD-Player or radio, while getting no use out of it, is widely considered a waste of money and energy. In fact, Germans like to feed the habit by visiting one of the many websites that calculate the money you can save by pulling the plug. Even the German Environment Agency has published a study on ‘stand by’, estimating 4 billion Euros are wasted in Germany alone annually by non-stop plugged in appliances. After all, did you know that your stereo system will waste on average 53€ per year if left plugged in between uses? Therefore, extension cords with an on-and-off-switch are extremely popular in Germany, as they allow you to disconnect your whole home entertainment system in no time.
10. The brick in the toilet tank
By now we know that clean water is expensive in Germany (and priceless for a healthy environment). So why flush it down the toilet? If you happen to live in an old house and your toilet system is more than 25 years old, your toilet most likely flushes much more water than necessary to make your waste disappear. Therefore, it is one of the oldest water saving tricks Germans have up their sleeves, to put a brick in the toilet tank. That this idea is not crazy, but indeed genius, is supported by the ‘Drop a Brick’ initiative – a Californian NGO that advertises dropping a brick in the toilet tank as a way of curbing wasted water in the drought-stricken state.
Yes, what Germans do might seem crazy. And yes, most of them initially do it to save a buck or two. However, the side effect of protecting natural resources and therefore the environment has moved to the foreground in recent years.
While we don’t have a shortage of natural resources in Germany, we certainly do need to conserve. There are more than twice as many people living in Germany than in Canada, on a piece of land that is only 3.5 % of Canada’s landmass. You see, Canada is a land of plenty – plenty of resources to use for just 36 Million people. Now imagine Canada was the size of the State of Washington. Can you see yourself pulling the plug and dropping the brick?
1 René Pfister / Britta Stuff: ‘Im Kartenhaus’. Der Spiegel 12/2017, S. 17.
Pictures: Wikicommons, Pixabay