My German collegue Birgit and I have argued over many things over the years. Birgit – for those who haven’t read Planet Germany – is the one who thinks that all things English are inferior and the British are dysfunctional and poorly nourished. And she should know – she’s married to an Englishman.
Things we have argued about include:
- the best way to seal an envelope
- the correct way round to hang a toilet roll
- the best corner on which to staple two pages together ( apparently I do it on the right just to annoy her)
But the greatest bone of contention between us has to revolve around the differences in English and German plumbing.
It all started this morning when I was complaining about a particularly unsatisfactory shower I’d just taken.
“The problem is with the stupid German boiler,” I explain. “In the winter it’s also trying to run the central heating, so whenever it has to send some warm water into the radiators, it diverts it from my shower and I get two minutes of freezing water.”
I can see Birgit bristle at the inference that a German boiler could be inferior to a British one.
“English showers are the worst in the world,” states Birgit with that tone of voice that turns lesser mortals into granite. “To start with you use immersion heaters which need to be on for hours before you get half a bucket of lukewarm water. And there is no such thing as water pressure in Britain. You have these ridiculous little tanks in the loft, full of rats’ droppings and pigeon shit. All that comes out in the bathroom is a trickle, which is alternately hot or cold. And usually it gives out altogether the minute you’ve put shampoo or hair dye on your head.”
I jolt upwards with a horrible thought. Could it be that Birgit in fact studied at the same college as I did and endured the indignity of the shower in my old student digs? Surely not! But how else can she know about that shower? And, worryingly, what else might she know about from my student days?
But she’s already warming to her subject before I can check her sources.
“The English are the only nation who actually refer to a normally functioning shower as a power shower. That says it all, doesn’t it? You don’t have proper plumbing. And you can’t be trusted to use other utilities either. English bathrooms don’t even have light switches. You have silly little bits of string hanging from the ceiling with a plastic bobble. Because if you had a light switch you’d electrocute yourselves.”
Now it’s my turn to bristle. National honour is at stake here.
“German bathrooms are the worst by a long chalk,” I counter. “The toilets are badly designed – with the hole in the wrong place. You have that stupid ledge about an inch below your arse that everything lands on and stinks out the bathroom. And you have to flush about fifteen times before the thing is actually clean. The morning after a decent lentil curry you could actually be pushed off the toilet seat by your own turds. It’s downright unhygienic.”
“The hole is not in the wrong place,”Birgit stamps her foot. “You Brits are probably sitting the wrong way round on the seat for all I know! I wouldn’t put it past you. The shelf is there so you can check the health of your bowels in the morning. You English will probably all die of tapeworms and bowel cancers because you are too prudish and stupid to take care of your own health!”
“We don’t need to inspect our turds every morning because we don’t live on a diet of minced raw pig and undercooked sausages full of parasites.”
“German pork meat is not full of parasites. Just because your boggy island can’t provide good enough quality meat to eat safely without incinerating it first, doesn’t mean our food is unsafe. At least we don’t live on a diet of pre-processed over-salted, packaged polystyrene with artificial flavourings and added cancer-causing agents.”
“I sometimes wish you did,” I yell. About half an hour after Birgit has left the building.