Tap wars

It’s nearly a week now since Birgit and I had our little international altercation on the merits of Teutonic versus Anglo-Saxon plumbing.

Of course in the meantime we’ve talked about some of Birgit’s other favourite topics. Like how the British are entirely responsible for global warming, world poverty and losing socks in the washing machine. How the NHS isn’t really a health service, A’ levels not genuine qualifications and English cottage gardening is actually throwing everything together into one flowerbed and going back to the pub.

But ever since that plumbing discussion, whenever there’s a lull in the conversation (which happens if I, say, take a moment to sip my coffee) somehow the subject of bathroom fittings rears its ugly head again.

Yesterday morning, for example.

It was my fault of course. I was just trying to explain something about the audience profile of a minor German TV station and I made the mistake of pausing mid sentence to draw breath. Birgit leapt on the opportunity.

Taps.” She said accusingly.

I’m used to this sudden switch in topics by now, otherwise I might have toppled backwards off my chair and through a windowpane.

“The British don’t have proper taps in their bathrooms.”

Fortunately there is no need for me to speak. I already know that Birgit is about to provide me with a lengthy and caustic explanation of exactly how the British have failed in the provision of German-standard running water in their homes.

“In an English bathroom at the sink or in the bath you always find two taps. About thirty centimetres apart. One for the cold and one for the hot water.”

“Yes. What’s so wrong with that?”

“When you want to wash your hands, you have to choose either hot water or cold water. You either scald yourself or freeze your fingers. Or you have to turn on both taps and wash in first hot, then cold, then hot…. you can’t get proper temperature water unless you fill up the entire sink and waste ten litres of water on something you only needed one splash for.”

I am speechless. Which is fortunate as Birgit is just starting to warm to her subject so I wouldn’t have got a word in anyway.

“You British have never heard of the German Mischbatterie… the mixer tap, which brings the hot and cold water together and provides it at the perfect temperature into the basin or the bath. No, instead you faff about with your silly cold and silly hot taps.”

For once I remain silent. This is because I have an enormous guilty secret. A secret so terrible, that if she ever finds out….it will be the end of everything. Brigit will have won forever.

You see, when I was growing up in the 1960s. We had an English version of a Mischbatterie. It was a device which looked like a cross between a milking machine and a garden hose. You stuck one “teat-holder” onto each tap… and the mixed water came out of a watering-can-style sprinkler on the end. It was made of rubber and was pink.

If Birgit ever finds out about the very existence of such a contraption, I am doomed. I will never be able to look her in the eye again. I can already visualise the look of triumph on her face. The British answer to the Mischbatterie will come up during every discussion on each and any subject as the trump card, the conclusive argument which proves once and for all that the English are inferior to the Germans in every respect.

“Pass me the phone book,” I blurt out eventually. “I need to look for a doctor who can re-attach the tip of my tongue.”


Filed under Life in Germany

6 responses to “Tap wars

  1. I never realized that the Germans have so many hang ups about bath rooms. I’ve always felt that as long as the bath room facilities work, and are more than a hole in the floor (Turkey) then I am way ahead of the game.
    BTW: My flat in Berlin has an old fashioned tub with a hot and cold tap! As did the sink! So apparently there are still some very un-modern parts of Germany! LOL

  2. cartooncat

    Thanks also to the reader on the Brits who pointed out this article to me.


    Apparently Iraqui Kurds also can’t believe how primitive British plumbing is.

    I’m gutted.

  3. DrJ

    Hi! You have a blog now after all.. I’m glad I’ve found it.

    I must admit I’m on her side with the tap thing. Australia has the single faucet idea, although my grandmother’s house feature one of those plastic tubes in the bathroom… obviously we weren’t always so perfect!

    But actually my biggest gripe with British bathrooms is carpet. On the floor. In a room which people drip all over. Or pee all over in the worst case. Eewww.

    But as to german bathrooms… there’s a lot of hastily created bathrooms in this city, with showers located in kitchens or even toilets in closets:

    You can show her that photo in defence. I’m sure he won’t mind.

  4. I am categorically against Mischbatterie because it sounds like drunken violence against women.

  5. Mairead

    …..I have to be honest, I hate our mixer taps in the bathroom, the hot water takes forever to come through and it doesn’t mix well. Cold, luke warm or scalding! Very unpleasant I can assure you.
    The amount of time spent trying to get the perfect balance in the shower frustrates me as well.

    Personally, I prefer ye olde English taps…who cares if you have to chose between hot & cold. As long as you wash your hands, that’s all that matters!!!

  6. truthwalker

    Wow. I am sort of the American who always complains about America. And yet we sell mixer taps (faucets to us) that work very well for around 15 dollars US.

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