Tag Archives: birgit

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

Plumbing the depths in Germany

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.


Filed under Life in Germany