The German Shower

My shower

I really and truly dislike showering.  I don’t mean in contrast to taking a bath; I also don’t relish the feeling that I am sitting in my own filth.  I mean that the actual process of bathing bugs me.  There are so many steps, and no matter how quickly I move, it takes too long.  Then there’s the whole post-shower moisturizing-deodorizing-hair gel application routine.  I don’t mean to to be so high maintenance, but I also don’t want to be itchy, frizzy and smelly with dark circles under my eyes.  If I could somehow never shower and not be  frightening and/or disgusting, I would do it.  And this is all with a nice, roomy American shower with a constant flow of hot water.

Let’s talk German showers.  Now, I try not to complain about the negative aspects of life abroad because I can be a bit of a wallower, and in reality, the ten months I will spend here are too short to waste sitting on the couch in sweatpants and listening to the Smiths.  Plus, there are plenty of good things here that I don’t have at home.  That said, bathing in Germany is the pits!  Why?  Let me outline it for you:

  • Apparently it is not standard practice to install fans in bathrooms.  In fact, I have yet to encounter a bathroom here with one.  Instead, they all have windows that open.  Regardless of the season, you will open your window while showering or risk having a dank, black mold-infested bathroom.
  • Not only is water a precious resource, but it is expensive in Europe.  When you shower here, you turn on the the water, get wet, then turn it off.  Lather up, turn the water back on and rinse.  (Bonus: During that time when the warm water is not running, a cold breeze is coming in through the open window.)
  • Every shower I have used in Germany is either a tiled or glass stall, and there is always a squeegee hanging there.  So, before you towel off, you have to squeegee your shower stall to prevent water spots.  There’s nothing like doing chores in the nude first thing in the morning to get your day off to a good start!

My shower squeegee

  • Once you can finally exit the shower, you will towel off with the scratchiest towel in the oddest size ever.  The towels here are somewhere between a standard American hand towel and bath towel, and have been beaten into submission but a series of washings in scalding hot water, followed by air-drying.

I know, I know.  I’m whining.  I won’t make this a habit, I promise.  At least the showers here aren’t terrifying like the showers I used in Guatemala.  They have an electrical heating device between the pipe and the showerhead, which everyone half-jokingly referred to as a “widowmaker.”  And I get that using less electricity and fewer liters of water is the socially responsible thing to do, but I don’t have to like it. 🙂


About heidihefeweizen

I am a 29 year-old American woman who has received a Fulbright scholarship to work as an English teaching assistant in a German high school.
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21 Responses to The German Shower

  1. Uli says:

    I didn’t know that showering in Germany is that unpleasant. Back home in Austria, I’m used to opening the window _after_ showering, that is right when I leave the room. I wouldn’t be able to shower in the winter with the window open… We also have nice, big towels in Austria. 😉

    Showers in Guatemala: That looks… scary.

    I have a related question: Why are standard bathtubs so small in the US?

    • I know! The photo I linked to was actually in Honduras, but they look the same. Good question about the American tubs, though. You’re right,too, since they are never actually large enough to enjoy, unless you have a really special tub. I have been wondering why I don’t ever see the US-style shower and tub combined. Instead, they are always separate units. Any thoughts?

  2. rene says:

    First of all, let me first say how much I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy reading your blog. Secondly I am so glad, relieved and even elated really to know that I am not the only person who feels this way about showering. I comment frequently to my husband, who I am convinced has the patience of a saint, that it just takes to long and tends to be a bit of a nuisance. Here I thought I was a odd duck, a lone wolf if you will in my thinking, but am so glad to know someone shares my views.

    Also you have made me grateful that I don’t have to squeegee my shower each time it is used because your cousins would never do it and we’d have black mold for sure. Love you.

  3. You probably already do this but I always vinegar and detergent while washing towels (and everything else). It’s a natural fabric softener! This is especially beneficial in air drying countries 🙂

    And Uli my guess on the small tub size is that we don’t have quite the culture of long baths… Schade!

  4. Amy says:

    Oh my gosh! The Widowmaker is horrifying! That being said, I agree with you–I dislike showering. I really hate the feeling of being splashed with water (which, in Rob’s mind, makes me part cat) and I can’t imagine having to turn the water off and on again repeatedly! Ugh!

  5. Awesome post! And so painfully true.

  6. maryjo137 says:

    Who would have thunk it that you would have gotten so many comments on the showers in Germany!!! I do agree that I do like a nice big shower, preferably with 4 shower heads hitting me from all directions!!! Oh the pain of being a woman!!! The many steps we take in preparation to walk out of the bathroom looking seemlessly beautiful!!!

  7. Jenn says:

    If showering got any more complicated, I would abandon it altogether. for realz

  8. kathleen says:

    Should I be ashamed to admit that I took American-style showers during our year in Freiburg? At least I think I did, most of the time. My least favorite part of bathing in Germany was that for some reason there was no hot water in our WG after about midnight, which made it really unpleasant when I got home from a night at El Pi and absolutely had to shower before sleeping because I smelled intensely of ashtray (with notes of Pils and Döner, of course). Who doesn’t love icy cold open-window showers at 3 a.m.?

  9. Hello Heidi!

    Sorry to post this message in your comments, but I don’t have your email address.

    Anyway, I was wondering if I could repost your German Shower article in our blog and link it back to the original. It would appear here:

    Let me know! We loved this article! Thank you!

    Oh God, My Wife Is German (

  10. Steve says:

    Wow! What a responce to a post! and most from women who hate the rituals of showering. STOP! I know I may sound VERY old fashioned here (and I’m not really) but you’re destroying the romance behind the idea of women bathing. Save something for us forward thinking men to cling to.:) Funny discussion though.

  11. I found your post from Oh God, My Wife Is German’s blog, and it is absolutely wonderful! Complain away! HAHA! I’ll sympathize a bit. My German gf’s shower is conveniently located in the kitchen of her one-bedroom apartment. Yes, that’s right: The Kitchen. And you are spot-on about the nice, cold, German breeze coming in through the window while you lather, rinse, repeat. I’m just thankful she never puts me to work chopping or peeling potatoes while showering… 🙂 Good luck with your squeegee!

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