A Freudian insight into der Deutsche Waschtag (laundry day).
Back home in the US you have these 2 mammoth machines in your basement. If you’re lucky to own the new style washer and dryers, they might come in fancy retro colours like olive, mustard or cranberry red. These beautiful workhorses have hold sizes from small to extra large and they’re ready to rip your clothes apart, just stuff as much as you can in and wash it with Tide. Then dump that oversized load into that energy un-efficient furnace, that we call a dryer. If it doesn’t come out clean it’s sure to come out decimated or shrunk. Oh well, that’s what Goodwill is for ; )
Here in Deutschland things are done a little differently…
First off, the size of my Bauknecht Waschmachine is tiny. It is the type you have in an apartment where the dryer stacks on top of the washer. This white, family sized machine, doesn’t even hold a full basket of clothes. Which is quite odd as the Germans are impeccably dressed at all times. Their clothes are clean, pressed and never have that worn out look unless its store bought, so I know there is a lot of laundry going on here. So why the small size?
Second the control panel is like the inside of an airplane cockpit, that’s German over-engineering at its best. As an American of course I refused to read the manual even though I have it in British English. I have no idea what my Waschmachine does. I do know it can wash in temperatures from warm to close to boiling at 20 to 95 °C. “Koch-/Buntwäsche” means to cook your coloured wash, that setting is a boiling 95 °C and for 2 short hours. Or you can set the temp a little lower at 60 °C for 4 hours. Do stains really come out after cooking your clothes for 4 hours? Hmmm? Jeans can be washed in 2 hours and then things go a little quicker with the majority of the wash finished off with a 1 hour -16 minute setting. Unfortunately, when things take that long I forget them and they end up sitting for a couple of days in the machine. It’s not uncommon for me to wash the same load 3 times over which is very un-German.
As a footnote, in Deutschland there is an underlying “Military Ideology” to conserve, conserve, save, save, – which is in contrast to a loose American Capitalism to consume, consume, spend, spend. From a German perspective they wonder how we can even exist, especially when it comes to the usage of high energy consuming machines. Which brings me to my beloved state of the art, Bosch dryer…that per my husbands orders is off limits.
You remember the 3000 litres of oil in our basement that powers our furnace and creates heat? As a good German we try to conserve the oil by burning wood to heat our home. Wood is an energy renewable source, a source which also drys our laundry. In our home the heat rises upstairs into the hallway where I have hung the laundry to dry. When we have a lot of laundry we burn a lot of wood. In Deutschland everyone uses these metal foldout things to hang their wet laundry on. When I asked my German sister in-law about this strange and silly custom, she glared at me in disbelief and then sternly reminded me that it saves energy and the clothes last longer.
My eyes were opened – clothes to me were like Kleenexes, to be used one after another and then discarded after a few washes. Compare that to my German husband who to my shock and horror still wears the clothes he had in highschool. Maybe, there is something to this and maybe my cotton shirts won’t shrink 3 sizes anymore. I did wonder about my personal time vs. cost ratio, as a Hausfrau, I guess my time doesn’t matter. Though, I knew I wasn’t alone. I have a friend who is really hard core, she has 5 kids and drys the laundry in the furnace room as they don’t burn much wood. So now on wash day our Bosch dryer sits idle and lonely, with its door ajar as if to say (I know you are an American) please use me.
Bis Später, the American Frau