Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thinking About Moving

My wife and I have given some consideration to moving to Germany. My older son has lived there for 4 or 5 years and loves it, although he does miss home at times. Of course, he speaks the language fluently. My younger son has some skill with it as well. My wife and I struggle with "guten morgen," and "danke shoen" or nervously asking "Wo ist die toilette, por favor - er I mean, uh - what is it? - uh - bitte? Yeah, that's it - Wo ist die toilette, bitte?" - spoken triumphantly, and, of course, loud enough for all the people in the room to stop in their tracks to turn and stare at us. But I guess we could eventually pick up enough to get by over time.

But I'd really miss some uniquely "American" things which are generally difficult to get in Germany and elsewhere abroad. What would those things be, you might ask?

Well, these come to mind:

Tap water at restaurants.

Ice in drinks.

Clothes dryers.

Stores open 24/7.

Air conditioning.

American toilets.

When we were in Vienna some years ago and a few years later in various parts of Germany, restaurant servers looked at us askance when any of us requested a glass of tap water. Bottled water is the rule. Tap water, verboten.
Soft drinks may be served chilled, but forget getting ice.

I could probably get along fine without a clothes dryer, but few people have them, or so I understand. My wife would more likely find that a bother, but I'm sure I'd miss the effects of the loving touch of those fabric softener dryer sheets. The liquid stuff you put in with the wash load just isn't the same.
I could also probably adjust to the lack of 24/7 shopping, but it certainly is convenient to go to, well - a convenience store - at midnight to get a gallon of milk, a can of coffee or a bag of whatever. Or to be able to go to a drug store and get something for that maddening itch or a serious case of the hoohaws.

Obviously, most of the above are, on balance rather piddling trifles.
Living without AC though, would be tough for this fat boy. The area of northern Germany where my son has been living has been extremely hot most of the summer. His apartment is on the top floor of his building with poor air circulation. He can't even find a fan, for whatever reason. The few occasions I've been obliged to spend a hot, humid summer night without AC have been hellish. With my having Apnea, a decent night's sleep is rare enough. Trying to do so without AC can be a nightmare.

Then there's the toilets. You world travelers probably know of what I speak. In Austria and Germany, where I have traveled, most of their toilets are designed with what is euphemistically referred to as "the shelf" which is high and dry. One does not truly appreciate the great job that the water in the bowl does for one's olfactory senses. I remember the glee with which I responded to finding American style toilets in a public restroom at the Grand Hotel in Vienna. Woohoo!

I know, I have exposed my very soul and revealed that I am a truly spoiled and predictably shallow American. What can I say? These are some of the things to which many Americans are accustomed. They are all part of the hallowed "American Dream."

After several days in Germany a couple of years ago I found myself wistfully envisioning myself sitting atop one of those wasteful American toilets, sipping a glass of ice water obtained straight from the tap (yeah, I know, it's a fairly disgusting vision) in my air conditioned suburban home while my clothes are spinning dry in the basement laundry room, contemplating a midnight run to the 24 hour Kroger Store for a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey.

Now THAT'S my America!

Just an additional note. Something weird happens to some of my paragraph divisions when I publish. I've tried to remedy the situation to no avail.
Oh, and one more note: We're not moving anywhere.


Zoe said...

Oh I love your writing and your sense of humour. I was going to say, whether here or there, keep on blogging.

I was also going to ask you the positives of moving to Germany. Did you have a list?

I guess it doesn't matter now though. I see you aren't going after all.

And I'm tempted to ask a bit more information about those toilets over there! I guess I'm not going to move to Germany either! *eek!*

Terry S said...


I must admit that we have not seriously considered moving to Germany. If we had the means, I would certainly consider buying or perhaps leasing a home or apartment there since our older son will likely never live in the U.S. again. But, ultimately both Jo and I are Americans, like it or not. Unless they banish or start burning non-believers (neither of which is out of the question,)I imagine we will always maintain our domicile in the good ole US of A.

So no, there was no list. But considering such a move provided a good premise to write the piece.

The toilets. Well, let's see. I don't want to be too graphic, although given some of our previous discussions, I'm confident that you can take it.

I'll describe it thus: The "shelf" or "landing pad" is a flattened and, significantly, a dry place near the bottom of the bowl which then descends downward into a smaller area which does retain a bit of water in it. When one flushes, a rush of water from above and behind said shelf sends whatever has been, shall we say, deposited onto the shelf down to that lower level and then down, I presume, to the oblivion of the local sewer system. However, the tenure of the "deposit" on the "shelf" presents the user with a rather harrowing olfactory experience.

I must admit, that while we have never met, we have had some interesting conversations regarding our personal plumbing and their related functions. It kinda makes me feel all warm and runny inside.

I doubt that much of the above would make for good "pick-up" lines. I'm one suave SOB. It's good those days are long gone.


Terra said...


I know exactly where you're coming from. I lived in New Zealand for over a year and on my way home, I took the long way through Australia and then Thailand. Thai toilets are VERY different from American toilets.

The last three days of my trip, I blew almost the whole of my daily budget on a four star hotel because it had AC and American-style toilets.

I do feel glutton-ish sometimes when I think about all that I have now that I take for granted, but yeah, hearing you talk about the toilets made me instantly remember what a relief that hotel room was to me.

Terry S said...


Fortunately, the two trips we made to Europe were in December and January. AC was not an issue. The toilets were.

We intend to go to Germany in the spring. I hope we come and go before the weather turns hot. I am a total wus about AC.


Zoe said...

Terry... *big grin*...umm, thanks for the description...err, I get it. LOL! *wink*

Terry S said...


Glad to oblige. I like to make as much of my work a learning experience as possible. I'm sure you feel more, uh, edified now, right?