My crash course in living in a German house
My crash course in living in a German house
I run a water management system in my house. Depending on if it’s raining, if it’s laundry day or it has been extra humid, you’ll find various pitchers, buckets and other vessels placed around my house.
You know that one industrial-sized sink that’s usually in the basement or the laundry room of a house, that you use to clean all the really dirty stuff you don’t want in your kitchen sink? What’s that called in my German house? The bathtub. Or what about a hose, to fill up watering cans? Also, the bathtub.
Now, this is not the case in every German home. Our house was converted by our landlord from a clothing factory—run by her father—into two houses. Both of our families live on the same strip of land that her family owned and built the house where they grew up. While we love our house, there are unique aspects related to it previously being a factory. It’s been a journey and a learning experience getting acclimated to both German living and our unique home.
Back to my water management system. I guess you could also call it a water recycling program. First, our German dryer collects water that needs to be emptied after each load. I keep a bucket on the dryer to fill up and use to water my houseplants throughout the week.
Then there is the dehumidifier. We have a small bathroom right in the center of our house, sort of oddly located, which can gather a lot of extra moisture because there is no window in it. After trying various fixes to remove its musty smell, we bought a dehumidifier. Surprisingly, it needs to be emptied every other day, so we use it to water the flowers, especially in the summer months.
Yes, summer watering. Again, this might not be normal for everyone, but we don’t have a faucet for an outdoor hose. So, every time we need to water flowers or the vegetable garden, it’s a trip to the bathtub to fill up the watering can (because, of course, the can doesn’t fit in the tiny kitchen sink). I won’t lie, the hauling is a nice arm workout, but I should probably explore what other Germans do and collect rainwater.
Next up, the windows.
You’ve probably heard someone rave about German windows. There is so much to love about them! How they open in multiple directions, all the natural daylight, the “rolladens” or roller shutters, etc.
For those who haven’t heard about the process of “airing out the house,” homeowners crack the windows open a couple times of day to release moisture. Yes, all year long—even in the winter. If that doesn’t happen, there is a good chance mold will start to grow. Because I work from home, airing out the house is a part of my daily routine and I’ve become accustomed to having fresh air in the house.
Aside from the airing out, the rolladens are like outdoor blinds that you roll down for complete darkness or to keep the house cool in the summer months.
This is another thing I had to master. Because German houses generally don’t have air conditioning, it’s up to our windows and airing out to keep the house cool. During the summer’s hot days, I open my windows early in the morning and keep an eye on the temperature. As the sun gets higher and the temperature rises, I close the windows and roll down my rolladen shutters. This traps the cool air and blocks out the heat of the sun. As someone who works from home again, this does mean that I sometimes feel like I’m in a cool dark cave, with all the blinds down in the heat of the day—ironic because my house gets great natural daylight—but it means we will be cool at night.
Now, what isn’t often mentioned is that our windows don’t have screens. So, as you’d imagine, a lot of insects fly in and out of the house, and yes, I’ve even had a bird. Our first summer we installed our own screens, but they didn’t stay in place for long. For our second summer we thought we’d try to live like the locals—no screens.
For the insects that fly in, we all seem to cohabitate fairly well, and I think we have an understanding that they can fly around as long as they, one, don’t bother me and, two, are out by the end of the day. I don’t have time to monitor and chase them around the house! And so far, so good.
While I will gladly welcome window screens when we leave our German house, there are some things that I will miss about our factory/house and I’ll definitely treasure some of the memories of learning to live like a local, birds, bugs and all.
Subscribe to our Stripes Europe newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, helpful PCS tips, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!
Follow us on social media!