“Whose turn is it to clean the apartment?”
This is not a real question. If Hildegard or Hildeberta have got to the stage where this question has to be asked, then it’s definitely my turn to clean. Sigh.
This is where ze Germans and I have very different opinions. I hate housework with the fire of a thousand suns; it bores the pants off me.
Before I moved to Germany, I watched a BBC documentary called “Make me a German”. The show claims that the average German woman does four hours and eleven minutes of housework A DAY. When I’d picked myself up off the (probably not hoovered) floor, my skeptical side kicked in. Surely nobody could spend four hours and eleven minutes a day doing housework. But, now that I live with two German women, I’m starting to realise that it might actually be true. They love it.
If you want to see a German woman really excited, go out drinking, cover your white dress in red wine, and then come back home and look helpless. They’ll spring into action with the same gusto I normally reserve for cake.
And by god, they’ll get those stains out, even if takes four hours and eleven minutes… After all of this excitement, they’ll probably unwind by ironing everything they own or cleaning their shoes. They find this relaxing.
Hildegard: Feel free to borrow the iron any time you like.
Me: I haven’t ironed anything in around 20 years. I’m a fan of the “take it out of the washing machine quickly and hang it up” method. Then if there are still wrinkles, you just wear the item of clothing until they fall out. The “body heat” approach.
There are a few other household-related things I’ve done that have resulted in sharp intakes of breath and widened eyes.
Hildeberta: What are you doing?
Me: Pouring my soup into a bowl.
Hildeberta: Huh, I’ve never seen anyone pour soup directly from a saucepan before.
Me: Really? What do you do?
Hildeberta: Use a ladle. (She didn’t say “like a normal person” but I guess she was thinking it.)
On another occasion:
Hildeberta: What are you doing?
Me: Filling the kettle.
Hildeberta: Through the spout?
Me: Yeah, I find that opening and closing the lid adds valuable seconds to the process and I’m all about efficiency in the home.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m trying to be lazy or a bad flatmate; I just genuinely don’t see stuff. To me, the flat simply never really looks like it’s in need of cleaning. It’s the cleanest place I’ve ever lived. My mother always said that there could be an elephant sitting in the middle of the living room, and I wouldn’t notice it. I think she’s right. Incidentally, Hildeberta just popped her head into my room.
Hildeberta: Hey, where’s the other chair?
Me: What chair?
Hildeberta: Didn’t you have two?
Me: Oh, I think you’re right. Hmm, I wonder where the other one went…
Then I remembered that my landlady had come around several months ago to pick up some of her stuff. She must have taken it. Yes, you read that correctly – several months, and I still hadn’t noticed that the chair was gone. I probably never would have.
Now there’s talk of putting together a housework rota. Clearly, this is the last thing on earth I want. Anyway, I probably won’t notice the rota any more than I notice the dirt.
On a positive note, however, I have a new fan. Hildeberta’s dad is the latest German to enjoy reading the blog. This is good news for me. Now, not only does Hildeberta have to listen to all of my stupid adventures first-hand, she also has to read about them, and then hear all about them again from her dad. He likes to recount my blog posts to her whenever he calls – charming man. I’m hoping that this means that she just won’t have time to put together a rota.
Thank you, Herr Hildeberta. You might just have saved my Speck…
You can find the highly entertaining BBC documentary here: