Why I’ll never be a good German Hausfrau

“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.

20150309_183355[1]
Pants – bored off me. (A German would have ironed both the pants and the sheet before taking that photo.)

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.

Mmm, cake...
Mmm, 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. 

Hildegard: (Thud)

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.)

Me: Huh.

Unnecessary washing-up
Unnecessary washing-up

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.

Hildeberta: Huh. 

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.

The cupboard of boredom and doom.
The cupboard of boredom and doom.

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: 

 

 

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187 thoughts on “Why I’ll never be a good German Hausfrau”

  1. I am so late on this, but had to comment…. That is so much cleaning!!! 4 hrs per day over the course of a lifetime (assuming 75 year lifespan and cleaning frenzy starting around 18) is something like 80,000 hours!!!

    I feel ambitious if I clean for 4 hours in a week! And…what’s an iron? Oh wait, I think I might have read about those in a history book or documentary about pre-21st century life….. 🙂

    Obvious efficient (read lazy) American here, I guess. (By the way, I am envious of your tea kettle efficiency! I never thought of that. But I do eat everything from the pan if I do not have to serve someone else. Why waste water and clean dishes? And life’s most precious commodity…time?!)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My grandmother used to iron every single thing she washed, including all the bed linens and my grandfather’s underpants and handkerchiefs. Perhaps she was German and I never knew!

    PS – I was thinking of you last month when I went dogsledding with two Irish girls. They were a hoot! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mrs Hildegard 😉 Fancy ironing handkerchiefs! I met some cool Irish people yesterday as well 🙂 It was the Paddy’s Day Parade here in Berlin! So much fun 🙂

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  3. That’s the Kafkian reality of modern Germany! First, they kick you out of your flat for not using the ladle with soup, then they kick you out of the homeless shelter for not putting the right coloured slippers on, then they kick you out of the homeless squat for not stacking empty supermarket-brand high-alcohol lager bottles in a neat hexagonal pyramid, and, finally, they kick you out of the cardboard box by the Mülltonne for not folding up the newspaper blanket when you aren’t using it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel like a very bad German now, given the fact that I don’t see the need to iron underwear. My mother does, though, and whenever I tell her not to waste her time on it, she’s like “But ironing is relaxing and you can do it in front of the telly” Hm…. (She has long since outsourced cooking to dad, so she doesn’t average those 4h/d at all, but I know people who vacuum daily.)

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    1. Ha, my mam has outsourced most things to my dad at this stage! I figure people that actually enjoy this stuff should do it more 😉 I’d rather be poked in the eye with a Currywurst than iron underwear so let the people who find it relaxing have at it 😉 One of my friend’s mothers (Irish) has ‘a day’ for everything – so Monday might be dusting, Tuesday might be cleaning the skirting boards, Wednesday – washing and ironing towels, etc 😉 I think you’re my kind of German!

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  5. Oh I couldn’t have read this post on a better day. Today I cleaned the whole apartment and honestly, I salute the average German housewife. My German girlfriend will pour anything out of a saucepan/pot into a bowl/mug EXCEPT soup. Oh no, the soup needs a ladle. That is show how it is in this country. As for putting water into the kettle via the spout, why do you do that?! 😀

    We also have our cupboard of doom. I like to keep it well supplied but almost never get my ass off the couch when it comes to using the contents though. At least not until I hear my name being called in that shrill drill sergeant voice which is when I realize that I have a choice between doing the housecleaning or death by saucepan 🙂

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  6. I’m with you in my approach to ironing.

    Housecleaning too, but I have perfected the art of scooting my foot along the floorboards, pushing my dog’s fur into a pile. I then can pick up the fur ball and throw it outside. There! I vacuumed (aka hoovered)!!

    Luckily, my husband thinks it’s funny. And my dog doesn’t care.

    It sounds as if you really have fantastic roommates. And, hello to Herr Hildeberta!

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  7. Yes. Yes. Yes. Its all true. And thats why I prefer living with Americans or other people from the anglosphere. Had a German roommate once – never again.

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          1. certian members of my family and family own a wine garden (I hope I said it right?) and the work there takes all the time away. sigh. so NOT looking forward to a holiday in Gols this year ((

            do Hildeberta and Hildegard make you to clean the bathtub with a tissue every time you use it?

            Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never understood ironing. Talk about a tremendous waste of time. All of the English people I know iron everything and it sounds like the Germans are the same (And maybe the Dutch? I’ll have to inspect their clothes more closely the next time I go out). I say: get a tumble drier, pull the clothes out quickly and be done with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed! We don’t have a tumble drier here but if you take your clothes out of the washing machine and hang them up quickly enough, it’s pretty much the same 🙂 I hope I never own an iron 🙂

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  9. What!? You don’t eat the soup from the pot? You could save washing a bowl that way. Ha! Oh, I would not do well there – I’m afraid that I’m even less aware than you Linda, of the state of affairs around me. Until i start to step on things or run into things, I don’t pay much attention. My grandfather was from county Cork, Ireland, so perhaps there is some cultural connection there. I have been known to go out with my sweater on backwards or having forgotten to shave. If I get absorbed in something – like a project or writing – I can even forget to eat.

    I have had friends who had German wives and it was scary – i was afraid to go into their homes for fear of doing something wrong – i.e. setting a glass down without a coaster.

    Best of luck Linda!

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  10. 4 hrs? for reals?! (collapses on the ground with heart stroke or something close to that in horror). Holly s**t! That’s like eternity for cleaning. Unless there’s cooking included into that 4 hrs 11 min, and even THEN it be more like my weekly time alloted for the tasks. But to each their own, and I’m all about efficiency too. if a piece of clothing needs ironing, then it is not meant for me, and body heat approach is da best one for ironing for me as well.

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      1. ah, Germans must be doing cooking from grow your own vegs on your windowsill then or something, but at least that could explain 4 hrs per day for house chores. With cooking every second or third day and one big cleaning day per week (emergencies like some spillages etc. excluded) it still doubt my total time for that would be more than 6-7 hrs in total per Week.
        I’m all convinced party because of your own blog and some others, that Germans have their German aka right way of doing things and everything, but in this case I wonder if it’s spring cleaning day all the time over there?

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow…this is a big issue for me. BIG…this and the meal thing. (Like the forbidden sandwich for lunch thing). I think Italians do more housework than even the Germans. I read some article about this. Who can keep up? Impossible. They DO iron their sheets over here! I cannot maintain my mother in laws level of cleanliness. I try to do it for hubby…but I just do not have all day to cook and clean only. That is all that poor woman has done all her life. I do spend at least 2 hours cleaning though. 😦 And this does not include mealtime stuff. AND I have a dryer. Maybe I am not an efficient cleaner?!?! No idea. Anyway…I also fill the kettle through the spout! 🙂

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    1. It just makes sense 🙂 I’m sure there are lots of other ‘weird’ things I do, but the H&H are just too nice to comment 😉 I wonder what happened to people in Ireland and the UK? I mean, technically, we’re European – we just seem to have missed out on this cleanliness and efficiency gene 🙂 I wouldn’t swap places with your mother-in-law for all the tea in China, and I like tea a lot 🙂

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  12. Here is where we are stupidly spoilt in India! We have a lovely magical maid that comes home nearly every day to bestow cleanliness and joy to our daily existence!

    The one and only time my partner and I ever had a squabble was when she didn’t come for two weeks and my broad hints to pick up a broom, mop and pail where ignored til I angrily started swishing n swabbing til my beloved rescued the balance of the rooms from my wrath!

    Every day dishes n dusting I can handle. Even toilets… but floors?! I shudder!! Or rather the floors should quake and shake in fear!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I don’t do floors. Or windows 🙂 Dishes and small stuff like that is OK – I hate dirty dishes in the sink. I will however, leave them on the draining board until kingdom come after washing them which is another NEIN! Ah, I had a cleaner in Poland – it was great 🙂 Jealous!

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  13. Ironing is against my religion. It’s the only thing that is. You should consider converting.

    As for housework, it’s simple: Buy a snow shovel (plastic is good because it’ll be light). Run it across the floors every month or so. Shovel whatever it picks up into a cardboard box so you can pick through it whenever you’re looking for your favorite [fill in the blank]

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  14. Started watching Make Me A German but think I will wait for my husband to be at home so we can watch it together. So many things ring true here!

    Also, I am the same with cleaning. Fortunately we live on our own now so it’s okay but when we rented a room from friends here they were FOREVER hounding me about cleaning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, I know the feeling! Hildeberta is threatening to make a rota where my part is red and flashing so I can’t miss it 😉 I’ll still give it a shot though 😉 I tend to leave cleaning until I can barely stand to look at the place any more – then I blitz it. But until then, everything is OK 🙂

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    1. Well, you can either just pour water in through the spout (the lazyman’s way) or open the lid and pour it in that way. I chose the former – clearly 🙂 And yes, HOOVER! It does not mean what Canadians think it means!

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  15. Ahhh once again – you made my day! When we think of stereotypes – some are so true 🙂 I will always remember my first visit to a family in Germany. Let’s say that before that I thought that I am tidy, clean and organized 😉 I had so many fails – offered to help in the kitchen – was told what goes where – and still couldn’t get it right. But they have a strong case with this tidy and clean thing – my brain actually works better when the house is not a total mess. But well – 4 hours – there are so many better ways to spend them, right?
    And I am so with you about the ironing thing – max I would do is to iron our shirts if there is a really, really serious meeting we have to be looking good for 🙂 And that is on average three times a year 🙂

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    1. Yeah, if I had to wear a suit and tie every day, I’d probably do it, but thankfully, I don’t! Women can be much more flexible about these things 🙂 I had some practice with Hermann when I got here first but that was just for a week and a bit – this is ongoing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. once thing is clear – if it is ongoing and becomes a pleasant habit (which I doubt) – it will be always helpful. can always have people come to visit and it is not a total drama about place being a total mess 😉

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  16. hahaha you sound like my current housemates.

    I’m avoiding going upstairs into the kitchen and living room because it’s a pigsty and I refuse to clean up after them.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh, my god, I’m with you. I mean, I used to keep my little studio apartment tidy when I lived alone, but it took all of 30 minutes to clean. Well, in my definition of clean, it took only 30 minutes. And that includes dusting … which I hate probably as much as I hate ironing. I’ve totally given up on ironing. Either the wrinkles come out in the dryer or from hanging up or … gee, I get wrinkles in my clothes just from driving to work, so tell me again what is the point of ironing? I don’t think H & H would care to have me for a flatmate 😉 By the way, with three cats, I don’t have dust bunnies, I have dust rabbits!

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    1. Ha, I’d have dust horses if I lived by myself 🙂 Reckon I’ll play it fast and loose with the cleaning for a while when I do eventually move out! Or maybe they’re slowly having a good influence on me 😉 It takes me around an hour to clean the whole flat – probably less. I think it takes H&H around 3-4 but I normally leave when that happens so I can’t be sure 🙂

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        1. I’m having a lot of fun with them but it was always my plan to get my own place eventually! I’ve always enjoyed having my own space – and let’s just say that there are certain, um, things, that are less than convenient when you live with 2 other people 😉

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  18. I am Latvian living in UK and I have to do ironing. School trousers after washing looks like crumpled rag. Also my two boys are making sooo much mess that it is 2 hours of cleaning definitely.

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    1. I guess kids add to the cleaning hours! I’m probably the kid in our apartment, even though I’m the oldest 😉 Thankfully, none of my work dresses need ironing! I just give them a shake and pop them on the airer 🙂 Thanks for commenting! Linda.

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    1. Streber! 😉
      May I add that I haven’t ironed anything so far this year? And also, I laughed out VERY loud about that four hours. I don’t know what happened, I don’t seem to be a real German. Maybe I should ask my parents for proof that I’m their real kid. Seriously.

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      1. The English woman’s reaction in the documentary is pretty much the same as mine! Luckily for you, Germans document EVERYTHING so I’m sure your folks can produce proof, no problem 😉

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  19. Fire of a thousand suns = my feelings on dish-washing precisely. Sadly the price I pay of enjoying cooking is cleaning up all the remnants. 4 hours and 11 minutes a day seems extreme by any standards though.

    And as for ironing… I am of the firm belief that a magical appliance called a dryer makes ironing entirely unnecessary. But BV is one of those environmental “dryers are evil” Germans. So I told him in no uncertain terms that I have no problem doing laundry (I’m a folding ninja, thanks to a part-time job in high school), but if he wants anything ironed, he’s on his own. Cut to the other week, when I bought an adorable new shirt, that most definitely needed ironing after I washed it. Ugh. First, I couldn’t even find the damn thing, then it had all these weird settings and I was concerned that I’d light my awesome new shirt on fire in the process. The icing on the cake was the cat rocketing around the flat when opening the ironing board made a really weird noise. She kept streaking around the room trying to investigate… not the best thing when holding a scalding hot iron in hand.

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      1. No dice… he doesn’t like it either. He apparently used to do it occasionally, but it hasn’t been done at all since I moved in here a year and a half ago. Hence why I didn’t know where the damn thing was. 🙂

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  20. Muah ha ha hahaaaa!
    They sound almost as bad as Sicilian housewives, though I suspect the average daily cleaning time of Sicilian scrubbers is more like 8 hours.
    My Sicilian mother in law likes ironing so much she actually comes over to do mine sometimes when she has run out of wrinkly stuff of her own. I did tell her I’ve found one can also relax by eating chocolates while watching TV, but she thought I was just joking!

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    1. 8 HOURS! Jesus, how can anybody clean that much! Although I guess her doing your ironing as well is a bit of a bonus – or an annoyance 🙂 Love that she just thought you were joking 🙂

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  21. I clean because otherwise it would never get done. I don’t like it though! And I NEVER iron! If anything really must be ironed, I get Jan to do it. My grandma, on the other hand, is a cleaning fiend! She’d probably have a fit if she saw my version of “clean”. I will do it all properly before we move out though – the army drilled that into me!

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  22. I absolutely hate cleaning. I will, but only when it’s completely and 100% necessary. Herrball enjoys cleaning to a point, but his mother loves it. [Herrball has corrected me: she doesn’t love cleaning, she’s just driven to clean] Last time she visited she cleaned his entire apartment, including the doors. I didn’t even think doors got dirty. Oh how wrong I was.

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    1. Ha ha! I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned a door in my life either! “Driven to clean” – I wish that was an affliction I suffered from. (Not really, but it probably makes me sound less dirty.) 😉

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      1. I’m not sure I’d want to suffer from it. I have a feeling I wouldn’t stop cleaning. I may be a bit of a messy person, but I’m not too bad. I try to keep my messes to myself.

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      1. Indeed and you shouldn’t! I’m akin to Monica Geller in my love for cleaning. Actually, it’s not that I love the cleaning per se, I just like things being clean, so I clean. A lot! I’m with you on the ironing, though. For the most part, I just avoid buying clothes that require ironing. Viscose and anything with a bit of stretch are your friend! I did see a woman ironing pants once. You know those huge big ones that go up to your underarms. I nearly passed out, both at the size of the pants and the idea of ironing them! RIght, better stop waffling now…

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        1. Ha, waffle away! It’s a good place for it 🙂 I can never understand someone ironing underwear – or bed linen. So pointless! Well, most ironing is pointless – I’m with you on the clever shopping! Do you have the Monica Geller closet of shame?!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. No, no closet of shame. I hate “stuff” and have been quite successful at not accumulating much of it over the years. Since I essentially started from scratch when I moved here I currently have some spare cupboard space!

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  23. Ok so – yes, I would have ironed and starched the unmentionables in the photo, but I definitely do not use a ladle. If any of your fellow German fraus would like to visit the US, my apartment could use 4:11 of cleaning every day 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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