?

Log in

confused about foreign showers... - Mischa's Journal
July 22nd, 2010
07:17 pm

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
confused about foreign showers...
I know folks do thing differently over here (came in to Berlin today), but I'm just not at all sure about what one is supposed to do given that the shower isn't sunk into the floor... and the floor is continuous out to the rest of the bathroom, and the whole floor becomes a lake whenever you take a shower. Yes, there's a small rubber grid one can stand on when at the sink, but there's nothing right in front of the toilet. So, is everyone supposed to walk around in the water in bare feet? Or wearing shoes and leaving mud everywhere? I don't get it. Showers were this way in China too, but cheap plastic shower slippers are available for purchase on every street corner... it's ingrained in the culture, and easy to adopt.

I just asked the people at reception where I could get some shower slippers/thongs/flip-flops, and they didn't understand what I wanted them for. I tried to express, well, obviously, there is a choice one has to make... walk barefoot in a lake of water, or leave mud all over the bathroom and the main room from one's shoes, because when you take a shower the water goes all over the bathroom. And get this, the guy actually tells me, "well yes, just like every shower in the world..." Wow. I decided not to press the issue further, because at that point they started apologizing for me evidently being unsatisfied with the room.... which isn't it at all! Like I said, I was used to this in China, I just want to get some plastic slippers! But I'm kind of floored that these guys who speak perfect English have no idea that bathrooms actually vary and no, in lots of places we don't simply turn our bathrooms into lakes on a daily basis... (you should see Japan... those shower units are Self! Contained!)

Also kind of annoyed that this place is absolutely chock full of rowdy young teenagers.
Oh well, everything else about the trip was gravy. I can't believe how much nicer it is to fly in a big fat plane with a little more room (just an Airbus A330... nothing too crazy, but it's a wide body). All these years I keep going on 5-hour flights on Southwest, which is 100% 737s, between Oakland and Chicago, and those things are so cramped and awful although I've gotten used to it (this is also how I got from Düsseldorf to Berlin, and the contrast was staggering). The flight from San Francisco was roomy, (nobody in the two seats next to be in the center section), the food was tasty, really very relaxing. Except it was tricky sleeping since we went from one day to the next without letting the sun ever set! We were up there over Greenland somewhere at local midnight, evidently north enough or high enough in the sky that we never lost the sun. Kind of cool to think about it shining on us over the pole, from the other side of the world....

(27 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:anadamous
Date:July 22nd, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I wonder what things Americans do that are equally crazy. Obviously we do a lot of crazy things, like eat Doritos, but I mean, really obviously in-the-moment self-defeating.

Also: showers in Iceland, Britain, and France seemed to be self-contained. This may just be a crazy German thing.

Edited at 2010-07-22 05:50 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:once_a_banana
Date:July 22nd, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Ha! That makes it even more crazy that this guy thinks "all showers in the world" simply spill their contents all over an otherwise lovely clean and dry bathroom.
[User Picture]
From:easwaran
Date:July 23rd, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
(Link)
The shower in Konstanz was the nicest thing about the hotel room, and also totally self-contained (though there was some spillage that then remained because there was no drain in the bathroom).
[User Picture]
From:once_a_banana
Date:July 22nd, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Oh and yeah, I think we are chock full of things that everyone seems to do that are pretty nuts. Off the top of my head I start thinking of politics (like the lack of conflict many voters seem to have with a reasoning process that goes something like.... "I wanted these guys to fix these problems, but because their opponents did everything in their power to stop them, and they therefore didn't do as well as I wanted, I'm going to vote for those same opponents in the next election because goddammit, I'm mad at this incumbent who failed to do the job he/she was elected for!" i.e., *facepalm*....) -- but I think that probably doesn't count, since it's something that at least 40% or so of us Americans think is completely crazy too.

Maybe... continuing to drive the market toward adopting all kinds of unsustainable things based on corn corn corn?

... or our ridiculous, inflationary tipping practices?

... the fact that we still give change in pennies?

...
From:lhn
Date:July 22nd, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'd guess tipping is a big one, since it's so different and so potentially confusing, and likely to create hostile misunderstanding on both sides.

(Honestly, I get nervous once things go outside the realm of restaurants-- I'm never sure what to tip a concierge for or how much.)

I doubt agricultural perversity is in the same league, especially since it's not as if EU countries can point to the CAP as a policy of brute competence or sanity. It's the day to day stuff I'd look to: putting ice in every beverage, for example.

(Which I'm all for-- when I returned from my first trip to Europe, my first stop in the airport was to get a giant cup of diet Coke filled with ice-- but of course I'm an American.)

I know that the fact that checks are still commonly used for payment is considered quaint, though I doubt a foreign traveler would run across that much. Not including sales tax in posted prices. For Brits, the rarity of electric kettles.
[User Picture]
From:once_a_banana
Date:July 23rd, 2010 06:01 am (UTC)
(Link)
Yeah, me too, about tipping outside of restaurants! Except those piss me off too. A few years ago my little brother was all appalled that I was still tipping 15%, and I was like "what? when did we change to 20?" and he thought it was pretty silly that I didn't know. *sigh*.... mumble mumble part of the problem mumble mumble...
[User Picture]
From:krasnoludek
Date:July 24th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)

Tipping

(Link)
agreed. I usually still do 15% because I think the move to 20% was mostly because people had issues with the math of multiplying by 3/20. 20% of the bill seems like too large of a percentage for me to be paying in addition.

On the other hand, I got into a discussion with my cousins about where else you tip. They were shocked that you would tip a taxi driver (me and my parents always do), refused to tip gas station attendants (I sort of understand this, since in NJ all stations are full service by law). They even don't tip hairdressers by default. Besides waiters/waitresses, the only other people we could agree on tipping were bellhops, which none of us used anyway. Thinking some more, I suppose there's all sorts of other luxury services, like valet parking, that you would tip for too if we actually used them.
[User Picture]
From:lucubratrix
Date:July 23rd, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
(Link)
The absolute biggest one that occurs to me is the alternate using of knife to shred one's food into many pieces, and then SWITCH HANDS and put the knife down so that you can spear the pieces you generated with your right-hand-bearing-fork. It's either incredibly ungainly if executed often, or it means the entire meal is blenderized at once.

What on earth is wrong with using your knife in your right hand and your fork in your left throughout the entire meal, allowing you to cut pieces off as you go? You can even use the knife to push food onto the fork without stabbing down on things!

[User Picture]
From:once_a_banana
Date:July 23rd, 2010 06:02 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, but I'm not sure that one counts either -- I don't think I know anyone who actually cuts their food that way. I've done it the regular "European" way my whole life, and I'm pretty sure that most of my acquaintances do too...
[User Picture]
From:lucubratrix
Date:July 23rd, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I am SURROUNDED by people who cut up their food and then switch and spear. Stephanie did when I met her, and then I converted her to the regular way in the interests of making sure our then-hypothetical future children would learn. :)
[User Picture]
From:krasnoludek
Date:July 24th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I didn't know that this switch-and-spear thing is an American vs. European thing. My family doesn't do it. What I do know is an American vs. European thing is how you hold your fork because my father was adamant that only the European method is correct. European, American. What I find strange about the European way is pushing loose food (e.g. rice) up onto the underside of the fork and then trying to hold it level while bringing it to your mouth. It seems much easier to work with the arch of the fork and use it a bit more like a shovel; it's easier for food to stay on that way.
From:lhn
Date:July 23rd, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Once you're at the point of using forks, you're already sacrificing efficiency for social custom, so it comes down to what custom you're comfortable with. (Knives and spoons can be straightforward tools in some situations, though we use them more than we strictly need to. But except for foods that are too hot to handle, fingers would always be an easier option than a fork.)

The custom I'm familiar with is cutting one piece, then switching and eating it, then cutting another-- cutting everything up first is already moving from (my understanding of) received American table manners to greater efficiency.

(And as Judith "Miss Manners" Martin points out in her defense of the American method, lack of efficiency in ingesting food isn't very high on the list of problems Americans need to correct, overall. Many of us-- me for sure-- would be better off if custom demanded that we had to get up, walk around the table, and dance a short hornpipe between bites.)

But either way, making sense isn't really the primary point, any more than it is with other evolved complex social behaviors. Which isn't to say that one can't try to push back against the ones one finds too burdensome or frustrating. Enough people doing so is one way those customs evolve. But rationality and efficiency are thin branches on which to support an alternative custom: most stops between the most elaborate ceremony and the most straightforward absence of any agreed-on manners are more or less equally arbitrary.
From:lhn
Date:July 22nd, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
(Link)
The thing that weirded me out when I was in Europe too many years ago was the lack (in some places) of shower curtains. Especially when I rented a room in a home in Budapest: how do I take a shower without soaking these people's bathroom? (I never really found a satisfactory answer, but they never complained, and they seemed to like me, so I can hope that there wasn't some trick I was missing.)

Re planes, I'm glad you had a good one. My last transoceanic flight (to China) was fourteen hours in a seat that made Southwest look positively spacious. It was bizarre: the accommodations were as high tech as they came, with personal screens with a huge variety of TV, movies, music, etc., all included. But the screen was about five inches in front of your face, and you got to know the person sitting next to you very well. (At least my row was all people from the program I was on, so it was a bonding experience.)

There was also essentially no room for luggage under the seat. I had to trust to luck that my camera would survive the overhead bin, and I managed to stick my laptop in the space between the seat in front of me and the outside wall. (Any thoughts of using were laughingly dismissed.)

(Cathay Pacific, btw, in case anyone is looking for airlines to avoid. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the flight was fine, but I'd rather cross the Pacific in a Volkswagen Bug.)
[User Picture]
From:once_a_banana
Date:July 22nd, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Wow, amazing! Definitely reminds me of Chinese buses.... (my flights to and from China were on perfectly satisfactory Korean Air 747s... yummy hot pepper paste in a tube!)
From:lhn
Date:July 22nd, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Our previous trip on United was fine, too. Though that was back when they had "Economy Plus" available, which offered a little extra space without the luxury (or concomitant big surcharges) of business class or above.
[User Picture]
From:once_a_banana
Date:July 23rd, 2010 06:07 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, and I might add, the Air Berlin flight attendants were wonderfully.... uh... "perky", and wonderfully German about it too. As in, the friendly and somehow deliciously German woman at the top of their homepage is totally not false advertising! Still don't recommend them for European internal flights though. Apparently they used to barely be a step above Ryanair, and the domestic flight still seemed to cling to that heritage. We're talking, a couple steps below Southwest; seriously reminded me of the bad old days of ATA...
[User Picture]
From:robco
Date:July 22nd, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
(Link)

We got one of the pod rooms at a long layover at LHR that had that. But the floor was somewhat sloped in the shower area. There was also a long-handled squeegee to push water toward the drain. But at least at our hotel in London, they had a proper shower.

[User Picture]
From:once_a_banana
Date:July 23rd, 2010 06:09 am (UTC)
(Link)
See, that would've been perfect! I was actually looking for a squeegee, but none was to be found. Also, the floor is virtually flat... if anything, it does drain away from the toilet a little bit, but kind of goes towards the door to the main room rather than back into the shower (d'oh!) -- at least there's a barrier there so it doesn't go out in the room. A barrier that, HMMMMM! could have served us well at the edge of the shower itself!
[User Picture]
From:robco
Date:July 23rd, 2010 06:28 am (UTC)
(Link)

You'd think the gerrys would include one, or at least make sure the water stays where it's supposed to...

[User Picture]
From:fengshui
Date:July 23rd, 2010 03:59 am (UTC)
(Link)
Yeah, usually when I've seen that the floor is slightly sloped towards the drain, and you don't just very hard water pressure. There's a little spray, but not a lot.
[User Picture]
From:once_a_banana
Date:July 23rd, 2010 06:11 am (UTC)
(Link)
Someone suggested to me that Germans use much less water, which sounded reasonable -- like, just get all wet, then turn it off, soap up and such, and turn it back on to rinse. All very reasonable, except this shower (which has actually very strong water pressure, and a lot of water volume) stays on until you step out: it has a sensor. So doing conserving water like that requires stepping out of the shower for a second right after getting all wet, kind of screwing up the whole "I don't want to get water all over the floor in front of the toilet" thing. *Sigh*...
[User Picture]
From:lucubratrix
Date:July 23rd, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
(Link)
I haven't ever encountered this design before. But, I do know that in my house wearing shoes inside was always a big no-no, so I don't see where the mud is coming from. Just throw down a bathmat at the entrance and call it a day.
[User Picture]
From:once_a_banana
Date:July 23rd, 2010 06:14 am (UTC)
(Link)
The mud is coming from the fact that nobody is going to walk around in their socks or bare feet in a lake of water, so we take what footwear we have, and put it on our feet...

A bathmat would be a reasonable idea, though it would immediately be sopping and probably wouldn't actually stop the flow (actually it might make it take longer to dry out). You have to realize: the shower curtain billows out, half the water just goes right on the main bathroom floor -- if you pointed your shower at home out onto the bathroom floor, a bathmat just wouldn't cut it.
[User Picture]
From:lucubratrix
Date:July 23rd, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I meant at the door to the room for drying off your bare feet afterwards. :)

But this sounds like a poorly executed design that should have a floor slope nad a squeegie. But, I have never seen a shower like this in Germany before.
[User Picture]
From:krasnoludek
Date:July 24th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
(Link)
when I've seen bathmats in this kind of bathroom, they are rubber slats linked together, so you are a bit elevated above the water and the material doesn't sop things up.
[User Picture]
From:lingboy
Date:July 24th, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Europeans do some funny things, but often don't travel enough outside of Europe to realize that they are actually very particular.

It is rare to find showers with a holder for the shower head. Paul and I often wonder how people are able to do things in the shower which require two hands, e.g. open a bottle. However, most showers in France are self-contained. The shower you describe is more similar to what you get in Mexico in cheaper hotels. There is usually just a bathroom where everything gets wet. Flip-flops are useful in these contexts. All of the showers I've used in Poland, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain have been self-contained though.

BTW, in France, people still pay with checks. This is much more frequent than in the U.S.
[User Picture]
From:krasnoludek
Date:July 24th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Finally, I have internet at a decent hour so that I can respond to this.

I have seen these showers in hotels/dorms in Germany, Poland and Spain. Perhaps some other European countries, but I can't recall now. In houses in the first two countries, I have never encountered this type of shower. It seems to be more of a convenience for whoever is going to clean that they can just mop the whole floor into a central drain, rather than wash the shower separately from the rest of the floor.

For these types of bathrooms, I just go in barefoot. For one that I had to use for an extended period, I bought cheap flip flops just for the shower. You shouldn't wear your outside shoes into the bathroom, and in most houses I've been in in Europe, you don't wear outside shoes indoors anyway.

What I find more annoying, and which ljn already mentioned, is the bathtubs or showers without a shower curtain. This means you can't mount the shower head (as lingboy complains about) and you're also forced to crouch and constantly pay attention to which way the nozzle's pointing so you don't spray the whole bathroom. Even with care, so much water ends up outside the bathtub. This isn't just hotels but regular homes as well. Maybe it's a subconscious motivator to take short showers, because you'll get so frustrated you won't be able to last for very long.
Powered by LiveJournal.com