10 surprising things I found in my German apartment

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Sylvia Waechter
April 3, 2024
The living room of an apartment with large windows


  1. Huge Pillows

One of the first unexpected things I noticed in my apartment was the size of the pillows. Instead of the American rectangular pillows my bed contained two much larger square pillows. I’ve since grown to love these pillows, but I was a little shocked at first!

  1. Double bed frame

An additional surprising thing about my bed was the fact that it was actually two mattresses pushed together. Many ‘double’ sized beds in Germany are two US twin sized frames and mattresses pushed together, making one massive bed. The crack in between the two mattresses can get annoying, but the extra space is definitely a plus

  1. Two Comforters

The final surprise on my bed was the comforter- or more accurately comforters. Like the mattresses, there are two twin sized comforters on my bed instead of just one. In addition to this, there is no top sheet or other blankets, just a comforter.

  1. Strange Windows

My favorite difference between US homes and German homes is the windows. Unlike US windows, which typically only open one way, German windows open two different directions. If you turn the handle 90 degrees from the closed position the window swings completely open. However, if you turn the handle a full 180 degrees the window just tilts open at the top. This allows you to easily just crack open the window to air out the room, or as Germans call it “Lüften”.

  1. Recycling/trash system

Something that’s definitely taken me a while to get used to is the sorting system for recycling and trash. Unlike the US where you typically only sort things into recycling OR trash, Germany (and much of Europe) sorts it into five bins that generally follow this color scheme:

  • Yellow: these bins are often marked “Wertstoffe” meaning “recyclables”, this includes most metal and plastic packaging. Check any packaging for the recycling symbol to make sure it belongs here.
  • Blue: the blue bins are for paper and cardboard products
  • White or green: most white or green bins are going to be for glass. Often, these will be split into white glass (Weißglas), brown glass (Braunglas), and green glass (Grünglass), however sometimes green and brown are combined into Buntglas. Don’t forget to take off any lids and put them in the Wertstoffe bin!
  • Brown and black: if you see a container with a brown lid that smells like rot, congrats! You’ve found the organic waste bin! Put any biodegradable waste here, including food waste, coffee filters, and paper waste from the kitchen. DON’T put the plastic trash bags in here though, those go in Restmüll.
  • Black: everything that doesn’t fit into one of these categories goes into “Restmüll”

The one other key part of German recycling is Pfand. Pfand is a bottle deposit that you pay when you buy a drink at a restaurant or grocery store. Bottles that you can get Pfand for will be marked with a special symbol. To get the deposit back, find a machine at the grocery store, place your bottles inside, and present the receipt at checkout

  1. Quiet hours

When I first picked up the keys for my apartment, a list of rules was given to me as well. Included on this list were the quiet hours that are enforced by German law called the Ruhezeit time period. From 10:00 pm to 7:00 am on weeknights and all day on Sundays it’s taboo to play loud music, have parties, or even run loud machines like vacuums.

  1. Fridge size

Our fridge is not much bigger than a US dorm fridge which I actually prefer to the US’s gigantic fridges. Although this means I take more frequent trips to the grocery store, it also prevents things from getting ‘lost’ in there and going bad without us noticing.

  1. Stove

Along with being much smaller than a typical stove you’d find in a US apartment, our stove is a convection top. These are more common in Europe due to their environmentally friendly nature and compact size. Additionally, our apartment is missing an oven, something that I am sorely feeling the lack of.

  1. Clothes drying rack

Our apartment came furnished with a clothes drying drying rack, something that is much more common in Europe than the US. I soon discovered the usefulness of the drying rack because the clothes dryers here are a lot less effective than those back home.

  1. No A/C or central heating

Going into this experience, I was fully aware that most European households don’t have A/C. I was, however, surprised to find that our apartment was equipped with radiators rather than central heating. The radiators work really well and I have yet to be too cold in the apartment.

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Sylvia Waechter

Guten tag! My name is Sylvia, I'm an Urban Studies student at the University of Illinois - Chicago and I'll be studying in Berlin, Germany this semester! I'm a total public transportation nerd and love to write reviews of different transit systems that I ride on. Follow along as I explore Berlin, travel around Europe, and continue my education as an 'Urbanist in training'.

2024 Spring
Home University:
University of Illinois at Chicago
Urban Studies
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