Domestic Appliances in the US and Europe

April 12, 2011 By: erik Category: Complaining, Musings, Photos, Spain, Spain-v-USA, USA 8,234 views

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Dishwasher ControlsMy blogrollmate, Simon, shared this article with me today, by a US citizen who has lived in Europe for a decade, about the superiority of American domestic appliances. I must say that, after having spent a decade myself living in four houses and a dormitory in Europe, I agree completely.

Allow me to address my experiences with a variety of appliances.

Refrigerator

Like the kitchens and houses they are used in, American refrigerators are considerably larger than their chilling European counterparts. What most annoys me about European refrigerator design is the complete disinterest in making ice. Here in Europe, I’m stuck with the old refill-the-ice-tray methods of the refrigerators of my childhood. The last two decades of innovative American ice automation technology is nowhere to be found on this side of the pond. There’s just no demand for it. Europeans like their beverages warm.

The only thing superior about European refrigerators is the average quality of beer they keep.

Dishwasher

Dishwashing machines are relatively rare in Europe. My current house is the first one I’ve lived in with a dishwasher, none of my Spanish family members have dishwashers, nor do their houses have a place for a dishwasher, since the spot in the kitchen where any American would clearly assume is for the dishwasher, is always where the clothes washing machine goes. I’ve certainly never heard of a washing machine in an American kitchen; in America we have special laundry rooms for the washer and dryer, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Our dishwasher has four different places you can set the dial: A, B, C, and D. So to do a normal load, of course, you have to set it to B. When it gets to D, it’s done. That’s all the people that sold us the house knew, and that’s all I know. The door to the little compartment inside the door where you put the detergent is broken in the open position, so we just throw in the little block of soap anywhere into the dishwasher. Despite all these faults, it does an excellent job of cleaning dishes.

Dishwasher Controls

Our dishwasher control panel.

Dishwasher Controls

What on planet Europe could those symbols mean? A does something with water (or is it air?), B does the same thing as C, but with a tail, and D (or is it e?) moves something somewhere.

Clothes Dryer

There are almost no clothes dryers in Spain, and not many across Europe, and I can tell you why. It’s what my wife says every time I suggest we use it: “Why pay for the electricity to dry the clothes when you can just hang them out for a few hours and spend nothing?” To be honest, I don’t have a compelling answer to that question. There are a few reasons, and I’m reminded of them every time I visit The Motherland. Clothes that are tumble dried are softer and need considerably less ironing than clothes that are line dried.

The whole point is moot, however, since our dryer has never worked in the entire time we’ve had the house. The previous owner claimed to have never used it, so I suspect it may never have worked. It does a great job in getting the wet clothes really, really hot, but does nothing with the water. It annoys the crap out of me to have so much valuable kitchen volume wasted on a big functionless appliance.

Washing Machine

All my experience with washing machines in Europe has involved having to run each load twice. You put in the clothes, put the powder detergent in a little slide out tray, turn it to the desired setting, and press start. If you don’t catch it at just the right moment in its rinse cycle to put in the liquid softener, then you have to turn it off, turn the knob back to its rinse cycle, put in the softener, and start it again. In theory there’s another compartment in the tray where you can put in the softener at the same time as the original detergent, but on the three washing machines I’ve had, that has never, ever, ever worked.

Washing Machine Controls

You need the Rosetta Stone to decipher the washing machine hieroglyphs.

Actually, I think I know what these are. For whites, we set it to 1, and it goes longer and with hotter water (the 90, 60, 40 must be liters, where you can set it to 2 or 3 if you have a smaller load?) before rinsing (step 4), spinning (step 5) and stopping. For coloreds, we set it to 6, and it goes through a shorter cycle with cold water and stops after 10. I assume 11 and 12 are for some super short cycle, but we never use that.

Garbage Disposal

I suspect most Europeans have never even heard of a garbage disposal, a blender that sits in the drain of your sink to chop up organic waste so it can fit down the drainage pipe. When I first got to Europe, I thought, “What do you mean I can’t put potato peels down the drain?” As in most things (but not hybrid cars, strangely), the Europeans are much more environmentally friendly than the Americans. This is not because Europeans are fundamentally better or smarter people, but that they have had millennia to develop a culture more suited to close-quarters living, which by necessity needs to keep the environment clean, and the American way of life is all about cheap wide open space.

Television

Spain is just now, in 2011, starting to get a few channels broadcast in HD, but they are pay channels that I can’t see. And my cable provider doesn’t seem to be making any effort to give me more pixels. It’s unclear to me what the reason for this technological lag is. There must be some political issues holding back the broadcasters, because it’s certainly not that the Spaniards especially want to watch their fíºtbol in low definition.

 
  • You’ve just nailed one of my biggest rants about living abroad.
    I concur with the fridge, although you can buy the American daddy fridges in the UK (for the same price as a down payment on a house).
    Dishwasher: ours is temperamental and only sometimes actually washes the dishes, but it has saved my marriage. I *loathe* doing dishes.
    Clothes dryer: I miss it for the socks and towels only. Have never come across an American-style dryer. This is probably a good thing.
    Washing machine: I think they’re gentler on clothes than the American ones. And I like the wool/handwash cycles. But you’re right – what ARE those buttons for?!
    Garbage disposal: husband hadn’t heard of those, although I’ve seen them on Grand Designs so I will get one someday. Darnit.
    I don’t really watch TV, but I do watch shows online; and I must vouch for the brilliant lack of TV adverts in comparison the Americanaland.

    Thanks for letting me indulge this, Erik. And Simon. Rant over.

    • erik

      This rant has been on the tip of my typing fingers for a while now, too. I didn’t need much of a nudge. The original article I linked to is quite good.

      Spain doesn’t have a tv tax like Britain does, so we have just as many commercials as the US. The main difference is that the commercial breaks in Spain are fewer and longer. It doesn’t really bother me, though, since I’ve moved all my television consumption to the internet as well.

  • So if you don’t have garbage disposals, do you compost all that organic waste? Because I’m not sure it’s environmentally-friendlier to just throw it in the trash.

    • erik

      Some do. My in-laws save organic waste and feed it to their chickens, who will eat anything.

      As I was writing that section, I did a little research into whether disposals were more or less environmental and came up very little. Wikipedia says:

      Use of garbage disposal units diverts the impact of food waste from methods such as landfill or incinerators to effluent disposal systems.

    • Josh

      In my community we have underground dumpster depots every 150m or so. Each group of dumpsters includes two “general trash” bins, one for paper, one for glass, one for plastic and metal and one organic dumpster. The trash is (theoretically) separated by the consumer before disposal. This system of frequent placement of recycling-oriented refuse clusters has been in place for some years now in many (if not all) parts of Spain.

      Nonetheless, my unfounded suspicion is that people here are as likely or unlikely to recycle as people in the U.S. Some smaller towns have now started fining people who don’t recycle.

      • erik

        That seems rather hard to enforce.

        Expecting people to keep six different bins in their house for recycling is pretty ridiculous, especially given the size of Spanish houses. Until we get some sort of system of tubes (like the Internet!) that sucks various types of waste from each house, the majority of people are just gonna use one – or maybe two – bins.

        The general problem with recycling is that for everything except aluminum, we actually spend more energy (fossil fuels, etc.) carting the separated crap around than we save in just manufacturing new stuff and dumping the old stuff.

        I like the idea of a separate organic refuse bin, though. That actually makes sense.

        If you want another example of trivial cultural whining, this one is good.

        • Josh

          I think that the theory is that by having the bins so close to people’s houses there will be no need to store garbage in separate bins. That said,our ayuntamiento is currently handing out plastic boxes that are supposed to be used for storing a day’s worth of organic refuse. (Don’t tell anyone, but we use ours to store empty glass bottles.) In practice, we keep a paper bag for paper products which usually gets tossed once a week or so, general trash (in the usual kitchen trash container) usually only needs to be taken out once every three or four days, a plastic bag for plastic and metal will get thrown away daily as will any glass we’ve used. So, we really only have the paper bag hanging in the entryway, the trashcan in the kitchen is divided into two compartments, one for trash and one for paper/plastic, and the organic is kept apart. Not much of a storage issue unless one gets into Diogenes syndrome problems.

          The architect who designed our building couldn’t be bothered to include square corners or an electrical ground, I doubt he’d have been imaginative enough to work up a system of tubes. Good idea, however.

          Let me handle your whining in a response to your original response, just to keep things more organized.

  • …now think about what the aliens that find that gold record on Voyager will think. I can’t figure out what the hell that”s supposed to mean, and I read the description.

  • Jimy

    You forgot about the mop and the broom, my favorites!! I do have to say that the washing machines here seem to get your clothes cleaner. I guess that’s what you get for a 2 hour cycle!

  • Josh

    Frankly, this is one of the few times when, if you’ll permit the observation, your blog sounds as if you are whining about cultural superiority rather than commenting on mere differences. Since this is so far from what I’m accustomed to in your blog, I assume that either I haven’t interpreted the tone properly, or you’re having a bad day. In either event, my general response to Internet discord is the quote from the Bard,

    “If we shadows have offended,
    Think but this, and all is mended,
    That you have but slumber’d here
    While these visions did appear.
    And this weak and idle theme,
    No more yielding but a dream…”

    Maybe it’s just that I’ve been here so long, or maybe that I just don’t get too worked up over appliances, but I don’t remember suffering the difficulties that seem to be afflicting the rest of your readership.

    I do grant you the ice-making thing. (Although my new fridge has a neat, built-in ice-maker tray with an external lever which theoretically serves to dump the frozen cubes into a storage bin. Great concept, but it doesn’t really work very well. And even if it did, the cubes are only .7cm3, so not much use at actually cooling a beverage.) I just keep some glasses in the freezer.

    I’ve never actually had a dishwasher, and therefore, can’t comment. That said, I don’t have space in the kitchen for one, and since I’ve gotten this far without one, maybe I’m just incapable of appreciating their importance. I’m surprised that you haven’t had any luck with finding a manual on-line. (Try: http://bit.ly/faUwC5 for the Balay manuals database.)

    Our dryer works quite well. Granted, it does have the annoying beep referenced in the article at the end of a cycle, but one of its two buttons turns the beep function off. (The other button is On/Off.) That your dryer doesn’t actually dry clothes suggests to me that it might be broken or improperly installed. Have you tried consulting the manual? Anyway, I think Marga is right on this one, why consume energy when the sun is giving it away for free?

    I think that the one thing that most separates me from my compatriots is the whinging about the superiority of American washing machines. (Especially in light of the TED video you posted earlier today.) Is it really that important? Does your (substandard) Spanish model really work that much worse than an American equivalent? Again, maybe I’ve just gotten lucky with the 7 Spanish washers I’ve had so far, but all of them have gotten my clothes clean without a problem. The current model has a short “Eco” cycle that lasts 35 min from start to finish, dumps the fabric softener in on time, centrifuges (¿centripits?) adequately and, thankfully, doesn’t beep to let me know that the job is done.

    Ah, the garbage disposal… More intercultural marriages have been disrupted due to this little beast than any other single cause. One of these days I’ll pursue my dream of becoming Spain’s first garbage disposal supplier. (The only thing putting me off the prospect is the memory of my Grandmother, upon getting her first disposal installed, crowing about her “magic hole”.) I think I’d even be willing to forgive ZP his sins if he managed to introduce the things into mainstream Spanish culture.

    I thought that all of the major private channels (A3, TV5, Cuatro, Sexta) now offered HD, and that RTVNE was gearing up to an imminent implementation. Like you, I get my cathode fix from the Internet, so can’t really be fussed about it one way or another.

    Wow! Arguing about appliances! I love the Internet!

    Saludos

    • erik

      His Bardness is always welcome in the comments here.

      One of the top ten reasons to have a blog is to whine publicly about trivial things that irk you. Someone will always agree and someone will always be offended.

      With most cultural issues, neither is superior nor inferior, just different, but with appliances, in my own experience I’ve had better luck with American appliances. Is it fair to generalize from three examples to declare all US appliances superior? Of course not, but then it never is. I thought it was pretty clear I was being anecdotal, which is really all we can ever be without a research grant to run a large study.

      I looked up the Balay manual for my dishwasher and fridge as I was writing this post to try and compare specs. At some point I might read one all the way through.

      My new television is perfectly capable of receiving an HD TDT signal, but the one we receive is not HD. I have seen a “Telecinco HD” logo on a screen in a bar once, but maybe that was from a satellite feed.

      Thanks for your lengthy comment. I appreciate criticism.

      • Josh

        I absolutely agree with your right to whine, I’m just startled that you did so. I think that overall you do an admirable job of recording your experiences with differences between cultures without presupposing any degree of superiority. You really do practice the “different but equal” approach that you preach. You are, of course, free to write whatever you like, however you like. The reader is free to either avail himself, or not, of your opinions.

        The difference between your book spine rant and this one was the tone. Whereas the spine article felt lighthearted and non-judgmental (your final scoring notwithstanding) this post really did seem to be judging rather than recording differences.

        On the other hand, ex-pats who complain about Spanish washing machines has long been a pet peeve of mine, so maybe you just caught me in a sensitive place.

        I should think that you’d have enough semiotic perception that simply looking at the crib sheet that identifies the different symbols would be sufficient. I doubt that the ROI on reading the whole manual would be worthwhile.

        When I set up my suegros’ television I had the option of choosing either the (i.e. A3) HD channel or the analogous standard channel. This happened sometime after the implementation of the “apagón digital” (sic). Maybe you just need to update the channel selection on your TDT receiver. In any event, sounds like an unimportant issue anyway.

        As stated, I wasn’t criticizing, merely observing a perceived change in tone. Your output is large enough that not every post will go down well with every reader. That’s just part of the risk of writing for the general public.

        Saludos

  • I have to say, it just sounds like Europeans have a more sensible way of living to me. We certainly waste a lot of energy on day to day living over here. Btw, I don’t have a garbage disposal, we compost, and my ice maker broke a month after the warranty on the fridge ended. I also just got a HDTV this xmas and probably will never have cable again. Maybe I am living on the wrong side of the pond?

    • erik

      When your dryer and dishwasher break, then you’ll be ready to sail over here to FreeHealthcaristan.

  • Paola

    90 60 40 is the temperature in centigrades, but I’ve never attempted to boil my washing… but I have to say this softener thing sounds really dodgy, wouldn’t say it is a European standard 😉
    Apparently the waste thingy is not environmentally friendly because of the amount of water you need to wash it down.
    Fridge: True, I like my drinks at room temperature
    And only succumbed to the drier when Matteo was born, also because weather in Belgium is damp: but still love to be able to hang laundry out in the summer…

    • erik

      Temperature was my first thought too, but 90° C seemed too hot. That’s why I guessed liters. I might have to download the manual and settle the dispute.

  • Alan G.

    Potato peels in the gargage disposal = Clog

    Those are like the only things you can’t put in there. Just letting you know in case you come back.

  • Lol. The European rental home blues. 😀

    Our washer works really well first time around (Bosch), and it has for the last 11 years…and we’re talking two loads a day with 5 people. I have a couple of ecowashballs or whatever they are called, so I use only a fourth of the usual amount of detergent needed, which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly, and the clothes get clean at 30 or 40 degrees. We have a dryer (AEG) that I love, especially in rainy Pamplona. But I do hang the clothes out to dry if the weather is nice. And I don’t use softener in the washer, just vinegar with a few drops of lemon essence, and the clothes end up soft, even when air-dried…I do dry the towels, though, since they turn out spongier in the dryer. Our old dishwasher died. It was a piece of crap from day one (Whirlpool, an American brand by the way), so be bought a Miele (German) and I am delighted…it’s the best dishwasher ever. Our fridge is Whirlpool too, and it’s holding out, but it is a huge energy suck. I’ve never had an ice-maker, so I don’t miss it. And I’ve never liked garbage disposals, just a “mania” I guess, and now we compost, which is great for our garden.

    But I do remember the appliances in rental homes, and they were always breaking down, so I would say it’s more of a renting vs. home owning issue. But a good rant, nonetheless. 🙂

  • This is cracking me up – was down in London for a few days and came back to an explosion of commentary. 🙂

    In Ticino (CH), where I’ve stayed on and off since 2002 and will be again this summer, they fine you for not recycling. Every rubbish/recycling area is on CCTV and you are only to do your business from 8am-8pm or face a 2000CHF fine. They also are known to check the black bin bags for anything that is recyclable and apparently one only makes that mistake once (as a hefty fine is given). Also, once a month, locals place unwanted but usable goods in a certain area for ‘freecycling’ – a friend got a Nespresso machine this way, another some children’s luggage. You’re also only allowed to run your dishwasher, washing machine, or other noisy appliances before 10pm. A bit off-topic, I suppose. But on the topic of cultural differences with regard to this sort of thing.

    I find this an interesting topic – and interesting comments. So thanks all for sharing.

    • erik

      The “all you people should behave better!” part of me loves that kind of government control, but the small-government Libertarian in me is disgusted by it. I’m so torn!

  • Paul Franssen

    I’ve long ago stopped worrying about the differences (appliancewise, I add) between Americaah and Yurup. When my family first arrived in Texas, back in 1962 (ahem…) there were TWO huge refrigerators in the kitchen. So my mom filled one up with soda drinks and, yep…it was the freezer, the mere existance of which was hitherto, from our vantage point, unsuspected. Back in 1979, revisiting the US for the first time since 1967, a friend in LA asked if I wanted a coffee, put a glass of cold water in some contraption and..bingo…coffee. Well, sort of 🙂
    No. We use proper espresso machines, in Belgium the trash is carefully selected into different categories and disposed of in a scientific manner, much the same in which we are prone to forming national governments. Trust pervades everything, let’s say.

  • Infyrist

    I must be a strange Spaniard, because my house has an fridge with ice-maker, a dish-washer (I don’t think it’s so strange among the people I know… I’m pretty sure most of them have one), a washing-machine and a clothes dryer =). Even if I live in Alicante (south-east of Spain) we use the dryer (not so environment-friendly, but smoke is the worst for your clothes in winter). But I find a garbage disposal pretty strange, as thing you see in the movies, but not in reality…

    And well… Spanish television isn’t the best of course. I can’t say I hate it, but I prefer to other things rather than see the boring gossip shows. But I think it’s improving, there are more imaginative series (some years ago there were mainly sitcoms)

    PD: Sorry for the possible mistakes, English isn’t my mother tongue…

    • erik

      You’re English is flawless. Thank you for your contribution.

      • Maria

        I ended up reading these old comments…and OMG…I found this so funny. “Your” English, not “You’re” English. Oh…and btw…English isn’t my mother tongue either…

        • Ha! I’m going to pretend I was being ironic, there.

  • Sabby Sab

    *climbs on soap box*

    HEY!!! :)))) I live in the US since 2000. And for me its exactly the other way around for many things. I actually after 11 years googled: why are US washing machines terrible! Because i just had another annoying session of whites behind me LOL.. and here i found you ranting about a washing machine i wish I had. Well maybe not cuz yours just sounds defected just like your dishwasher you may wanna check it out?! Or simply buy a new one?
    Anyways. Im from Germany born and raised, so i just truly believe you should focus on saying appliances in Spain, because I do feel there are still differences within European countries. Is it also safe to assume you either have never been to NYC/lived in NYC or LA? Or maybe you are rich and had a huuuuge place in a large city (but then you would have better appliances in your house right now). Ive lived 6 years in NYC. Ive been to many peoples apartments there…. even to apartments where rent is 3000 bucks… NOBODY HAD A FRIDGE WITH AN ICEMAKER!!!! mmmh you all wonder why? mmmh very simply: due to SPACE.( Im actually not yelling I just wanted to emphasize.:) Europeans dont like their drinks warm, they simply put all the drinks into the fridge. If there is a bigger party which mostlikey is a grill party BBQ) they use iceboxes in the yard… just like americans. All my euro friends who come visit order ALL of their beverages without ice. they simply dont want their drinks watered down after 5 mins after ordering it.
    Also in europe: you dont buy food in BULK! you go every other day shopping! Nope not with the car but bicycle cuz 2 days worth of shopping is possible to carry on a bike. hence why the need of a big azz fridge? I actually live in LA in a big house and when we bought the house its new stainless steel fridge that came with it didnt have an icemaker either. mmmh why? i dont know but after 5 years of living in it I certainly havent missed it and my american husband seems to be still a normal person! And has never said a word. I guess the fridge is simply big enough to keep all the beverages we need cold. ok. now we covered the fridge part.

    I barely know kitchens in Germany that do not have a dishwasher… even when I was a kid and Im 34 now… So Spain may still be a bit behind for whatever reason.?! My husband is my personal dishwasher. He washes the dishes without a sigh. after all its just the 2 of us why do we need to start our dishwasher? Saves money and energy! When we have a big party or more people over we do the dishes together. Its done in no time. How many minutes do people waste on watching bullshit on TV? Im sure there are dishwashers that have writing on them. the one with the handle is clearly a PAN which means its a heavier duty cycle than the other without the handle( its pots and plates) because its safe to assume that a pan is dirtier than a plate! Cool? Im also pretty sure that if the option for the kitchen is eithr dishwasher or a washing machine EVERY person would opt for the washing machine and just deal with doing dishes. Its all a space thing! But mainly there are washingmachines in the basement if you live in a private house of lets say 3-6 apartments. An apartment building of more than 6 units has their washing machine mostlikely in the kitchen. okay dishwasher covered.

    Onto the washingmachine. I HATE LOATHE DISPISE these weak filthy dirty useless american washing machines. HATE THEM OH BOY! and all my other german friends hate them too. the clothes never get clean like they should.
    The first washer i came across which was a top load I laughed uncontrollably cuz you cant tell me that a washing machine cleans clothes where i can open the lid and see the clothes getting moved around in a chick chuck chick chuck chick chuck sound movement. I rather wash my clothes in the Ganges river in India.. They might come out cleaner. My whites are never white! I actually end up taking A LOT of clothes to the dry cleaners cuz i just cant deal. And I dont even have kids yet who will produce THE REAL dirty clothes. I already have the TOP NOTCH washer thats out there. Front load and all but its just not the same.
    It truly has to do with the water heating procedure. Oh so whatever acrobatics you are doing with putting softener in later ??? thats def and ooooooold machine or defective. I think i remember a machine like this when i was kid. ill ask my mom and let yo know but I think i remember having to do something like that but I must have been 5 or 8? def before I was allowed to do laundry. okay I gotta stop here cuz i can go on and on and on about that topic.

    next: Dryer! Yup love my dryer here in the US but cant say i love it in Germany because my mom got one when i left 11 years ago.. mmh I wonder why cuz all my live i had to hang up the clothes wither outside or in our basement ( winter time) She probably thought its appropriate to finaly get one now that her personal “Hanging Clothes maid” left. LOL… She actually loves the dryer ( the dryers are also more strong than in the US) She just wont dry jeans and good tops in there because for some reason all my friends complain that their stuff shrunk. But boy she loves it for socks bedding and everyhting else!!:))) And i use it when i visit every summer. So with your dryer something is wrong.

    TV: No clue about technology. My mom has a really good flatscreen with HD … as far as i remember. it looked crsip to me?! The only thing I can say about this is the programming in general is horrid. not that its that great in the US with all its bs shows. But I hate that they dubb everything. uugh. I know they dont in sweden holland and norway and denmark( basically all nordic euro countries) thats why they speak better accent free english than the rest of europe.

    Insinkarator:
    ja sure cool thing but we just recently had ours fixed cuz it never worked properly and we didnt miss it for 5 years. I grew up with giving the potatoe peels to the next door neighbor rabbits. they loved it. till this day my grandma throws NOTHING OUT. Everyone i know is very anal with recyling back home.
    Its funny to me to see slowly but surely deposit boxes for old batteries. LOL I already had that in elementary school… and thats over 25 years ago. every kid brought their old batteries to school for depositing them in the boxes for speacial garbage. when I was 10 I got as a xmas gift a large pack of rechargeable batteries with a recharger machine.
    I find it funny when people in the US boast: I buy “local”, I shop at farmers markets, i buy in season…. lol… In germany people have done that for eons.

    Music: I actually wanna add something here. Theres always been the joke of europeans loving the techno house beats. and weve been made fun of since forever. So much even that AT&T felt the need to humor it in a commercial in 2008, just 3 years ago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMQM4m2qpwA
    but what happend ALL OF A SUDDEN. everyone loves Lady Gaga, Black eyed peas, usher, chris brown rihanna… EVERY single one of them has that euro pop techno sound. While I understand its not everyones taste in music it has largely become the tatse of music for Americans.

    Restaurants:
    pro and cons”

    euro pro: you can sit forever in restaurants with friends and chat without the pressure of the waiter trying to get you out so others can sit and tip

    euro con:
    free water to no avail 🙁
    service often unfriendly & slow (dont need your tip so why be friendly lol)
    service slow and argumentative
    substituting your meal is frowned upon if not permitted at all. almost unheard of.

    There are a ton of things that I LOVE about the US… thats why i call this home. I cant imagine moving back. In fact 4 of my friends are moving back to LA because after 6 months back home they just missed LA way too much. Could be the weather though;-)))) LOL

    *steps down from soapbox

    PS.

    • erik

      Wow! You New Yorkers sure do talk a lot. 🙂

      To respond to part of your comment, I’m aware that one must be very careful, when comparing cultures, not to fall into the trap of comparing rural or suburban life in country A with urban apartment life in country B. It sounds a little like you might be falling into that trap. Of course I am too, but that’s mainly because even small town Spanish (in northern Spain only!) life is based on the urban apartment model, and my American life experiences have all been suburban or rural.

      Nothing like some blanket statements about life across a whole continent to bring about disagreement, eh?

      Thank you for your comment, Sabby.

  • Maria6

    Im from a town in north spain, we have dishwasher at home and dryer to, but since a few years ago only. fridges with ice maker or garbage disposals, i never see in real life only in the movies, but i really dont find it necesary to me. 
    And we dont have the washing machine in the kitchen, we have in the toilet.

  • Anna in Saudi

    It bothers me that you live in Spain but seem to feel comfortable making sweeping generalisations about the whole of Europe.  I have lived in France, Holland and England and have never been without a European dishwasher.  I have lived in America too and can assure you a European dishwasher will knock the spots of most American models.  Finally, if you can’t work out those simple symbols, or think to Google them, perhaps you should stick to simpler equipment – a bottle of washing up liquid and a brush spring to mind.

    • Mr. T

      Exactly how would you google the symbols labeled on the appliances listed. Last time I checked there were no bathtub symbols on the latest computer models available to the general public. One good idea would be to get the make and model of your appliances and request a set of english instructions from the manufacturer. That might be a but far fetched though…………

      • Ivar

        Try googling “washing machine symbols”, maybe?! Try it, it works!

  • PlanetEarth

    I’m a Spaniard who’s lived in the States for 15 yrs, so I can give the opposite perspective. I have a brand new kitchen with a garbage disposal that I don’t use because, in my experience, if you grind food in there, sooner than later, it will start smelling rotten. I just throw the potato peels to the waste bin, as I always did growing up. No need for a garbage disposal, just a waste of energy.
    All my family back in Spain has had dishwashers for decades now, which incidentally clean way better than the one I now have.
    I have a fridge with ice maker that I turn off because it consumes so much energy. Fortunately, I seldom use ice.
    Clothes dryers = another unnecessary energy sink. People in the rainy northern parts of Spain are more likely to have them. In the rest of Spain there’s no need. Apartment buildings usually have an inside patio where you can hang the clothes to dry.
    Last but not least, I have yet to find a washing in the US that actually washes the clothes. I have tried top- and front-loading, to no avail. The clothes seem to get wet, and then dry the dryer. That’s about it. If a wear a t-shirt once, it already smells “worn”. In contrast, when I wash clothes at my mum’s in Spain it has a clean smell for days, even when worn. It is a constant source of frustration for me, and in fact I came upon your blog googling why washers in the States do such a poor job.

    FYI, the symbols on the dishwasher are A) pre-rinse; B) pots and pans; C) pots that are not too dirty and plates; D) Quick/energy-saving program. The numbers on the washer panel are temperatures in degrees Celcius. You don’t wash clothes in 90C unless it’s super dirty (water boils at 100C). 4 and 8 are rinse cycles; 5,10, 12 spin cycles; 9 is softener; a line under the basin means delicate cycle ..many of these symbols are used on garment labels. You can’t read those either?

    What can I say? Americans are dumb and wasteful. At least that the impression me and many Europeans reading your blog will get…

    • Why use a washing machine when you can scrub your clothes on a washboard? Washing machines are such a waste of energy! Why drive in a car and burn all that gasoline when you can walk? Cars are so wasteful!

      Let’s face it. I comes down to what we are used to. No one has ever said it better than Douglas Adams:

      Everything that is already in the world when you are born is just normal. Anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it
      Anything that gets invented after you are thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it until it has been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

      You didn’t grow up with a garbage disposal, so you see no need for one. Ditto with ice. But those of us who did miss them, just like you would if you moved to a country that just never saw a need for televisions.

      I think it’s pretty clear that the Americans are more advanced along the home appliance Progress spectrum. By that I mean, do you think humans in the 25th century are going to be hanging their clothes out to dry, or will they have some sort of machine that does it much faster? Obviously the latter.

      Have you noticed how, when you hang your clothes to dry, every single item of clothing requires ironing, but when you use a drier, very few of them do? How many watts does an iron burn? I’d love to have the means to compare the energy used by both methods of getting clothes from the dirty hamper into the closet.

      Despite your insulting tone, I appreciate your counter-rant. Gracias.

      • Sebastian Urbas

        LOL, when it comes to home appliances, the U.S. is probably 20 years behind Europe. Do you really think that you have a clue about European appliances if you are even unable to figure out what the 90, 60 and 40 on a washing machine means? Why do you think are very expensive European appliances widely available in the U.S. But American appliances are nearly completely unavailable in Europe? The traditional American top load washing machine is something European used in the 50s.

    • Kanukistan

      Everybody’s different. I would never buy a refridgerator without an ice maker, mine probably holds 1cu ft of ice. I’ve never had an issue with my american (actually LG) washing machine, but the european Asko was small, didn’t wash very well and took hours! Dunno how you could wear a shirt without dirtying it when the only difference is how you dry it. Seems like shenanigans to me.

      Never had an odour problem with the garbarator either. Certainly have when food is allowed to rot in the garbage however. Considering you run it for all of 10 to 30 seconds, doesn’t seem wasteful, but smart.

      In terms of ‘wastefullness’, I think that’s subjective. I pay 8 cents per kilowatt hour and usually use maybe 450kw per month. I have heated floors, use cf or led lighting everywhere. All my appliances are energy star and relatively new. Be interesting to see what the average european uses and pays, my place is 1500sq ft. I could be very wasteful at that price yet I think I am rather conservative.

      I got the impression that a certain spaniard is a bit of a pompous douche, like I’m sure most readers will also get.

  • PlanetEarth

    2nd FYI, when in Spain I wash most clothes cold (11), both whites and colors, and it comes out 20 times cleaner than it would ever come out in the US, without wasting the energy to heat up the water. I don’t even wash at 60 degrees unless something was like covered in mud. You are supposed to wash colors cold…but it’s your clothes.

  • Lemonz

    Don’t know if you figured it out by now, but you got almost all the washing machine functions wrong. 😛 The numbers are what temperature (in celcius) the water will be heated to. 90 degrees is normally used only for white linens and towels and things like that, that need to be disinfected. 60 degrees is used for really dirty white clothes (mostly) or really dirty colored clothes – however, this will make the color fade more quickly. You normally used 40 degrees for colored clothes. The “bath” button is used for soaking clothes, for whatever reason. Button 5 is spin cycle only, if you need to spin more water out of the clothes, making them ready to dry outside. Button 6, 7 and 8, are the same as 2, 3 and 4, but with a “pre-wash” function – meaning that they get washed a bit before the real washing takes place (you add extra soap to another tray). No idea what button 10 and 12 are, but button 11 is used for woolen clothes. 🙂

  • Linds

    I would be so excited to experience all these differences and get to live in another nation. The one thing I would not be a fan of is a lack of ice because I love ice cold drinks. I can go through two trays of ice in a day. As for the rest of this list I’m a bit confused because I’ve lived my whole life in the states and unless you are in the burbs or the country it’s not common to have all those things in the home. The last two years I’ve been in the city and there were coin operated washer and dryers in the basement of the building. Personally I can’t even dry the majority of my clothes without ruining them anyway so I hang them all over the place. No dish washers in most apartments here. I don’t see the point they start to stink, a drying rack works great for everyday eating and if its a huge meal I end up hand washing anyway because big pots and pans don’t fit! I love a big fridge and I love a freezer though. I would love to be in the position to miss them and get to live elsewhere!

  • Anna

    Only because in Spain there do not seem to be many dishwashers (in you experience) you will find problems finding a kitchen in Germany, that does NOT have a dishwasher. Plus, a dishwasher that you can buy in Germany is (just like a washing machine) ten times better than the American equivalent. I have not met a German family that rinses their dishes before placing them in the dishwasher but I have not met a single American family that does not rinse their dishes beforehand (“they just don’t get clean”; well, they should…and they do where I come from).
    To make a long story short: Please don’t assume that because something might be rare in one country, the same applies in whole Europe; I find this quiet offensive

  • CarlG17

    I live in Finland and now is the first time I’ve been without a dish washer, that will change when our house is done and we move in.

    I’ve never had or wanted a dryer though, I think they are horrible things, they waste space, they waste power, they wear out clothes and when you put on your fresh now clothes it feels like you’re putting something you’ve used for days, there’s none of that clean “crispness” of feel that comes from line drying.

    Both me and my fiance agreed that we’d remove the dryer option that came with our houses equipment package and instead use the space for more counter space in the washing room. We’ll dry our clothes outside in summer and in the sauna in winter.

    We also considered an icemaker for our fridge but didn’t see much of a point to it, just one more thing t break with time and modern appliances are low of quality enough without adding more things to break. Besides ice in beer is horrible.

    I also don’t see the point of a garbage disposal, we have a bucket for organic waste, it’s actually mandated that waste has to be sorted like this. The organic waste is picked up with the regular waste by the garbage truck, but kept separate and made into biogas for heating in a local biogas plant, then the leftover mulch is reused as fertilizer.

  • Citlali

    “Europeans like their beverages warm.”

    “The only thing superior about European refrigerators is the average quality of beer they keep.”

    So…their beer comes out of their fridges warm? Or perhaps what you actually mean is, Europeans don’t like making their drinks watered down by melting ice.

    • I think you’ve missed the point. I’m pretty sure that no one anywhere puts ice in beer. Gross.

      Yes, there is a trade-off in using ice to cool a beverage (let’s use Coca-cola as an example), and if you are going to take 20 minutes to drink your Coke, it’s going to end up watered down if you have put ice in it. But if you prefer it cold, and it hasn’t been pre-refrigerated, there aren’t many other options with current cooling technology.