Inscrutable European Appliances

Sorry for the gap between posts. We went back to the states for a wedding, where I enjoyed ethnic food not available in our area of Germany (Mexican food! Italian-American hoagies! Authentic Chinese food!) and menus that did not have eight options containing the words “wurst”, “schwein” or “kalb” (that’s “sausage”, “pork” and “calf” for those of you non-German speakers). I also managed to forget pretty much all the German words I learned, so on the first day back when I was at the bakery and the woman behind the counter asked, “Geschnitten?” (“Sliced?”), I responded unthinkingly with “Si!” Alas.

Anyway. Appliances. How hard can it be to work a stove, you say? Our lovely furnished apartment came with a matched Küppersbusch electric cooktop, oven and dishwasher. We were lucky – German apartments don’t always come with a finished kitchen, which is a topic for another entry. I expected to have difficulty doing the °C to °F conversion, but what I didn’t expect was to be totally unable to figure out the oven settings. I suspect that in order to improve their ability to market appliances across the entire EU, Küppersbusch has done away with all actual words on their products. Instead, they rely entirely on symbols. Our oven has ten (10!) different settings on a knob next to the knob to set the temperature. One of these is clearly convection:


But what to make of the other two settings that involve a fan?


And triangle bars versus regular bars?

IMG_1825 IMG_1826

A couple of weeks into our stay, I decided I needed to attempt something that required the oven (and that wasn’t roasted potatoes, which seem to do fine on the fan/bottom bar setting). I caved and looked up the manual for a Küppersbusch oven. Of course, the manual I found was for a different Küppersbusch oven, but the symbols were similar enough that I could figure out that the different bars indicated which heating surface was on, the triangle bars were for broil, and that our oven must be a budget model because it doesn’t come with a “Pizza mode”. “Pizza mode” is necessary because nine times out of ten, when I am grocery shopping after 4 pm, the person in front of me is buying a frozen pizza. The only baking dish included with our kitchen was a pizza pan. Apparently, Germans will only buy their bread fresh from the baker, but their pizza must be frozen and from the grocery store case.

The stove is similarly wordless, but has a fancy touch interface that, of course, goes haywire if any liquid gets on it:


This would be merely a fun quirk but for the fact that it has a “lock” function to minimize accidents related to the touch interface. On our first day in the apartment, as we were poking around in our jet-lagged daze, Justin managed to trigger the lock function in such a way that all the cooktop would do was beep loudly and repeatedly. As you can imagine, this was completely insufferable, and thankfully some flailing with the off button (“O” in the picture) turned it off. Since then, this performance has been repeated several times, and one morning I woke and the stove had been successfully locked – possibly via the pernicious act of cleaning the cooktop the night before. Similar to the oven, I finally caved and found an English-language manual, where I learned that unlocking the stove is as simple as pressing both the lock button, the left burner “-” button and the right top burner “+” button (or was it the right back burner “-” and the left front burner “+”? Hope I don’t lock it again, I can’t locate the file with the manual in it.)

The dishwasher clearly has an on/off switch and an “ECO” setting, as you can maybe see in this terrible photo.


It also has a pretty standard detergent holder, rinse aid, etc. All the other buttons? No clue what they do. Two different ones appear to be timers? One seems to have to do with rack position. All I know is that if you press “ECO” and close the door, the dishes get clean. One time they didn’t, and I was at a loss, so I just ran it again and called it good. Luckily, this performance has not repeated itself, so I stick to ECO and hope for the best.

Our washer/dryer (a single appliance, not uncommon in Europe) is in the guest bathroom, where, rather than being plumbed into the wall, it has a tube for the drain that is placed into the tub when in use. Unlike the kitchen appliances, this one has a surplus of words, to go with a similar-to-the-oven abundance of settings.


This one, although less inscrutable, offers a bit of “analysis paralysis” – so I just select “Sportswear”, since that’s the only button I could read when we first arrived, and I needed to urgently wash a peed-upon cat carrier. There are three dispenser slots for detergent:


In the center compartment you can see where I made the fatal error on that first load of laundry of putting the detergent in the center compartment, clearly meant for… not detergent? It’s finally rinsing away as part of… maybe the drying cycle. Although there are several settings for “trockener” (“dryer”), as far as I can tell those result in warm damp clothing instead of tepid damp clothing, so I’ve only used them once or twice. The expectation is that you will hang your clothes to dry, and our apartment owner has kindly furnished us with a drying rack approximately the size of a twin bed. I was sure that drying would take a while in this damp climate, but it seems to only take a day or so per load of laundry. It’s not quite up to Texas summer, when you can dry your clothes in an afternoon by hanging them on the porch, but it’s pretty good.


One thought on “Inscrutable European Appliances

  1. That’s funny:) We bought an oven for our apartment in Vietnam too, going with the cheapest available option without realizing that the manufacturer is Polish, hence all the manual is also in Polish:) So far I only use the bottom bar, top bar, and fan with both bars, neglecting the rest of the settings. Took me a very long time to figure out how to set the time correctly too. Who would guess appliances can be so much fun huh;)


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