Sleeping in Germany: a primer

Our furnished apartment of course comes complete with a bed and bedclothes. The Germans do not have fanciful names for their bed sizes like King and Queen. Instead, characteristically, they refer to the exact dimensions of the different sizes. The bed that came with our apartment is a typical 140 x 200 cm. I think that’s just a bit smaller than a  queen in our terms, but my metric conversions still aren’t up to snuff. So far so good. Standard-sized mattress, complete with hygienic mattress pad, supported by stylish Ikea frame.

Next, in the closet, we found the same array of bedding that we’d encountered in both our home stays. The pillows are enormous and square and squishy. I never noticed how much I manipulate my pillow as I sleep until now. My usual flipping and cradling and scrunching don’t work with this floppy pallet of a pillow. We actually have one square pillow and two rectangular pillows that when positioned side by side are congruent to the square. So, the first challenge of German sleeping is coming to terms with these totally alien pillows.

Then, we pulled out of the closet a comfortingly familiar fitted bottom sheet. After the usual aggravation of nearly breaking the elastic trying to pull the short side of sheet over the long side of the mattress, we had a set up that looked familiar. We then looked for the obvious next item, the flat top sheet. Not in the closet, not in any of the cupboards in the house. Not anywhere. Not even in the stores when we eventually decided we would just buy one to make sleeping easier. The Germans have never heard of a top sheet. How superfluous. They don’t even have blankets. You only get one layer on top of you: the bedspread-duvet thingy, called the Decke.

This Decke business presents its own frustrations. In the closet, we found four white, fluffy, down-stuffed covers. What a wealth. Four covers for one bed! However, each of these Decke measures just a few inches smaller than the mattress in length and width. Oh, only a few inches. Two friendly sleepers can just cuddle together happily, you might suggest. No way! When we tried this, we spent the entire night playing tug of war and kicking each other. So, we figured out that each of us should have our very own slightly-smaller-than-the-mattress duvet, and they overlap in the middle. That’s okay for one person, but cuddling is still out of the question because a crevasse constantly opens in between the two blankets, and frigid air drafts into the cozy bed.

Before I continue the dimension portion of this problem, I must interject a second exasperating issue with this style of bedding. Remember that you have no top sheet. The Decke have their own cases, as if they were pillows. We’re not sure what the Decke case is called. Plausible possibilities include Deckehälter, Deckeschöner, or, as “Decke” is a pretty general word for “cover,” Decke-Decke. It is the bedmaker’s task to take the floppy, formless 200 cm. Decke and maneuver it into its case as if it were a gigantic pillow. And you must be careful not to allow the stuffing to bunch up all in one place. I will photograph this process if we ever change the bedding again, which is doubtful given the aggravation.

I’m going to let Aaron take over to tell you about our trip to IKEA to buy a big Decke  we could both sleep under. I will spoil the ending: this was a fruitless, but bizarre, quest.

At IKEA, the Decken themselves were fastidiously categorized according to warmth rating on a scale from 1 to 6, though only 4 (very warm), 5 (extremely warm), and 6 (extraordinarily warm), were available. The Decke-Decken, on the other hand, seemed to be of poor quality (under 150 thread-count) and extremely expensive (35 euro for one). Why anyone would want to sleep under something like that instead of a nice soft sheet is utterly beyond me. The thickness isn’t so bad though, at least not in the winter when you want a lot of covers anyway. But I wonder how the poor Germans manage in the summer with no sheet and no air conditioning?

Maybe this warmth rating system explains the two-Decken system.  After all, you can’t be sharing a Decke with someone when you need warmth rating 3 but they insist on 4, right? Even worse, direct bodily contact might introduce nonlinear anomalies into your optimal warmth rating level.

So,at IKEA, we wanted  to get a normal sized blanket that would actually cover the bed. But the sizes are totaler Wahnsinn (insanity). You have your 125 cm Decke, like we already have. You have your 140 cm Decke, which, being exactly the same size as the mattress is also too small once a third dimension is introduced, and you have your 155 cm Decke, which is only slightly larger (less than 3 inches wider on each side) – also, we’ve been told by many of our English-speaking friends who’ve tried it, just too small. Now you’ve probably noticed that all these are very close to the same size – only a few inches different – and all of them quite useless for our seemingly reasonable purpose. But maybe they are all calibrated in 15 cm increments? Nope, the next size up is a whopping 250 cm wide! If there are any Germans or others from the Continent out there (although I wouldn’t be surprised if this were purely a German thing), can you shed any light on this mystery?

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2 responses to “Sleeping in Germany: a primer

  1. Could sheets & blankets be a business opportunity for the european market?

  2. that’s really funny!!! 😉 I never thought about German practices about sleeping… I I think we’re really strange in this case as well!! The question of what to do with these thick Decken in summer clearly needs explaining: As you know there are fastidiously categorized Decken, hence there are Decken for summer which are way thinner! What a surprising solution.

    Now to the 2-Decken-system: I absolutely have no explanation why we are used to do that! I know from other parts of Europe that no one else has such a system! Anyway, there’s no special word for the 2nd Decke, I can think of anything but the word Bettbezug, but that word is used for all – linke the word blanket. …

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