Renting your first home in Germany can be so exciting! The houses are unique to many Americans who grew up in wood houses with air conditioning, garbage disposals, carpeting, and entire rooms for their massive laundry machines. There was one thing that was particularly shocking to this American....my TINY little fridge! It's as big as a dishwasher and smaller than many dorm room fridges. How the heck am I supposed to meal plan and keep all my condiments and drinks cold??? Also, where the world is the freezer??? Here is the fridge in my new home...can you see it? Behold the German fridge, or "Kühlschrank".
Living with a Mini Fridge
One of the things that had to change for my family of 4 was an end to the weekly grocery shopping in exchange for a trip 3 times per week. I could only fit enough for a few dinners and the endless amounts of condiments had to slim down to a few of our favorites. We purchased a Culligan water cooler because our Brita container wouldn't fit and moved the beer to the basement to stay semi cool. Leftovers needed to be minimized as they quickly took over the entire fridge and I began buying smaller containers of items such as milk and juice. We also had to consume the entire box of Popsicles by the time we got home due to a lack of freezer....which we all really enjoyed and the only plus to this fridge situation. I wondered how the people of Germany, and other European countries, dealt with this issue. This is what I learned.
The German Way
First, many Germans have a freezer in their garage. When we rented our house, it didn't come with a freezer, as they are not a standard home appliance and often not combined with the fridge. Second, most Germans shop frequently and don't require a lot of fridge space. A daily trip to the grocery store is not out of the question. My friend also advised me that beer isn't to be consumed ice cold, and any drinks you want cool should simply have ice added. Also, the food generally has fewer preservatives, so it will go bad quickly, which means you don't want to acquire more than you can consume in a short period of time.
Why do Americans LOVE big fridges?!
Let's be honest...Americans are know for their "bigger is better" attitude! Bigger cars, food portions, grocery stores, houses, and kitchen appliances! In fact, we have the biggest refrigerators in the world! Following closely is Canada, but the rest of the world, not just Germany, prefers to keep it smaller. In the U.S.A. we like to shop less but buy more and keep perishable food cold so it lasts longer! We like pushing a button to dispense cold water and never ending ice the we can choose to be crushed or cubed! We also tend to put items in the fridge that don't belong there...such as peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, hot sauces and butter (all currently in my fridge). Check out this Samsung model that comes complete with ice maker and dispenser, huge storage space and other totally unneccassary, but super cool features.
Here is my Kühlschrank, which my husband is always referring to as being "booby trapped"...cause stuff is just shoved in there (by all, not just me) and usually something will fall out when opened.
Eventually I gave in and requested a big fat fridge and freezer from the military. Thankfully, they came to my rescue and delivered a nice American style fridge freezer combo, complete with a bunch of dents from the past users, plus a huge freezer for my garage. I put that fridge in my kitchen, directly across from the mini one and felt...Relief. We can now enjoy our Popsicles at leisure and not feel badly about our 10 varieties of salad dressings, bottled and canned beverages, pickle and olive jars, several packages of frozen otter pops, and huge containers of milk.