Cultural Differences VI – The Kitchen


Until this morning, when I walked into my kitchen, all I could see was empty space with a pipe protruding from the wall. The previous tenants took everything, including the kitchen sink.

This is a whole new experience for me. In Germany, when you move, you take everything with you. That includes the kitchen sink and the light fixtures. I was grateful the previous tenants left me the light switches and the smoke detectors (though they took the batteries out).

How do you buy a kitchen? I hadn’t a clue where to start, but I was told to go to IKEA. I did look elsewhere first. The second-hand kitchens I saw didn’t look as if they would fit the small space I had to work with. Not to mention that there are no right angles in our apartment. Corners are 84 degrees (more or less), not 90. We checked the big box store beside IKEA first.  It had great looking kitchens, but no prices marked. I could only imagine, but knew they were well outside our budget. That left everyone’s favourite Swedish store.

We paid to have them come and measure the room. That way I was certain what we ordered would fit, and if it didn’t it wouldn’t be my fault.

I am of Scottish ancestry. I worked in government for the past decade. I can squeeze a penny with the best of them, and have no desire for unnecessary spending. The kitchen planner at IKEA realized early that while I admired all the bells and whistles, the fancy cabinets and fixtures, I wasn’t going to buy them. Not to mention that the room has two windows and a sloping ceiling. There wasn’t that much space to work with. It was going to be a modest kitchen, just the basics.

Really though, what do you need? Sink, stove and oven, fridge and some counter space. The only thing I really insisted on was the refrigerator had to be a reasonable size, like those found in North America, not the mini-fridges found in many European homes.

I still can’t get my mind wrapped around this massive kitchen industry. In Canada (and the US) we take what is there when we rent an apartment. If you don’t like the kitchen, you rent somewhere else. Much less fuss and hassle. Here kitchen making is a whole industry. When you move you take your kitchen with you. I presume that you only rent a place that you know you can fit your kitchen into.

Choosing the kitchen took us about four hours working with the planner. Mind you, we had already looked online and had made a previous visit to the store. We knew what was possible in our budget range. I could have saved about a third of the cost if I had installed it myself, but I know my limits.

The hard part was waiting for installation. I had thought by ordering before the middle of October we would be able to have the kitchen installed when we moved in November 1. Nope, there was a backlog of orders. Eight weeks they told me. Turns out the earliest installation date available was December 6, yesterday.

I figured we could survive if we had a fridge. IKEA wouldn’t deliver one early, so we ordered one from an electronics store, where we also picked up a microwave. We used a hot plate, purchased at a second-hand store, since the stove was coming with the sink and cupboards.

For five weeks I washed the dishes in the bathtub. It felt a bit like we were camping. I am told that we were very fortunate to be able to have the kitchen installed so quickly – it seems everyone here has a kitchen horror story.

I wonder why the system evolved the way it has. I’m told that some newer buildings are being constructed with kitchens already installed. To me that seems more efficient, and Germans are renowned for their efficiency. I guess that is why the “bring your own kitchen” idea still surprises me.

One thing is certain: Now that I have a kitchen, I don’t want to move. Ever again.



  1. […] our kitchen having been installed for a week it was time for Christmas baking. Past time really; in Canada I would be on to my second […]

  2. wow.

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