Sleeping with Germans
Sleep is such a natural part of life. However it occurred to me that the act of sleeping is part of culture as well. So sleep itself, the act of being unconscious and resting, I imagine, is pretty similar across the human expanse, but how they choose to do it does seem to vary. I have seen enough pictures of Japanese sleeping rooms to believe this, so I though I would look at my experience with Germans.
I had somehow not expected the differences in something like bedding to have been so great when moving here. Nor did I expect it to affect me so much. Here are some differences in the “bed” as I have seen here.
So once you have your foam mattress and lattenrost all set up, next come the bedlinens. Fitted sheets are easy enough. They are called Spannbetttüche and available is any color and several various fabrics. You match your bed size to the package and finished. Oh yeah bed sizes are in centimeters, no fancy un-exact descriptive words. King, Queen, Jack.. pff.
Flat sheets however are nearly nonexistent. Germans all sleep under comforters called Decke (literally just “cover”) with removable washable covers. These covers however are really easy to find. Again you match the size of your Decke to the package. I actually like the patterns at Ikea and these are far easier to carry than Lattenrost. The advantage again for couples is that each person usually has their own. They do make king sized ones, but they are not at all common. And there are different weights for summer and winter.
Decke are often encountered in German hotels and hostels. Yet in a hostel you have to put the cover on yourself. The trick is to have the cover inside out, reach down in and grab the corners from the inside. Match these corners to the corners of the Decke and grab them through the cover (sometimes the corners are cut out even), then push the cover down and flap about wildly until it floats gently down the Decke.
There are no box springs here. The non-mattress spring support is called a Lattenrost. This is a set of bent wooden slats that are bouncy all held in a frame that goes under the mattress. The lattenrost come in different “bouncy-ness”s as well. Some are even articulated to allow sitting up in bed. So this is an extra cost, but has some benefits. In our king bed, we each have a mattress and a lattenrost under us, so we disturb the other less.
We bought our bed from a fine woodmaker here in town(and had it delivered on a bike) and thought to save some money going to Ikea for Lattenrost. This wasn’t such a great idea. Yes, we saved some money, but had to carry them on buses and across town home. At 40pounds and 2 meters long the packages were not easy to manage. Even the bus drivers from Ikea told us we should not have them on her bus. She said we should have had a car of our own. A bit rude especially for the Ikea bus (yes it is called this) and in a city with such great public transport.
Where I grew up, a mattress had a set of springs inside the thing and a cushy top. They were about 20cm tall. Here foam mattresses (Schaum = Foam, Matratzen = Mattress) are the norm here. This took a bit of getting used to, as I associate foam with cheap. But really, these are the most common form of mattresses here and are not so bad. You certainly can get the spring ones (called Taschenfederkernmatratzen), but they are more expensive.
We went to buy mattresses at a store around the corner here. We went after my work, which meant so close to closing time that the saleswoman refused to explain the differences between the mattresses. Her reason, it would take hours of explanation for us to be properly informed. Apparently even to be a customer requires training in Germany. In the end we went elsewhere and just laid on a few to pick some.
Culture and Bedding
In a last cultural observation of the Decke, it is traditionally accepted that they must be aired out. I associate this with the obsession of fresh air. It is common to see women flapping the Decke out of the window and letting them rest there. However normal this is, it still seems that laying it against a roof above a busy street would end up with it more dirty than it began. It seems equally odd to do this on a rainy cold winter day.
What kind of differences in bedding have you seen across your travels?
June 3, 2014 @ 12:57 pm
The airing out is a hang over from “old times”….back then, “Daunendecken” were popular (meaning covers filled with downs). In fact, they still are, but they are more expensive than the cover you picked. The thing with those covers is though, that the downs might become mouldy if you don’t air them out regularly.
Nowadays this is technically not necessary any longer, because there is more than just simply downs in those covers, but old habits die hard and a lot of Germans are not even aware WHY they were taught to air out the Bettzeug regularly, just that they should do it, so they do, even though it has become pointless a long time ago.
December 5, 2013 @ 11:45 am
So googled German Bdding and found this. When I was touring with my high school class, let’s just say, many years ago, I feel in love with their whole “pillowcase on a comforter” system…. How do I buy a decke and removable sheet. I want them for my whole family as flat sheets have become a non entity it seems. My kids won’t keep the on their beds or use them!
December 5, 2013 @ 8:47 pm
Hi Lori, i honestly don’t know where you might find that kind of bedding outside of Germany. I recommended once to check out the German Ikea site and see if they would send international. The other option is looking at comforters with duvet covers. Not exactly the same, but similar.
If you do ever figure out how to get stuff where you are, let me know.
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September 22, 2013 @ 11:48 am
[…] but the other part is definitely getting enough rest. Sometimes this is not easy given the differences in bedding (yup even beds can be different, like I said, everything is different.), but being rested means you […]
February 23, 2013 @ 9:01 pm
I aboslutely love how you explained Betten beziehen. “The trick is to have the cover inside out, reach down in and grab the corners from the inside. Match these corners to the corners of the Decke and grab them through the cover (sometimes the corners are cut out even), then push the cover down and flap about wildly until it floats gently down the Decke.” Hilarious. It never occured to me that someone might not know how to do that…
February 24, 2013 @ 8:28 pm
I was in a German hostel a few years ago. There were a couple of British guys in the same room as me and they couldn’t figure it out. It takes a little trick, but is easy enough. Glad you enjoyed it.
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September 26, 2012 @ 12:14 am
[…] you know, Germans and Americans have different sleeping habits. Andy has explained this in more detail over at his blog, but to boil it down for you: an anomaly culturally, Americans like to actually share bedspace and […]
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February 13, 2012 @ 9:16 pm
[…] There is culture in so many small things that we don’t even think about at first glance. Like sleeping or laundry or […]
January 19, 2012 @ 5:33 pm
Haha! A constant disagreement between me and my Italian boyfriend: the bedding. I won though and we have bought a huge down comforter (German style) to sleep under as opposed to the Italian blankets that you tuck in all around the bed and sneak under.
My pet peaves in foreign bedding? Chinese beds which are insanely hard (like sleeping on a wooden plank) and the French head-roll-thingy (Know what I mean? The role they use instead of pillows…).
January 20, 2012 @ 9:22 pm
I’ve only seen pillows in France, but then hotels are different. I do think I know what you mean though. I always untuck the Italian beds. I thought it was a hotel-pretty thing, not something you are supposed to actually use. I move a lot in my sleep. Tight sheets would bug me.
January 20, 2012 @ 11:32 pm
That’s what I though too, but apparently you’re meant to sleep just crawl in and sleep in the tucked-in sheets. Weird Italians 🙂 And I saw that lovingly 🙂
January 21, 2012 @ 12:18 pm
Of course lovingly. 🙂 It is indeed strange.
January 16, 2012 @ 12:47 am
Well, deep in our German souls dwells the longing for a good bed.
Time for some poetry, methinks.
Heinrich Heine, “Deutschland ein Wintermärchen”, 1844:
Ich ging nach Haus und schlief, als ob
Die Engel gewiegt mich hätten.
Man ruht in deutschen Betten so weich,
Denn das sind Federbetten.
Wie sehnt ich mich oft nach der Süßigkeit
Des vaterländischen Pfühles,
Wenn ich auf harten Matratzen lag,
In der schlaflosen Nacht des Exiles!
English translation, stolen from http://www.heinrich-heine.net/winter/wintereng7.htm :
I went back home and slept as if
Angels sang into my head.
One rests so soft in a German bed,
For it is a featherbed.
O how often, through my nights in exile,
For a soft German bed I yearned,
When laying on hard mattresses,
I sleeplessly tossed and turned!
January 18, 2012 @ 8:51 pm
I love the poem, thanks so much for sharing. I find German beds in Hotels far harder in general than those I remember from places in the US. In our search for a bed there were quite a few mattress sets that just got harder as you paid more money. Soft seems to not be good for the back and thus is not offered. Germans have perhaps changed in 160 years?
We noticed this mostly in looking for a couch. Every single “good German” one was rock hard. We ended up with an Ikea one that is decent.
January 15, 2012 @ 3:08 pm
I bring top sheets from Canada with me as I don’t like sleeping directly under the Decke either. It’s too hot, and I find it easier to wash a sheet than to take off the cover and try and stuff the Decke back in again. My German husband hates the top sheet and doesn’t see the point. It’s funny how something like bedding is such a cultural thing.
January 18, 2012 @ 8:44 pm
We have a number of blankets, though it is getting cool enough that I might break out the Decke soon. The covers are actually not too bad, you just can’t wash more than 1-2 in a load. The tricks to getting the Decke on take a bit to learn yet work fine.
Yeah, I was surprised as I first got here how different beds and sleeping where here.
January 13, 2012 @ 8:46 pm
BTW the crack between the mattresses is called “Besucherritze” (visitor’s crack or guest’s crack).
January 18, 2012 @ 8:42 pm
That is totally hilarious. Sheesh, I have no interest in the guest’s crack nor do I think it is an appropriate place for guests.
January 13, 2012 @ 12:17 am
I’ve been surprised at how soft my bed is in Germany – wish it was a bit harder but oh well. Interesting to see Yvonne’s comment about sleeping with the windows open… I should try that.
Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista
January 12, 2012 @ 8:53 pm
I too love sleeping under the Decke! I’ve had friends travel to Germany to be amazed that the beds didn’t have linens on them. I had to break the news to them, this was the way they do it in Germany.
January 12, 2012 @ 9:14 am
We loved the German bedding system in hotels – one nice Decke each (because I’m a notorious cover thief)
January 13, 2012 @ 1:35 pm
Problem solvers, those Germans. Do you find that you overheat under the thick ones?
January 12, 2012 @ 3:33 am
I miss that bed!
January 13, 2012 @ 1:34 pm
And I miss you in it.
January 11, 2012 @ 12:17 pm
Honestly, I loved the German beds and mattresses. All those springs in American mattresses never seemed to do the right things for me. We brought our mattresses here to England, and now have to find a bed that will fit them and comes with the slatted base like you guys have. I also really like having two mattresses put together, because it does isolate the movements from one side to the other. We do share a duvet, though!
January 13, 2012 @ 1:33 pm
Im definitely learning to like the German system. We have noticed between home time and traveltime that we sleep better with the dual mattrasess. Mostly due to the space. I get up at least once a night and it is nice not to disturb her. We share blankets though. Where did you bring bed from? US or Germany?
January 11, 2012 @ 5:32 am
There’s a trick not to get too hot under the Decke… most Germans (like me) sleep with open windows (even in winter) and don’t really heat up their bed room. Actually I did live in an apartement for four years where the bedroom had no heating at all. (It was a gorgeous old buildung) When it’s too cold I take a hot-water bottle with me to bed… and I sleep perfect 🙂
January 11, 2012 @ 11:03 am
Ah, that’s interesting! I usually sleep with the windows open too but often find it’s too cold in Germany to do that, at least in winter, but now I know that’s the way to go!
January 13, 2012 @ 10:07 am
Me too in the summer only though. The only time I did it in the winter was in college where the boiler heated all winter and made the rooms a sauna.
January 13, 2012 @ 10:00 am
That is interesting. I like fresh air more than the average american but not this far. Especially in Berlin open windows seem horrible. It reminds me of camping under just a roof in my sleeping bag and all my clothes.
But goodif it works for you. Thanks for the insight.
January 11, 2012 @ 12:47 am
Really interesting!! I find that this is true for a lot of Europe.
January 10, 2012 @ 7:38 pm
You’re right. Bedding really is a cultural thing. I realized that as soon as I read your opening. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier. Southeast Asia, and all of Asia for all I know, is one corner of the world where bedding apparently doesn’t have to be all that comfortable. Extremely hard mattresses are pretty normal (as are extremely hard sofas and cushion chairs, for that matter). I appreciated the support they gave me while I was there, but I would have given up some of the support for a little more comfort. Meanwhile, box springs seem to be a U.S. phenomenon, perhaps Canada too. I guess they make the mattress last a little longer, but are they really worth all the expense, I wonder now.
PS – I love Spannbetueche! They’re so comfortable. I hope to sleep with some again soon. 🙂
January 10, 2012 @ 7:34 pm
Honest;y, I can say I don’t give much though to mattresses. I bought one a few years ago but haven’t looked sense. Comfortable and clean is all I need! 🙂
January 10, 2012 @ 8:04 pm
Good man, know what you want and need. I never really thought much about it either until I went through the ordeal of getting a new one for two of us.
January 10, 2012 @ 4:27 pm
The problem I find with the decke is that it’s always too hot, even with the lightweight ones but with no flat sheet I get cold without the decke. I have been known to take the cover off the decke and sleep with that lol but generally I just don’t sleep well in Germany.
January 10, 2012 @ 8:03 pm
I do understand. I definitely overheat while sleeping. They certainly sell Kuscheldecke and Heimdecke as what we would see as blankets. Flat sheets exist but are not as common. I have slept with all of them and the Decke are certainly nice when it is cold. I do usually end up sticking out my feet during the night to regulate temperature. Oddly though, I don’t feel that I overheat any more in the summer than in the winter with one.
June 3, 2014 @ 1:03 pm
I actually own three different kind of covers….a proper “Daunendecke” which I use for most of the year, because it is cold most of the time and (like most Germans) I sleep with open windows as long as possible (I draw the line when the temperature goes in the minus area), a “Stepdecke” in case my regular one becomes to warm…and a simple sheet I sometimes use when the summer is really, really hot.
January 10, 2012 @ 3:55 pm
I love sleeping under a German decke…I prefer a softer mattress but love the fluffy covers!
January 10, 2012 @ 8:01 pm
Our foam mattresses are pretty soft actually. I was surprised, but the German engineers can certainly do some great things with the stuff.