Eastern Germany doesn\’t have laundrettes

This was something I found really rather odd in my recent trip to the \’Ore Mountains.

I did everything right of course, I\’ve done this turn up in a new country and get organised thing before. You\’ve no references, no contacts, no credit record, but you\’ve got to find a flat, rent it, get the phones in, all that stuff. The secret is to have cash. When the estate agent says, well, how do we know you\’ll pay the rent, just pay the rent in advance. In printed spondoolies. Works every time.

Pretty much everything else works the same way (except, in Germany, weirdly, the banks. You\’ve got to get your rental contract signed off by the town hall before you can have a bank account. This can only be done on Tuesday afternoons. I got the rental contract on Wednesday morning. Ho hum).

The other thing you have to do of course is find a good bartender. They know everything. You solve one set of problems one day and then, supping a pint or two at the cocktail hour, ply the barmaid with questions about how you do this, or where the cheap furniture shop is, or the method of providing parking spaces.

Which is where I learnt that eastern Germany just doesn\’t have laundrettes. Apparently.

Just odd.

18 thoughts on “Eastern Germany doesn\’t have laundrettes”

  1. A launderette is a form of/substitute for domestic service and domestic service is intolerable under a Communist regime (except for top state officials, of course).
    [A lot of them *are* domestic service – when I was a 30-ish bachelor, I lived in an upmarket housing estate: we had a launderette supervised by a nice Irish lady and, after my first week I used to drop in my laundry on the way to work and pick it up on my way home in the evening clean dry and neatly folded – half the shirts didn’t even need ironing]

  2. So what do they do?

    a) they all have their own washing machines at home? Sounds unlikely for an ex-Communist country, even one full of Germans.

    b) Some sort of residents’ communal laundry facility in the poorer apartment blocks? (and Tim either hasn’t found his, or has rented somewhere posher, where he’s expected to own his own machine)

    c) lots of people don’t wash their clothes? That would help explain the lingering cabbage smell in Berlin. Possibly a legacy of Communist days, where the clothes would fall apart on being washed?

    d) Tim’s German isn’t as good as he thinks it is, or perhaps when a lone male traveller asks for a “laundrette” this is regarded as a euphemism?

  3. @ Richard
    b) is correct – or was when I was in Siberia in the ’90s
    I am willing to be called out-of-date by John Galt, but he is talking about the situation 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall

  4. Supplementary
    Oxford colleges had communal laundry facilities in the 60s for those undergraduates who didn’t want to pay ridiculous sums to the franchised laundry.

  5. “The secret is to have cash. When the estate agent says, well, how do we know you’ll pay the rent, just pay the rent in advance. In printed spondoolies. Works every time.”

    But a practice that’s becoming increasingly fraught with difficulty. Down here there’s rules (no doubt largely ignored*) about how much cabbage can be tendered to settle a bill. Six grand’s worth of apartment rent for a year was way over. UK’s not immune is it? I gather the police can get stroppy if they stop you with more than a thou on you. £1000? For me, when I was doing building work, that’s pocket change. Getting worse as well. Currently having a row with my father’s UK solicitor. Old man’s in hospital & I’m trying to sort his affairs. Apparently, I can’t be given access to most of the info I need without providing POI. Money laundering regs. FFS! Who does he think I am? A Colombian coke cartel is going to take on this load of shit for entertainment?

    *Brilliant. You can see how that works out. Now instead of just the moody cash deals being off the record, the straight ones avoid the books as well. Like my apartment rent.

  6. Money laundering regs.

    Aye, used to hammer an ordinary bloke trying to open a bank account but completely waived when a Nigerian or Russian shows up with a few million in cash in his suitcases. I’d not mind the UK banks imposing strict money laundering rules if half of Nigeria wasn’t laundering their money through those same banks.

  7. Yes, I’ve seen them in Dresden too – very few in Prague though, (I only know of 3) people do tend to have washing machines. Either that or they do it by hand or send it to a traditional laundry, which can be expensive to the uninitiated – 1st time I tried, the woman pointed at the calendar with a querying look, I selected a date 3 days later and said “full service”. On my return, I found that meant that everything, down to individual socks, had been ironed and itemised on the bill. The price of the load was then doubled, 3 days qualifying as “express”. Total cost – about 20 quid, when it would have cost a fiver at my friendly local London laundromat.

  8. The ‘bring cash’ point is becoming obsolete in the developed world, as electronic transfers improve and as AML makes life harder for everyone. My move to Aus two years ago involved doing everything else Tim suggests, but paying the rent in advance by electronic transfer rather than plastic bills.

    As a result, a handy one if you’re planning to live in a lot of places, is to open an account with HSBC or Citi in your current home country. That way, you can open an account with them in the next place before you move there, without having to worry about AML rules (because you’ve already established your identity in an equivalent jurisdiction). While they won’t have many branches in the new place, they’ll at least be able to wire your landlord the money or issue a counter cheque for it.

    John77: Oxford colleges had communal laundries in 2000, and almost certainly still do.

  9. Oxford colleges had communal laundries in 2000, and almost certainly still do.

    Confirmed. I was in Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford last autumn and used the communal laundry there. Simple coin-operated affair, but did the job.

    This is one of the problems of being eternally on the road, you end up looking for the conveniences of home every weekend.

    Laundry tends to be the biggest problem, but I’ve become adept at doing the full wash cycle in a small hotel bathroom using little more than a sink or bath and a towel rail.

    The problem comes from trying to live out of a single suitcase month-after-month.

    It pays very well though and I don’t have any rent, mortgage, council tax, gas, electricity, telephone, internet bills to pay.

  10. Town hall signing off your rental contract? Never heard of that one in Germany. Also no reason you can’t use your Portuguese account there – at no extra charge, cash and credit cards, IBAN, the lot. The only thing that’ll cost you is cash withdrawals.

    If you can prove you are registered as living there (which the town hall should do in about 5 minutes any time they are open), there should be no problem with the bank account if you want one.

    Watch out when moving out – Germans are anally retentive about cancelling contracts and if you do it 1 day late it’ll cost you an extra month, 3 months, or whatever. I’d avoid any kind of fixed line phone unless you are here at least 2 years (standard phone contract duration). At least basic utilities can usually be handed back to the landlord when you move out, but phone companies are notorious for insisting on having contracts paid up. Check your rental contract isn’t fixed term lasting well beyond the time you need it.

    Also lots of things you think you are buying just once turn out to be subscriptions. Don’t under any circumstances give your name and address to pretty girls hanging around beer gardens trying to give you free newspapers.

  11. I am always surprised that so many laundrettes remain in London. It’s not like washing machines are expensive. I bet you could even get one “free” from Brighthouse and still save money by not using the laundrette.

  12. I learned a lot about German attitudes when I have a three-month job in Berlin about ten years ago. I started out fully intending to integrate myself: getting a bank account, paying taxes, etc..

    The boss’ PA took me to the bank to get an account and the bank refused, making it impossible for the firm to pay me through their payroll and therefore making it impossible for me to pay taxes properly. The firm decided the best thing was to pay me out of petty cash.

    I was unable to get a local SIM card because I had to have proof of address (WHY?) but I was lodging in an apart-hotel so couldn’t.

    It was just stupid. I had read somewhere that I was supposed to register if I planned to stay for more than three months but by this time I was so underwhelmed by the gap between bureaucracy and reality that I didn’t bother.

    I love Germany but I could never live there.

  13. “Don’t under any circumstances give your name and address to pretty girls hanging around beer gardens ”

    Wise advice. Isn’t that what mobile phones are for?

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