Thinking back to my blog post of the other day about quintessential Britishness, I wondered what my English husband would consider the most German thing of all German things. And then I remembered his horror when we first set foot into our first joint flat in Germany.
‘What’s that on the walls?’ he exclaimed. ‘Wallpaper,’ I said. ‘Yeah, but it looks so retro. We had that stuff in the ‘70s,’ he continued in disgust. Thus went his first encounter with an inexplicable German phenomenon aka The Obsession with Raufasertapete.
How do I begin? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the product: it’s wallpaper with small wood chips in it, which make it very knobbly. It’s hideous. And it’s everywhere. Even on the ceilings. (At least in rented flats.) It’s the cheapest wallpaper you can get in Germany. But don’t ask me who decided it was the bee’s knees. (It does indeed seem like a mandatory piece of interior design in any German home.)
For those of you who are not British, rented flats and houses in Britain do usually not have wallpaper nowadays. They just have rendered walls with a coat of paint on them. And tenants are often not allowed to change the colour of the walls or put a nail in them or anything.
Germany, on the other hand, is the nirvana of tenants. Tenants can do whatever they please. Well, at least they can paint walls monkey-puke yellow and riddle them with Rawlplugs so long as they put everything back into its original state when they move out, i.e. refill the holes and repaint the walls in a light colour.
So here we were in our first German home, applying roll after roll of masking tape to these wood-chip walls. If you’ve ever done that, you know that, the next day, you can’t feel your fingertips. It’s Braille overkill. Honestly, how is a landlord or lady free to paper walls with something that can do irreversible damage to your digital nerves?
Raufaser stands for many German things. It’s unpretentious, sensible (read: cheap) and practical. German bliss!
Next week, learn about language made to measure.
The Pommes Buddha says: I hate Bauhaus.
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