We’re about two weeks away from our stuff arriving in our apartment. As we now have functioning German bank accounts, I thought it was time to pick up the bed linens to go with our new bed which is also going to be delivered sometime soon.
It seems simple, right? Buy some new sheets and couple of quilts.
But as a newby expat working in a different language, a different bed system, and a different way of economic transaction, it was exhausting. Beloved had no idea what it took to obtain such objects because I wasn’t talking about the two day process. Instead, I was celebrating last night, “Wow! Look at this, I did it!!” and he was going, “um, sure, um awesome? Its a quilt. And by the way, why did it cost so much?” Like all good marriage discussions, this one took place approximently five minutes after we turned in for the night. He was much more suitably impressed about twenty minutes later. (note to self: maybe I should talk more with Beloved about my process of acclimatizing rather than continue that duck-on-a-lake gig of serenity above the surface “no worries, I’ve got this” while going crazy under the surface. Not his fault if he doesn’t know whats going on.)
Since this is a blog about finding my way in this new place, I’d like to invite you, sweet reader, to join me in the quest for bedding.
The goal: 2 fitted bedsheets, 2 quilts and 2 duvet covers. We bought two single mattress because we find we disturb each other’s sleep less when we sleep in the European way. Because beloved is 6’3″, we bought an extended length. Most German beds come as 90×200 cm. We’re looking at 90×220 cm.
Day 1: Go to local department store (GALERIA Kaufhof) and look first at little grocery shopping carts because I need one of those too and how else to get the big stuff home?
Shopping carts come in a stunningly wide range of configurations. Apparently they are seen as stodgy by the locals, something that Mom uses but we’re too cool for that. So, the big brand intended for the younger set is Reisenthel. Their primary shopping Trolley (I love calling these things a trolley). is a basket that can roll, hang off your shoulder, be carried on your arm but seems to look best of all in the car trunk. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would give up two feet of storage/trundling space.
So I spend an hour looking over the Andersen brand. Maybe two hours. I might have lost time. Each trolley has several tags hanging from the bag/frame listing the particular combination of options and a master guide of those options which is about 50 items long. And that’s not getting to the color decision. >.< How much to pay? How sturdy should this cart be? Sturdy enough to port a case of beer? (Beer is sold by the big plastic case around here and lugged home by two or three guys each carrying their own supply.) My criteria: can it be hooked onto a bike? Onto the side of the shopping cart? ball bearings useful? will the wheels fall off? Cold stuff compartment? Little tri-wheels to climb steps (probably not good for the bike option) or big wheels for the bike option? zip down or tie up cover? rain protected? back pack straps an option? I mean a useful option? After a while I decide I need to go home and do some online research so I went upstairs to the bedding department.
Stores here seem to organize their floors by brand not by size or use – like dresses over there and sweaters here. Not being able to speak German and experiencing that even in well-educated Munich most store clerks are not strong in English means that in order to avoid feeling self-consious I have to go look at every single display rack rather than ask for help. This is okay, I learn a lot along the way but its exhausting. All this concentrating and observing and absorbing… Eventually, I found the one display that had fitted sheets for the 90×220 bed. I have a choice between four colors which is okay. Sometimes there’s too much choice. Like now looking for two duvet covers that are different so Bill and I can keep track of our different “warmth” preferences in the quilt but also will form some sort of harmonious partnership on the bed. And, by the way, be large enough for the bed.
So, I started looking for what I though would be the size we needed: 90 cm x 220. I spent an hour looking for something like this but mostly saw just 135×200 or 150×220. Eventually it occurs to me to check quilt sizes so off I went to the quilt wall. Sure enough, the sizes available were 135×200 or 150×220. And that the quilts seem to come in a range of prices and stuffings. At this point my eyes crossed and I went home. I was tired and a little discouraged but full of resolve that I’d conquer come the next day.
I went downtown to the two major department stores by the train station. Quantity would be my friend I figured.
I went first to Karstad which sure enough had an extensive collection of shopping carts – and a completely different set of the Andersens. Seriously, these guys have 13 different series on their website and each series has its own subset of configurations. How do they keep track of all this? How do stores order the carts? And, guess what, the Karstad didn’t have the one cart that I kind of liked back at the local Kaufhof. So, I went across the street to the downtown Kauthof only to discover a meager collection of the weakest Anderson carts. Fine. Back I got to the Karstad where I try to talk myself into buying one of the carts that was kind of like the one I liked yesterday. Nope, said my stubborn mind. “You’ll just regret buying this one.”
In the meantime, there was the bedding department to go examine at the Karstad which seemed larger, prettier, and more promising then the selection of options at the Kauthof. Only after two turns around the floor I couldn’t find a single 220 long sheet, quilt, or duvet cover. Well, the heck with that, I said to myself, and headed back out of the store and to the ten minutes ubahn ride that took me back to the local store.
My cart was exactly where I had left it (okay kind of hid it) yesterday. I take it over to the cash stand, only one per floor thank you but the Kauthof isn’t laying off people like the Karstad is right now. I get to the front of the line and now its time to see if I can use my new German debit card and pin system that is the German Economic Way. My pin is based on a word, not a number and the keypad doesn’t have letters like a phone on the numbers. That’s okay, I’ve memorized the pattern. The nice woman taking my card starts to talk to me in German. Right. Always such an awkward moment. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak German,” which I hate admitting. I feel like I’m letting people down. So she comes around the desk and finishes putting together the cart and bag for me and pantomimes a few tricks to breaking it down and setting it up.
Triumphant, I take the cart up the escalator to the bedding floor. And spend an hour looking for the coordinated but not matching color scheme in the 155X220 duvats. Finally making that selection, I pull the fitted sheets that match the color scheme and then turn my attention to the Wall of Quilts.
So – here are two quilts. Both appear to be feather filled. One is 100e more then the other. Why? What’s the matrix for making this decision? Quality of feathers (they appear to be mixed from what part of the bird the feathers come from)? Size of quilt square? Quality of fabric? I am not trained in shopping for quilts, seriously. I dug one quilt out from the center of the pile (seriously buried) and it was a very good price for the product range. A clerk comes over with some English and tries to help me discern between labels. I try to say something in German and she looks at me and then goes to find another clerk with better english. At this point I’m in a bit of a panic.
It occurs to me that Beloved does not like feather pillows. Maybe he won’t like a feather quilt. Maybe he won’t like my feather quilt. Maybe I’ll have to just start over. But I want a feather quilt. I don’t want to give it up just for his allergies. What kind of a loving wife am I? So I text him but the text goes unanswered. He don’t always hear the text. Meanwhile here are these helpful clerks so I want to please them and make a quick decision. (yes, I know, the desire to please a store clerk should be low in the shopping decision matrix but I get tired.) So I call him but before I can call him I have to kind of send away the helpful women. I don’t want to offend by making a call in front of them. (Did I mention that I’m getting emotionally tired?) I’m worried that I’m going to interrupt some important meeting just to ask, “so honey, do you want a feather quilt?” (seriously, I’m getting desperate to please somebody. I have issues around this.)
It works out okay. Beloved is not in a meeting and yes, a non-feather quilt is a better option for him. So, again to the quilt piles to find the right size. Also – did you know that quilts come in a range of warmth here? Extra-warm to summer weight. I sleep colder than Beloved so I wanted to make sure he had a lighter weight but by this point, I’ve lost track of that factor in the shopping matrix. I don’t even want to know what warmth I pulled for him.
Four hours after I set out, I’m rolling out the store door: my new shopping basket filled with sheets (surprisingly heavy, another reason to have the cart) and two quilt bags in my other hand. (Shopping without a car is entertaining. I’ve seen a range of interesting objects get hand carried on the underground…. )
Success: I have bedding at what appears to be a reasonable price for Munich, Germany and a shopping cart that will help me navigate future trips to grocery and other merchandise stores.
Success: I get another opportunity to confront my perfectionist tendencies and to embrace the pain of a learning curve.
Success: I’m learning more German words and German ways.
Seriously, how hard it is to buy some sheets and quilt? As it turns out, it can be very hard when we are strangers in a strange land. This is a season where we think about a certain couple traveling to a strange town and from there to a strange country. I hope they had an easier time buying sheets.