How I learned to shower like a European

istockphoto / MiguelMaro
istockphoto / MiguelMaro

It took a trip to Toggenburg to make me realize there was another way.

It had been a – by Swiss standards – a long ride. After arriving at the darling little rustic cabin in the mountains for a delightful weekend of freezing my ass off dashing through the snow, I made my way to the bathroom for a nice hot shower before bed. I scanned the 1960’s era decor and pulled back the lime plastic shower curtain that circled the tub on the inside.

I found the shower head, not poking out above me on the wall in front, but dangling from a shoulder-height holder.

“How am I supposed to get my head under that?”

I stood for about 1 minute, dumbfounded. Then I walked out and found my host.



“How does the shower work?”

Blank stare.


“The shower.”

“Just turn it on.”

“And then?”

Blank stare. Then they realized.

The exchange led to a long after-shower conversation about the “European” way to shower as opposed to the “American” way to shower. Europeans, supposedly – and according to the conversation – take less time in the shower than Americans due to their showering method, if it can be called a method.

We Americans, on the other hand, shower while visualizing ourselves standing under Niagara Falls on a warm summer day while we practice Wagner’s “Ring Cycle.”

I’ve yet to find a study supporting this claim.

Perhaps we shower to relax, while Europeans shower to – wait for it – get clean?

Maybe we have it all wrong.

I blame these folks.

So, how have I re-learned to shower? First, wet yourself all over with the shower head and turn it off. The latter was the weird one for me, as standing wet in a shower was slightly cold and off putting. Then, soap yourself. This actually saves not only water, but product: if you stand under running water while soaping, you’re basically pouring your Kiehl’s Musk Body Wash down the drain.

And that stuff is expensive.

Then, rinse.

Instead of taking 5-10 minutes to shower in the mornings, I now take perhaps 2.  Is it efficient? Yes. Does it save water? Yes.

Do I feel like I’ve lost some diva points?

Well, yes.

Here’s some stuff I use in the shower

2 responses to “How I learned to shower like a European”

  1. Thank you for this. I currently live in Europe and have struggled with this very topic. Truthfully, I was kind of embarrassed to even Google it. Although many places I’ve visited/lived now have “Americanized” showers, there are still places where you can barely turn around in the cramped space or there’s no shower stall at all. Just the handheld sprayer in the tub. It has taken me 2 years to get used to it…and I still struggle.

    1. I know. I know.:-) I do too.

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