People who haven’t been to Germany don’t believe me when I tell them. They argue with me and shake their heads and plead with me for it to not be true. Some people have fallen silent and never spoken again. It’s a dark secret most of the world doesn’t know about German men.
Believe me: I understand why. It’s the same reaction everyone has the first time they visit Germany and learn the secret: German men sit down to pee. The word for the act is as horrendous as the act itself: Sitzpinkeln (going against nature).
To reinforce this behavior, room-mates, café owners and over-zealous mothers around the country have hung up signs above toilets indicating that a standing, peeing man is not just discouraged, it’s forbidden.
Standing up to pee is forbidden in many bathrooms of Germany.
And it really irks ex-pat men. More than surly bureaucrats at the Ausländerbehörde (alien registration office) and most shops being closed on Sunday. According to most ex-pats, the second-largest crime Germans commit is expecting men to sit down to pee. It’s second only to waiting for the little green man before crossing the road.
For the most part, I’m not different. A sign with a stick figure urinating and crossed out by a prohibited sign feels like an affront to my human-ness – indeed, my manliness. How dare someone try to legislate how I evacuate toxins from my body!
When I was younger and living in Germany, the signs often motivated me to small, unobserved acts of social disobedience. I would stand and pee while giving the sign the finger. Fight the oppression!
Then, after my small act of protest, I would look down and discover that my urine had splashed all over the lip of the toilet. And the lid. And even the floor. Because I’m a good human and want to be a good guest, I would then spend the next few minutes wasting toilet paper to clean up the errant urine.
Probably not all of it mine. Some left by previous brothers in protest.
And all the while I would think: “Why didn’t I just sit down to pee?”
Which leads me to my analysis of why German men sit down to pee. Is it psychological? Emotional? Are German men physically different?
But German toilets are. I’m speaking of the abomination known as the platform toilet. The German platform toilet. Many German households still have this porcelain torture device, which you to excrete waste onto a dry shelf before flushing it into the refuse afterlife. The toilet itself is worthy of its own blogpost but we’ll get to that some other day.
The issue right now is that German men sit down to pee (crazy, right?). But I offer that it’s because of the platform toilet. If you pour water onto a flat surface it spills and shoots everywhere, even up and out.
Same thing if you pee onto a platform toilet. And then someone has to clean that toilet. And bathroom floor. And bathroom wall. And it’s usually not German men.
So German men have agreed to sit down and pee, rather than clean up.
And after nearly two decades in Germany, I’m beginning to see the point. It’s become my dark secret too.