Showers in England... and the Famous Two
Showers in England are an adventure to say the least. In the UK I've always had
problems with showers... when you can find them. Traditionally the British people use bath tubs
for personal hygiene.
Showers are a relatively new thing, seemingly accepted from a distance. Once I’ve heard a group
of tourists saying that the English are crazy people because they don’t take showers. They take baths instead and
they are not crazy people at all, they are just different.
I’ll never forget my first shower in England: the shower itself was located at the far corner of
the bathroom and one of the three walls was a huge window with a spectacular view over the city.
The only problem is that the big window left me exposed to the outside world with no curtain; I
was on the fifth floor, so I guess not a big problem. The real problem was yet to come: there was only one tap. I
looked everywhere and I just couldn’t find another one. I opened it and the water was as cold as water gets when
coming out of a cold water tap. It only rotated in one direction and there were no other movements possible.
After about 45 minutes of playing with it, I discovered that the more I opened it, the
warmer the water got (!?!). I ended up with a Niagara falls style shower that was barely warm. Go
You will find that many showers in the UK are electric, especially in Bed & Breakfast and
They are usually very intuitive to use, but remember that for safety reasons, there is always a
main switch outside of the shower, often in the form of a string hanging from the ceiling (electric switches
embedded in the wall are more expensive to install, hence the ever so popular string). Some will argue that the
string is purely for safety, as it is of a non conductive material.
The way these electric showers work is a bit illogical in my view. The element that warms up the
water is only one and it is not of variable intensity. If you want hotter water, the mechanism will just send less
water through, meaning that if you like very hot showers you will have very little water coming out of the shower
head. Due to this reason, summer showers are much more abundant.
What’s with the two taps?
In the UK it is more common than not to find sinks with two taps. Nobody knows why and
people don’t seem to mind them. Personally I hate to either freeze or burn my hands when washing them, but
natives of this country keep installing these very illogical sinks even in brand new properties.
I have asked countless people the reason for this and nobody could ever give me an answer;
nobody could even guess. So I have made some research and I came to the conclusion that there is an historical
reason behind this institution.
Once upon a time when running water was not available inside homes, people used a basin of water
to do pretty much everything. When water arrived inside private homes, there was initially no option between hot or
cold, so the habit of using the same system remained. Basically the sink was filled with hot water from a kettle.
When hot water was established as we know it today, which arrives through a tap, the system remained in force. So
instead of using running water they would fill the sink and then complete the hygienic operations with that water.
Considering this, the two taps make perfect sense.
A question came natural to me and I did ask it to a number of people: “do you fill the sink
every time you want to wash your hands?” The most common answer I got was: “how often do you need to wash your
hands in a day...” The rest is history. The fact is that in a country that is mostly cold and where warm water
is not readily available, people don’t wash as much as in warmer countries. Off course this has changed
enormously from the middle ages, but the British still carry a trace of history with them in this sense.
Things are changing though and new single taps are being produces. Unfortunately they are far
from being perfect for the moment. Hot and cold water are still clearly separated till the end of the spout, where
you visibly see two separated streams of water... so in many places you still get a shock feeling when washing your
British people are not famous for their cleanliness. A recent survey showed that half a million
Brits change their bed sheets only three times a year, while 50% of the population regularly consumes food in bed.
That tells you a lot. You can read the article about this issue that appeared the Daily Telegraph.
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