Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Electric Mysteries

12 comments
It wasn't until the movers arrived with all our stuff that I noticed: there was nowhere near the sink to plug in our electric toothbrush.  In fact, there wasn't a single electrical outlet in the entire bathroom!  The situation was strange and novel enough that I decided to comment about it on Facebook. Jul, a fellow American who just moved from Germany to the UK, replied:

"They're illegal. Apparently it's the only way to prevent Brits from making toast while in the bath."

I actually couldn't tell if she was kidding, so I looked it up...and it's actually true!  No regular electrical outlet can be placed within a certain distance of the bathtub/shower, and the distance is long enough that pretty much the whole bathroom is usually covered.  Special outlets for shavers, as pictured here (I took this at an inn, we don't have one), are allowed.  A normal UK plug doesn't fit into these outlets.

This really is a safety measure to prevent electrocution, but wow.  It's just completely new to me.   In Germany we had the washer plugged in in the bathroom!  I guess that's why the washers are usually in the kitchen here.  Anyway, this is kind of a pain because we have to keep the electric toothbrush and shaver charging in the guest room instead of the bathroom, which is less than ideal.  When guests come we'll have to move them to our bedroom (no problem, just further away).

Well, I feel very safe from electrocution.  There must be a special fear about electrical hazards here, kind of like the US with fire hazards.  All our outlets have on/off switches on them.  Also you can buy these things that plug into outlets and I have no idea what they do, they just look like a plug adaptor but with no place to plug anything in.  Also something safety related?

12 comments:

  1. It's the same in Singapore and I always found it difficult to try to dry my hair with no access to a mirror! Not that a mirror would have made much difference with the humidity...

    As far as the switches go, I heard that part of it is safety related (especially due to the higher voltage than the US and potential for arcing when you unplug an appliance) and that part was energy efficiency and convenient - you can turn things off at the source rather than having to unplug them. especially nice when going on a long vacation.

    Hope all goes well as you continue to settle in. So interesting to hear how different things are, even in different parts of Europe

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    1. Germany has the same voltage as the UK but allows plugs in the bathroom. It's definitely interesting to see how different places deal with electricity. As for arcing, I never had that happen, but now I'm going to be paranoid about remembering to turn off outlets before unplugging anything! :|

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  2. Nobody cares about electricity safety in NY. Specially in my building, which is 100 years old... =P

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    1. well, that makes life easier, although maybe it's not so reassuring. ;)

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  3. That's so strange! I'm kind of surprised that the Germans aren't the ones who have that kind of weird precaution. Such sticklers! That does suck about the electric toothbrushes, though. Hmm.

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    1. I agree, it's strange that Germany is on the no-precautions side of anything!

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  4. I miss the round pronged-plugs we had in Germany. Some of these U.S.-ready plugs are too bend-friendly for me.

    I have a 25 ft extension cord, because my downstairs bathroom has no outlet.

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    1. It's true, US plugs are not as sturdy as European or UK ones. Is your place old? A lot of newer places in the US have so many outlets I can't fathom using them all.

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  5. Hi, I think we used to know each other on an old blog of mine, your name definitely seems familiar. I am Viv, from Munich but studied in Heidelberg, and I have had a bad habit of not sticking with a blog name for very long in the past few years. Anyway, I just moved to the UK in March as well!

    I think it's so annoying about the lack of electrical outlets in the UK. To add to the ridiculousness, shavers, epilators and electric toothbrushes here come with a plug to go with the outlet in your picture but our apartment doesn't have one, so we have to use an adapter. The way we do it is we just keep the toothbrushes in the bathroom and recharge them once a week in the bedroom.

    It would be great to hear from you!

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    1. I remember your old blog, but not the name of it! :)

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  6. This wikipedia article make it sound like the laws are somewhat more sensible now:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_wiring_in_the_United_Kingdom#Bathrooms

    So pull cord switches can be replaced with actual switches. And since 2008, you can have a normal (with circuit breaker) domestic socket in the bathroom, provided it is far enough away from sources of water.

    A lot of the old buildings in Edinburgh have small bathrooms, without outlets and with pull cord switches. I don't see those being updated anytime soon.

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    1. ! I never gave a second thought to the fact that all our light switches in the bathroom are pull switches! I thought they were just being arty or something. I think our bathroom is still too small to have a regular outlet - wouldn't most be?

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