Monday, April 23, 2012

Mix-Up Monday: Kehrwoche

Schwäbisch region (Wikipedia)

We have put it off long enough. It is time to talk about the lovely German Schwäbisch Kehrwoche. We explained a long time ago (back in our potato salad entry) about the Schwäbisch region of Germany we live in. This region is well known for various things...both good and bad. It is the area of many famous brands such as Mercedes and a lot of delicious food (e.g., Käsespätzle, Fleischküchle). It is also known for a strong German dialect (Schwäbisch) that makes understanding the locals always an experience for both non-native German speakers (like her) or Germans from other areas of the country. Swabia is also known for the dreaded Kehrwoche.

There is no one good translation of Kehrwoche. You will not find the word in a typical dictionary or even in most online translation programs. Even the beloved Wikipedia does not have an entry for Kehrwoche in English. What we can tell you is that it basically means chore week.

In this area of Germany, many people live in apartments that are more like multi-family houses and not apartment complexes that are common in large cities and in the USA. For this reason there is no building caretaker or manager to keep the common areas of the house clean and cared for. The Schwäbisch solved this problem through the development of the Kehrwoche.

A typical Kehrwoche sign (

Each week a sign is hung in front of one of the apartments announcing that it is that apartment's turn to do Kehrwoche. This means various things depending on where you live. For the most part it means sweeping outside and inside the halls one time during the week. This sign then sits in front of the door until it is passed along to the next apartment when the week (or two weeks) has passed.

The sign also seems to have the task to constantly remind you when you pass, that it is your week to be the cleaning slave. There is nothing like the fear that the evil neighbors will get you and you should not forget... they are waiting with their brooms behind the door to hear the sound of cleaning.

To someone who has not grown up in this culture the idea of Kehrwoche is crazy. It even is nonsense to him (even though he grew up in a Schwäbisch area of Germany) because he did not live in an apartment growing up. We can imagine what many of you are thinking right now. That doesn't sound too bad. No need to pay fees for a building manager or maintenance guy? Sounds good! Only have to sweep a bit every few weeks...Seems reasonable to me...

Do not let the idea fool you! (and we apologize to anyone who loves their Kehrwoche :) ) It is not so simple! We have heard hundreds of stories (and experienced!) about the troubles of the Kehrwoche. Sweep this way, don't sweep that way. Do it on Sunday not on Saturday. Scrub harder! Use a toothbrush to get every crack clean! There seems to always be that one old lady that becomes the queen of Kehrwoche and takes it upon herself to make sure the building is run to the proper standards.

So doesn't sound so great anymore? We know what you now are thinking. Who needs Kehrwoche? Can't a whole bunch of adults clean up after their own mess and know when the hall needs to be swept? The answer is no...or at least no one has been willing to give it a try in this area. So Kehrwoche will continue to stand. No outsider has a chance on breaking the long tradition of Kehrwoche torture. The only way you will be able to escape is to hire some experienced personnel like him (He says that they have developed a 4 step efficiency system to get the best possible results - they train their personnel on your premisses to ensure the most efficient cleaning result of the Kehrwoche). We can't even make this stuff up ;)

Come for a visit. We will give you the true German experience and even let you sweep this upcoming Kehrwoche :)

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