In America, we consider a house fully equipped when it has the big five appliances: a range, dishwasher, refrigerator, washer, and dryer. But in other cultures there are some other interesting appliances that don’t fit the classic American home. From the Japanese futon dryer to the Bavarian hefeweizen dishwasher, here are five culturally characteristic appliances from around the world.
Kimchi, a Korean delicacy made from fermented vegetables, needs a bit more attention than our typical garden harvest. To properly store Korea’s national dish, you'll need a special refrigerator with purpose-built temperature and odor control to keep this delicate food edible. Since the kimchi fridge is large and usually costs more than $1,000, it's usually only found in restaurants and luxury homes.
Bavarians drink their weissbier in tall, skinny glasses that are difficult to wash by hand. So appliance company AEG designed a dishwasher with a special rack that holds the long glasses steady while jets of hot water clean out the yeasty residue. Although this isn't a common item in the Bavarian kitchen (let's face it, we saw this at a trade show, not a kitchen), but it's pretty neat a company molded the dishwasher to a subset of beer drinkers.
As one of the oldest health code books, Leviticus enjoins that one must not wash dairy dishes and meat dishes together. Luckily, there are dishwashers with two separate drawers to help you keep kosher. It's tiny compared to conventional dishwashers, but even some non-kosher people prefer the versatility of a drawer dishwasher.
On the crowded islands of Japan, space is at a premium. Instead of using one room for one purpose, each can serve multiple needs. Some people don't have dedicated bedrooms, instead putting out futons in a living room at bedtime. In the morning, the futons are hung up on the balcony to air-dry and stay fresh. But not everyone has a balcony, so instead, they can use the futonkansōki. This small dryer can stop a futon from turning into a petri dish ripe with mites, bacteria, and other invisible monsters. Mattresses are susceptible to the same creepy critters, so why don't we use these in the west?
Though it isn’t exactly an appliance, this dish draining "closet" works as a drying rack, mounted in cabinet-space above a sink. It opens up extra real estate on countertops, making it especially useful in small kitchens. Despite some attractive designs and recognition by the Finnish Invention Foundation as one of the most important Finnish inventions of the millennium (really?), this contraption is almost unknown outside of Finland.
Might They Emigrate?
It seems unlikely that too many of these items on this list will venture from their respective corners of the world out into the mainstream. But who knows? As globalization encourages cultural exchange, we may see more of these niche appliances migrate into our daily lives. The US has exported plenty of appliance ideas to the rest of the world, and continues to do so. Some Korean-made ovens that we've reviewed even have presets for casserole, chicken nuggets, and frozen pizza. Is this our cultural legacy, exported to Asia? Maybe next time, we'll ship out some healthier eating habits.
Photos from Wikimedia Commons: 103momo [Eric Hunt]