I think the British must have an innate fear of being electrocuted. Let me show you what I mean.
Electrical plugs come in two sizes in Germany/Europe. The sleek version:
And the slightly more bulky version known as a "Schuko plug":
The British, (and Irish, as different as they might like to claim to be) despite using the same power as the rest of Europe - around 220 volts - use this monster of a plug:
I'm not going to bore you with the whys and wherefores of the differences in the plugs, if you really want to know about electricity, I found a very nice explanation of the different electrical and plug systems here.
But it's not just the plugs that are huge and bulky, they have taken extra steps on the sockets themselves:
That bit in the middle is two switches to turn on the power to each individual socket! I tell you, that caused me a fair amount of short-lived frustration the first week or so. I'd plug something in, turn it on and then be baffled as to why it wasn't working. Then I'd remember that I had to flip the switch to turn on the socket. Which of course is usually located somewhere awkward and low, so me with my big pregnant belly would have to do all sorts of contortions again to flip the switch. This has resulted in the having the opposite effect of what is intended. Instead of the extra safety of a switch, I just leave all of them on. Risking my life, I'm sure.
This doesn't just stop at the plugs and outlets. Oh no. The bathrooms are the same way, with an even greater fear of electricity and water. All bathrooms have a pull switch to turn on the light, so that the dangerous power is far out of reach. It always looks really dinky to me, having a cord to turn on the light. Okay, Germany wasn't really any different because their light switches for the bathroom are located outside of the room itself, allowing your friends and family to amuse themselves by turning off the light while you are taking a shower, causing outrage within the bathroom and laughter without. But in Germany, they at least trust you to plug in electrical appliances. In every bathroom I had, there was at least one regular electrical outlet. Usually located a bit high on the wall (above the mirror or so) so it didn't get water splashed on it, but you could at least plug in your hair dryer or toothbrush. In our place here, we have one of those dinky little things where you can plug in an electrical razor, but nothing else stronger. Just out of curiousity I tried the hair dryer, and it most definitely doesn't work. There aren't a lot of outlets around the house in the first place, so it's annoying not to have one in the bathroom.
To top it all off, what amazes me, after all this caution towards electricity; it seems quite a standard thing to rewire a plug! Something I've never ever done, nor had to do in my over 30 years of life. Yet the English seem to find it a very normal thing to do. Why rewiring might be a useful skill, I have yet to learn. One of the mysteries of living on the island that has yet to be solved...