Deciphering European Hieroglyphs or: How to use a microwave in Holland

European microwave knob _

Microwave Literacy Quiz

Demonstrate your knowledge of European domestic appliance symbols by answering the following questions. Refer to Figure 1.

Figure 1 

Euro microwave Figure 1 _

1. Setting “A” is used to:

(a) Shower food with rain-like droplets.
(b) Grill/broil food using radiant heat.
(c) Form food into the shape of Devil’s Tower as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
(d) Heat food via microwave technology.

2. Setting “C” is used to:

(a) Heat food via microwave technology.
(b) Prepare for the arrival of bare-chested indigenous, tribal women.
(c) Grill/broil food via radiant heat.
(d) Engage serpentine evasion techniques.

3. Setting “C” is used to:

(a) Cool down over-hot food. Also called ‘toddler-assist.’
(b) Engage ‘four-leaf-clover-mode’ which increases the odds that a frozen meal will be edible.
(c) Cook food inside a windmill.
(d) Cook food via convection technology.

4. Setting “D” is used to:

(a) Enhance the aroma of food.
(b) Heat food via microwave technology.
(c) Automatically add three long hairs to food.
(d) Steam food.

5. Setting “E” is used to:

(a) Double the amount of food by circumventing the known laws of physics.
(b) Preserve food in jars.
(c) Both (a) and (b).
(d) Engage the rice-bowl force field.

6. Write three paragraphs on how Samsung’s patented ‘Slim Fry’ technology altered the eating habits of early 21st Century Europeans.

Bonus question: Describe the functions of the ‘crying asterisks’ and ‘glittery raindrop’ settings:

Microwave panel part 2 _



Solution Set: Currently unavailable as the microwave’s manual is in only French and Dutch.

For more thoughts on European home appliances check out this article from 2011 in Slate: We’re number one! But only when it comes to domestic appliances.

37 responses to “Deciphering European Hieroglyphs or: How to use a microwave in Holland

    • I feel your washing machine hate! Two hour cycles and not quite enough space!

      The washing machine in our current rental strangely doesn’t have Euro-symbols. Rather, it’s all in Dutch. So I used Google translate to sort out the two most useful cycles and am ignoring the rest….

      • Ha ha, that’s hilarious! I think if “Prepare for the arrival of bare-chested indigenous, tribal women” were a real thing, more men would have microwaves 🙂
        I’m also still trying to figure out German washing machines – I’ve spent some time lurking behind my German flatmates so now I just copy what they do, without actually knowing what I’m doing 😉

  1. Hey, at least you have an instruction manual, albeit in languages you don’t speak. A perfect reason to find yourself some Dutch and French friends (as long as they speak English). 🙂

    • I wadded through the instruction manual last night using my (now) very basic understanding of Dutch and Google Translate. I now know which options use radiant heat and which use microwave technology. I still think there are at least 2 times more options than necessary!

      (And good point about Dutch speaking friends! I have a lovely neighbor who helps me with the trickiest problems.)

  2. I think the crying asterisks symbolize you, and the existential angst of warm nourishing sustenance being unattainable.

    Glittery raindrop is for when you capture unicorn tears…duh.

    Don’t even get me started on the ‘slim fry’ setting! PLEASE I must know what that does!!

    • Ha! I am so going to think of unicorn tears every time I look at my microwave! It’s so obvious now.

      Paraphrasing Google translate, ‘slim fly’ uses a combination of radiant heat and the convection fan to achieve crisp, golden results without oil. (Seems as likely as capturing unicorn tears.)

  3. Wonderful! I will examine my microwave tonight to see if it has “crying asteriks” option. And perhaps consult the manual to see if I can help you decipher the code. I know most of them, but setting E beats me, and the glittering raindrop is rather mysterious.

    • It somehow makes using the microwave very exciting and risky.

      (If I’m honest, I think that setting E is for helping bread dough rise and to make one’s own yogurt. The glittering raindrop remains a mystery.)

  4. This is hilarious. I think that everywhere we have been since leaving the states has confused me as far as appliances go. Even the english on our washing machine here makes no sense to me. I am pretty sure I have been dialing in three extra rinse cycles or something.

    • I hear you! For example I can’t figure out why my dishwasher “Auto” setting says that a particular cycle will take 173 minutes (!) but then only seems to take less than an hour. It’s all baffling. I am happy to have a microwave that works well, I just fee there are so many options I’ll never have the chance (need?) to explore.

  5. The crying asteriks are a defrosting program. The glittering raindrop is probably a microwave cleaning program.

    The “slim fry” option I find abusive. Do they suggest that if I use other options I am “dumb-frying”?

    • Apparently we’ve all been frying wrong for centuries.

      Shame that the glittering raindrop is simply a cleaning setting. Someone else suggested it might be for collecting the tears of unicorns, which is rather more interesting!

      Thanks for your help!

    • I did figure out which setting is the actual microwave (it’s either the plate being rained on or the plate having three hairs deposited on it). I think one is technically for re-heating and one is for actual cooking.

      Some microwave which also grilling. I have no idea what this option might be useful for. It my gut I feel it’s wrong. Just plain wrong.

  6. It’s funny how you post this, because I think even “simple symbols” in other cultures can create such a headache, since what seems *obvious* to them might not be to an expat. I’m still trying to figure out the difference in my mother’s convectional oven (ie. Half dome on top, half dome on bottom, dome with wind symbol, light bulb with dome and wind). What’s missing is a symbol of a woman pulling out her hair. I shall draw on in felt on the knob.

    Hope you are “settling in” to life over there.

    • Somehow I expect this kind of confusion in China, but not in the Netherlands. That said, if the microwave is the biggest of my problems, I’m doing pretty damn good. It’s nice here. I like it more than I thought I would. (And my lungs are very happy.)

      Best of luck sorting your mom’s oven. Russian roulette cake baking?

    • The symbol thing is it’s own special-weird European appliance thing, right? I ready in the Slate article I linked to, that even most of them don’t understand the settings! Which symbol did you decide to use in the end?

      • I used always the same, the one with the 2 dots in the middle, which was warm temperature 🙂 Scared of shrinking my clothes 🙂

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