german pillows
Expat Life in Germany

WTF is Wrong With: The German Pillows

Last updated on January 6th, 2023 at 05:23 pm

Are you wondering why German pillows are so atrocious? Well, me too! Where did the German practicality go when it came to their pillows? All I get is a bad back! Let’s discuss what exactly went wrong with German pillow engineering in a land famous for…engineering?


Most of us foreigners come to Germany only to be impressed (or overwhelmed) by the infamous German Ordnung, punny humour, engineering prowess, industriousness at workplaces and a robust social system.

Then why are the Ausländers complaining about German pillows? 


But seriously, WTF is wrong with these German pillows? How on earth did the world-renowned German engineering fail their pillow designs? For many foreigners in Germany, these pillows are the manifestation of the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

These atrocious pillows have been called a lot of things in online discussions. Here are select few gems:

Most uncomfortable things ever made by mankind

A crime against sleep lovers

German sacks of nothingness

Abomination of the bedroom

Note: I can’t take the credit for these glorious descriptions as these are actual rants of sleep-deprived expats living in Germany.

Pictured here: Every foreigner on their first night in Germany


Well, answers were needed.

So I sat down to use my client-free time in 2020 do some (aimless) research and dig deep into 160 social media comments about German pillows and analysed the most popular opinion and sentiments.

Here are the results of my statistical analysis of “German pillows and their perceived usefulness by foreigners in Germany.”

german pillows large

As you can see, a whopping majority of the foreigners downright reject the German pillows. Only a measly 6% of the commenters said they like German pillows or notice no difference at all.

Now we can safely assume from this overwhelming response that the majority of human bodies want adequate spinal support in bed. Then why are these pillows standard in Germany?

Is it really all work and no sleep in Germany? Or is this undeniable proof that Germans are all closet robots who need no sleep? A proper sleep anyways.

One would be hard-pressed to find a foreigner who willingly wants to take the monstrous German pillows to their bed.

Pictured here: Every foreigner on their 190th night in Germany

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What does a typical German bedroom look like?


For the sake of context let’s try to understand the German bedding situation first. Some foreigners also call them “celibacy beds”.

A typical German bed has two single duvets and two massive, non-supporting pillows that cover half the bed. It is also common to have two single mattresses with a love bridge.

German bed covers come in various sizes: 135×200 cm, 155×220 cm, 200×200 cm, 220×200 cm, and 220×250 cm. German pillows have one standard size: 80x80cm. Sometimes, you can find 65×65 cm.

Thankfully, you can also find ergonomic sleeping pillows online


What is the problem with German pillows?


This is my most hated and ‘hard to adapt to’ culture shock of living in Germany. As a clueless Ausländerin, these puffy monstrosities have annoyed me right from the first time I laid my head on one of them.


german pillows terrible


But that is just my opinion, right? What do the other foreigners living in Germany have to say about these pillows?

The pie chart below shows the most common complaints about German pillows design:

Size, Shape, Softness, and Space-efficiency

big german pillows 80 x 80


For the sake of brevity, I will combine them into two broadest complaints about German pillows:

They are pointlessly big! 

These pillows are giant 80×80 cm, way larger than a standard pillow found in most countries. Some consider them just too big and too wide for a normal human head size.

Personally, I see no functional advantage of a square pillow over a rectangular pillow. It is next to impossible to keep the spine in an ideal position all night on them.


They are too soft

The second biggest complaint about German pillows is that they are too squishy and offer no support to your head.

What is the point of these gigantic square puffs that deflate into paper-thin hankies the moment you put your head on them? You may as well be sleeping on your t-shirt.

They are so devoid of filling that my head ends up almost on the mattress and the sides of the pillow fluff in on my face to suffocate me. I mean how often does a pillow tries to kill you?



How do we, the Ausländers, feel about German pillows?


We hate them. Unanimously! And I’m not saying it because I hate these pillows.

The word cloud generated based on the 160 comments about German pillow told me so.

See for yourself.



But why do we, the Ausländers, hate German pillows?

They hurt us!

Most foreigners report that German pillows destroyed their necks and back over the course of a few weeks and months. Some of us even wonder that these square jokes that dare to call themselves pillows must be torture devices in disguise.

On a personal note, these bloated head packs caused my chronic neck and backaches when I was in the uni. Some days the shoulder pain was so bad that it would travel upwards and evolve into a day-long blunt headache.

My neck still hasn’t forgiven me for the time I took to find a decent ergonomic pillow.

Anyway, here are the body parts most damaged by German pillows according to 160 grumpy sleepless foreigners in Germany.

big german pillows


Such a pity that you cannot even get a nice massage to undo this damage thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown these days. Here are some at-home massagers that can relieve some pain caused by these German torture devices.


But what do Germans say about their beloved pillows?


How do they use these pillows anyway? Fold them over? Or do they just raise your upper body? Do they love them? Hate them? What do Germans have to say about these pillows? I found some noteworthy (paraphrased) recommendations on the wild wild web.

You shouldn’t need a pillow at all lying on your back. If you get neck pain when lying on your back without a pillow, you’re probably already suffering back pain and headaches as a result of your poor spine health. Eventually, it can lead to a hump in old age. 


These pillows are customisable and you can get extra filling to increase the thickness. If you drool a lot like me, you can keep replacing the filling, it’s cheap as hell.

german pillows


You are supposed to fold them into half so it stay 80×40. As soon you rest your head on it, the feathers move again, because they want to go back into the 80×80 shape. But they cannot, as your head and shoulders are in the way. As a result, the pillow fits to your sleeping position and keeps your neck and shoulders warm.


What can foreigners do to get a good night’s sleep?


So Germans say you need to fold it in half. And this is exactly what many of us have been doing anyway. At least according to the social media comments that I analysed.

German pillow

However, every time I fold the pillow, I stay awake and curse all night as it wrestles to unfold under my neck. I’ve concluded that folded, balled up, they’re just insufferable in any form! No amount of rearranging them makes them comfy.

Anyway, why on earth would you buy an 80×80 pillow only to fold it into an 80×40 pillow?

It appears that most of the commenters agree with this. Here is how most foreigners deal with the German pillow situation instead of ‘folding it in half’.

Seriously guys, don’t mess around when it comes to a night of healthy sleep. Get yourself a better pillow. It was the BEST thing I did for my sleep hygiene. 



Theories about the existence of German pillows


For most of us, the idea of a pillow is to raise the head and neck and streamline it with the spine. Then why are German pillows so enormous in dimensions and yet SO empty inside? I present some of my theories:

  • They represent some clever German symbolism that the rest of us are too stupid to understand.
  • Or maybe they represent the German sense of humour?
  • Germany is the land of the Grimm mythologies after all, so maybe these pillows are there to induce nightmares as we try to sleep?
  • Germans love Ordnung in all aspects of their life. They exist just to look prim and proper on the bed.
  • These giant pillows can only fit large heads. Maybe they confirm the existence of ancient giant Germans?
  • Put foreigners off Germany since I am yet to meet a German who complaints about the German pillows?

No matter what spawned these monster size pillows into existence, it’s time to chuck them into the bin.


German pillows



Some Alternative Uses of German Pillows


Well, now that you already have these abominations in your house you may as well get something out of them. Here are some of my suggestions for alternate applications of a retired German pillow.


Use them for your babies, toddlers and pets

Use them as a dog or cat bed

Use it in your baby’s bed.

Line your babies pram with it during winter

Train your toddler Houdini to use German pillows as escape pods

Repurpose them for creative and household uses 

Use them as noise cancellation devices when the unruly neighbour doesn’t stop partying until wee hours.

Hide behind them when watching a horror movie

Cry into them when you have not seen the sun in German skies for six months

Turn them into a fashion statement

You go, gurl!

Show some passive-aggressive behaviour

Give it as a present to a good ol’ frenemy

Engage in a pillow fight with your ungrateful toddler

Show some active-aggressive behaviour

Suffocate your German partner when you are over with them for making you put up with Germany for so long

Use them as a punching bag when you’ve had enough of German bureaucracy

Cast a spell and materialise them into a humanoid so you could beat the shit out of them for all those back and neck aches

Lastly, rip them apart into oblivion and get yourself a proper pillow

german pillows seitenschläferkissen
that’s…oddly satisfying!


Do you use a German pillow and woke up this morning with another freakin’ backache? Oh no, knot again! What did you end up doing with your pillow situation? Did you buy a new one or did the German pillow grew on you? Tell us in the comments below? 


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Hi there, I am the human behind this blog. If you could not tell by my photo, I am fueled by tea. My expat journey started at the age of 19. Germany has been my home for several years. I hope you will find some helpful insights if you are considering moving to Germany or already live here.


  • Andy Foote

    The pillows are so much better, in fact – my wife is looking for some right now. Since I’m in the US I have problems with my neck and back – never had those problems before.

    I can only speak for pillows in the US and UK but the german ones top those by far.

  • Pamela

    After months of trial and error, I finally found a pillow equivalent to our cotton pillows back in India. The secret component is shredded memory foam. It’s malleable (little bit) unlike a whole piece of memory foam pillow which is often too firm. I tried Ikea’s €14 memory foam pillow and it caused me neck pain. Then I tried their most expensive €50 down pillow which gave zero support to the neck so I had to return. Finally I ordered my shredded memory foam pillow from amazon. Sleeping peacefully ever since.

  • Damien

    I felt exactly the se way about German pillows – and pillows in many other European countries too – till I shared my perspective with a German friend in Berlin. She couldn’t see the problem and I explained that British or American people expect their pillow to sit in the same place all night while they sleep. ‘Like a brick?’ she asked. I said that well yes we hope to have the pillow at the right height for our neck alignment through the night. ‘Yes, but what about when you move?’ she asked and I couldn’t really say. Most of us move a fair bit in our sleep. Why the European pillow approach is baffling for people not used to it is that the pillow is not to be the perfect profile because there is no such thing. She said that you had to look upon your pillow as something you told and mould to your needs as you sleep. Fold it, hug it, treat it like your bedtime buddy that can adapt to what’s comfortable as the night goes on. The next time I went to bed my experience was transformed and has been ever since. From being somebody who could never get the right pillow to being someone who didn’t expect a magic brick to help me sleep but to trust that with the right tool – a pliable, lightly filled pillow like you get in Germany – my body will work it out I’ve never had a pillow issue since. So my take on the German pillow issue is that once again the Germans show a knack for perfecting things, but as is often also the case, it results in user error when Ausländer get involved! Schlaf gut meine Damen und Herren!

  • Marc

    After reading your entertaining post, I wonder if you are aware of how most Germans actually sleep on these pillows. We don’t spread the pillows out on the bed in their epic 80 x 80 size. Most Germans, at least the ones I know, fold the pillows in half once. And…BOOM…rectangular format, double neck support, softer, with a nice fold to tuck your arm in, which is kept warm from the top and is also soft from the bottom, providing extra support for your head. I have to agree with you completely though, an 80×80 pillow without folding it is hardly better than sleeping directly on the mattress, unless you have some super-bouncy deco pillow from Depot that you then again lie on like a bouncy castle. Also not the real thing. Again, on the other hand, I have a memory foam pillow with neck support. Maybe just buy yourself a decent pillow…it’s not like there aren’t any to buy 😀 – Good luck finding the right pillow for you!!!

    • Yamini

      Hey Marc, thank you for the response. It is meant to be a tongue in the cheek post 🙂 Something that many other foreigners can relate to as one of the culture shocks in Germany. And of course, I’ve been using a proper pillow for years now. Gotta get some sleep after all, don’t I? 😉

  • Iria M Doescher


    I am a German expat in the US and have yet to find the right kind of pillow here I I find them either too soft or too firm). I brought my custom filled German pillows with me and finally had to throw them out because they got old. I hate American pillows. they give me a pain in the neck and back. Just like I always hated the idea of one duvet for two people. Really? How stupid is that. I prefer my own comforter. My husband has converted to that principle, too. When I first came to the US I thought, and still do, that US beds were downright silly. Boxsprings are a waste, so are bedskirts, never mind that they are downright ugly. An unneccesary amount of pillows in all shapes and sizes on the bed? A flat sheet and a duvet? I got rid of the use of flat sheets VERY quickly. Another waste of time and money and not needed. So, just like you have your complaints about German pillows, beds etc…. I have the same complaints about US beds and pillows – but then again, maybe we are simply not sleeping in the correct position to begin with and it might not have anything to do with the beds and pillows.

  • Melody

    I found this post because I feel hopeless about the whole German bed situation. I am now on my third bed here and my back and body are in so much pain! I hate the slats, I have tried two different sets of slats and cannot get the right setting.

    I never had this much difficulty figuring out my mattress and sleep situation back in the States. I have been to two different bed stores to get the right bed and I am starting to massively regret not figuring out how to get my Sleep Number bed here.

    Am I the only one in this boat?! My body refuses to adapt to these cheap mattresses on slats…

  • Duck Creek Street

    I am LOLing. I felt this big. While Amazon had some ok substitutes, once I upgrade to a king-sized bed it really didn’t fly because they don’t even have pilllows that suit a king-sized bed. The only solution was on my next trip to the US, I bought four lushious king-sized pillows and packed them in vacuum packs and shoved them into a suitcase, alongside some new sheets, so I could finally sleep properly.

      • Louise

        Reading this while awake for yet another sleepless night using german pillows. It is really a nightmare. Im also not convinced about they mattress either, why have two singles instead of a double? And why keep one side soft and the other “firmer”? My body’s been aching since I arrived

        • Jon

          I actually love the two mattress system. My wife and I have a 180cm wide bed with 2 90cm mattresses on top of 2 connected but independent 90cm box springs (all from IKEA). On top of those we put a 180cm memory foam mattress topper so there is no gap. Now we can barely notice the other one moving at night because we’re not actually on the same mattress. Most comfortable bed we’ve ever had and when we travel I’m always elated to return to our superior comfort sleeping situation.

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