Let's just say European ovens are different, and I'm an idiot. To work the oven, there's two dials. One sets the temperature, the other lets you pick which heating elements you want on. You can just do the bottom (like most US ovens), the top, both, or the broiler. I can only assume that the top is like "low broil" and the broil is like "high broil." If you have an electric oven, you don't set a temperature, but rather a number like 1,2,3, etc.
In New Zealand, they had this two dial system too, plus the oven I used had a convection oven. Talk about options! So when I moved into our home in Germany, I was like, "oh I so know how this works."
One pizza that took 45 min to cook later, I wasn't so smug.
First, I blamed our landlord, then I blamed the prior tenants for breaking the oven and not telling the landlord. Then I blamed myself for not knowing how to work an oven. And yes, I even checked online. You know something should be idiot-proof when you can't google how to use it.
Then, I figured maybe the dial was off.... it didn't seen to click over the pictures. I would turn it to a setting, see which elements got hot, then record it on a little chart. But it didn't seem to be the same each time! And if I turned it to like 500 degrees F, the broiler would kick on.
So I spent an entire afternoon cooking a chicken, sitting on the floor, watching the oven. And ate lukewarm enchiladas and a questionable meatloaf. I was ready to call the landlord.
Tonight, I had an epiphany. The dials were switched! I was setting the temperature instead of the heating element, and the other way around. So on the element dial, the top and bottom element option is the first option, which is what they recommend you use for most things. Because I was setting my dial to that not realizing it was the temperature setting, I was only cooking my food at the lowest temperature possible (so like 200 degrees F)!
Duh.... see that thermometer above one of the dials? That should have been the first clue. Wow.
I have this picture in my mind of the tenants before us sitting around plotting ways to mess with us. Well, whoever you are, you got me.