Thursday, February 12, 2015

The infamous Swedish laundry room

Expats love to talk about the Swedish laundry room situation.

There are tons of blog posts and comments in Facebook groups about the rearing of the collective Swedish passive aggressiveness in the form of snide handwritten notes left for co-users of the communal laundry rooms to chastise one another for stealing times or leaving the laundry room in an untidy state.

(Sometimes it goes beyond passive aggressiveness, though, as there are actually a significant number of police reports every year relating to laundry room threats and violence!)

I never had a problem with it (in fact I was fairly enamored with the whole situation), probably because when we lived in Hammarby Sjöstad our laundry room was accessed via electronic key so only the person who had booked the room could enter during their allotted time. Even though there was a little note-jotting area with pens, pencils and Post-its, I never once left, came across, or received a note.

Then we moved to Vasastan, and here our laundry room is accessed via a normal key, meaning even if you haven't booked a time, you can enter.

And therein lies the gateway to...situations.

Meaning that last week I hit another Swedish milestone: the leaving of a laundry room note and the partaking in of an argument. In Swedish.

I had booked my usual 11AM-2PM slot and when I unlocked the laundry room door at 10:59AM the first thing I heard was the sound of washing machines going. I checked the three machines—all of them were in use and all of them had another 20 minutes to go. I began to get angry, having just lugged down our 10 days worth of laundry and knowing I'd have to carry it all back up and then down again in 20 minutes.

I checked the board: no one had booked time before me (and even if they had, it wasn't exactly proper etiquette to overlap so egregiously into the next person's time). So, I did what the Swedes do, I went to the message board, grabbed a pen and Post-it, and left a note that said this in Swedish:
"I booked the laundry room for 11AM—you haven't booked any time at all and yet you've taken mine! Now I must wait 20 minutes for you. That's not how it works!"
Not exactly polite, but not rude, either. Just straightforward.

I came down twenty-five minutes later and found an irate man moving his washed clothes to the drying machines. That's right, he was irate with me! He began interrogating me and I tried my best to keep up (all of the arguing was conducted in Swedish and while I can write and read pretty well at a basic level, I rarely speak, so, this was quite a test for me).

Essentially he said we must cooperate and work together, I said that's fine, but how is it cooperating if you steal my time and make me wait for you? He said he had booked a time and I said, where? He showed me on the board—he'd booked the 2PM-5PM slot, upon which I asked him what time it was now (11:25AM). He huffed and puffed and slammed his way out.

After our altercation I was fuming, even more so because I knew that the drying machines take longer than the washing machines and I'd have to wait yet again for him, but when I came down again 32 minutes later, he was already there meekly removing his things from the dryer. We didn't chit chat, but he did say he'd hurry up the pace so I could use the machines immediately.

I've no idea what calmed his temper (comparatively), but through the entire ordeal he never once apologized to me.

But I still felt slightly vindicated. And Swedish.

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One year ago: The waiting game and spilt milk
Two years ago: Monday meanders: 6 & Hurraw! lip balms & Tape, red or otherwise

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