Wherein Scratchy Towels Make You Stronger. . .

Recently on the Facebook, I noted that I had some wonderfully exciting new hobbies since my move to London. They are surely too exciting to read about in large numbers, so I just shared the following highlights:

1) watching videos about British appliances on You Tube
2) debating the best bus apps with strangers
3) weighing food
4) drying clothes with a hairdryer
5) deciphering minimalist pictograms on my oven

The thread that followed blew up with talk of (surprisingly) laundry! (I thought those YouTube videos would stimulate massive chat.) Apparently, on Facebook, you can post an apocalyptic update about the futility of existence and hear nothing but crickets, but you try living without a dryer and the people of Facebook want to talk it ALL out.

Truth be told, most Americans consider having a clothes dryer a God-given right, up there with cable TV and good parking spaces. And after a lifetime of fluffy towels and clothing dried within an hour, who can blame them? People come from all over the WORLD to have access to Kenmore and its myriad heat settings.

But me, I’m living without a dryer, in a country that is famous for its rain and its damp, and it makes laundry a bit of a chore (and your attendance to the weather gods a vital part of life.) And I’m not alone here–£1,000,000 flats often don’t have dryers.

The Facebook discussion revealed that beyond my non-dryer woes, other countries have other laundry rituals–some the same (lots of Germans don’t have dryers either) and some devote entire days and unheard-of equipment (manglers, drying cabinets, etc.) to the task (Sweden.)

It’s times like these when you realize how little you actually know about anything at all. You’re given your own little piece of the world to see, like you’re looking through a microscope, and try as you might, you can’t step back and see the big picture. What does a paramecium know of the larger world, after all? Are you and your dryer-having, non-scented laundry detergent loving ways the BEST ways to do laundry ever? Or are you so locked into your cultural bias that you can’t even see that there are other ways to do laundry? And oh, how comfortable are those cultural biases! They convince you that your way is the best way, that new ways are scary! Bad! Uncomfortable! Sleep depriving!

Here’s a truism of living in another country: Your own cultural biases THAT YOU DIDN’T EVEN KNOW YOU HAD will be constantly confronted. You won’t know that the way you do laundry (in part) defines who you are, but you’ll learn that it does.

But you didn’t move across an ocean to do continue in the same old, same old ways of your life, and you will realize that self-examination is both a bitch and the pathway to some serious thoughtful living. And you will figure out this laundry thing because at the end of the day, it’s a big world, you get to see a brand-new part of it, and WHO WANTS TO BE DEFINED BY LAUNDRY? Because, I, pulp fans, seek more important means of self-definition, and seeing as loads of Brits are justfinethankyouverymuch without a dryer, I can join them and move onto bigger questions.

Like stain removal.


5 thoughts on “Wherein Scratchy Towels Make You Stronger. . .

  1. My mother-in-law lives in a 150 year old house next to the ocean WITH NARY A DRYER! During the winter it is manageable due to wood stoves and their heating/drying effects. But musty towels are the bane of our existence. Ever try to dry a towel on the clothes line whilst a “fog storm” is rolling in? My MIL makes a brave attempt at it. 🙂 Meanwhile… she gets on with playing her fiddle, painting and making tea cause Nova Scotians are essentially misplaced Britons. :-)))

  2. Honestly, there are more important things to worry about, but man did laundry become a symbol for this new life.

    In other news, I think I’m going to write GET ON WITH IT in Sharpie above my front door. 🙂

  3. Ooh, manglers! I had access to a mangler in my college at Cambridge years ago. At first I found it befuddling, but it eventually became my favorite part of my new English laundry process. My recent rental flat in London, however, had a two-in-one washer/dryer, which was fascinating in its own right. Never did figure out the pictograms on the oven though, so stuck to stove-top cooking.

    As for weighing food, if only we could convince Americans to do that. It is the *best* way to cook (*especially*) for baking. Or so says my spouse, who does more precise cooking than I do.

    1. Hilariously, even an online search for a manual has been fruitless in helping me to navigate my oven. Learning to really cook here is like learning a new language! I’ve had a LOT of inexplicably burnt cakes and unplanned stuck pot dishes since I’ve arrived.

      1. Yes, I also had bad luck looking for an online manual for my Italian oven. Come on, European appliances, get with it! Hope you figure out yours — maybe you’ll meet a neighbor with the same one or just crack the code by trial and error. Good luck!

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