Bloggen för Expats | Living in Sweden | Swedish culture

How to get on with your Swedish neighbours (Part 1)

May 25, 2016 anne_pihl
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It might seem like an odd subject to start with but my first blog post in this series is about laundry rooms, which are probably the most common causes of arguments in apartment buildings.

What’s a laundry room and how does it work?

Most Swedish apartment buildings have a laundry room in the basement, which is for all the building’s residents. Use of this room is included in the rent. Some apartments have a washing machine and dryer in the bathroom but this is far from the norm. Laundry rooms usually have washing machines, tumble dryers and a drying cupboard. They also have a strict booking schedule.

Breach the schedule at your peril!

Believe it or not, you can alienate your neighbours before you’ve even met them by straying from the schedule. Doing laundry at a time you haven’t booked or been designated, or leaving laundry in machines over your alloted time are considered to be serious transgressions. Failure to remove fluff or lint from machines can also lead to neighbour fury. It’s an unusually strong response from the normally non-confrontational Swedes.

The ultimate bad beginning

Breaches of laundry room etiquette can lead to public shaming, usually in the form of an angry note hung on the laundry room door. If your offending laundry can be identified, you will be named and shamed! Angry laundry room notes and how to respond to them are considered to be an art form by some. Writing them is even a standard assignment in Swedish copywriting and PR courses.

A compulsory element in integration training

In a recent news report featuring a group of newly arrived refugees being shown around their accommodation, I was amused to see that the minute long report included a 15 second clip of the housing coordinator lecturing on the importance of removing lint from the dryer. Even though these refugees had just spent hours on a bus to the outback of northern Sweden and some of the group appeared to be encountering electric appliances for the first time, laundry room etiquette was prioritised.

But exceptions do exist

My own first laundry room experience was a very pleasant surprise. New in Sweden and blissfully unaware of the do’s and don’ts of laundry rooms, I put on a machine load of baby clothes to wash and then promptly forgot all about them. When I returned, many hours later, the fairy godmother of laundry had been at work and had already dried and neatly folded all the clothes. The rareness and enormity of this kind gesture were a little lost on me at the time and we moved shortly afterwards, but whoever you were, Gustavlundsvägen 171 in Alvik, December 1998 – THANK YOU.

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