Life, Laundry

>> Friday, 28 September 2012

It's a wonderful thing, this expat lifestyle. It causes you to cross paths with people from so many different backgrounds and cultures in a way that you might never have done if you'd stayed put in your country of origin.

After a while, you notice certain similarities in lifestyle and expectations between different nationalities and begin to understand some of the reasons behind them. The French, for example, really do eat a more civilized diet than some of the rest of us. The Italians really do have a flair for interior design. And the North Americans often have a way of doing barbecues that those of us who grew up in slightly rainier climates can only look upon and marvel.

Now, I like to believe that family life in Western Europe is equipped with the majority of the modern conveniences a 21st-century family would need, from Wi-Fi in every room through increasingly huge fridge-freezers to 200 channels on the TV (very few of which carry much worth watching). And Moscow life, in most expat homes, is much the same. Sure, there may be a higher level of dirt to clean up (inescapable when there are power stations inside the city and so many cars on the roads), and it may take longer to get things done simply because this is such an enormous city, but overall the home-based domestic burden is not so dissimilar here to the one I coped with back in London.

Take the laundry, for example. "Back home" we have what I would call perfectly acceptably sized washers and driers, and the same is true here. Or at least, they seem so, to those of us who have never lived in the U.S.

But North Americans seem to have something of an obsession with the laundry facilities here in Moscow. New arrivals — if the subject comes up — express disbelief at the size of the drums in washing machines and tumble dryers that are standard in Moscow homes, complaining that they have to do the laundry every day just to keep up with their family's demands.

I was always confused by this particular complaint because, well, yeah. That's what you do — what you have to do — with two or more children, isn't it? It was only when a (non-North American) friend told me of her experiences in the U.S. this summer, when she came face-to-face with the laundry facilities in some average American homes, that it finally started to make sense to me. These machines, she tells me, are so big that most families can do an entire week's coloured wash in one go. So big, in fact, that her 6-year-old son could fit inside. (Don't try this at home, folks.)

Which, I have to admit, does rather put the daily juggling act that those of us living in Moscow need to do with our whites, coloureds and darks, into perspective.

OK, North American brethren. Finally, I get it. You are officially allowed to be flummoxed by the laundry situation.

This post first appeared on my other blog, 'Diaries of a Moscow Mum' over on The Moscow Times Online.


MsCaroline 28 September 2012 at 07:55  

It's the same over here in Korea - all of my European friends don't seem to have any problems at all with the laundry arrangements, but those of us from the US/Canada are used to much bigger machines and doing far less frequent loads of laundry. A constant refrain on blogs and websites written by and for North Americans moving to Seoul: negotiate with your landlord in advance for American machines. We only had room for the drier, so we still have to do multiple loads in our Korean washer - but I can put 3 or 4 of them in the dryer at once and be done with it all in about an hour - ahhhhh.

Russia Lite 28 September 2012 at 09:11 IS flummoxing.
I, of course, have the pony mum excuse for my insanely huge (and very elegant navy blue) washer and dryer in the US of A, and I give them nothing but the finest detergent, softener and rinse thingy. In turn, they give me fluffy, clean, sparkling clothes. Unlike my washer and dryer here in Moscow, which one needs a microscope to see and which produce blocks of sandpaper-covered concrete for towels.


nappy valley girl 28 September 2012 at 14:08  

Ah, but the thing UK expats in America find is that although the washing machines ARE huge, they are generally not as good at washing clothes as the European ones. For example a typical cycle is about 45 minuts, whereas in a European machine it would be an hour and a half or more. It's much more difficult to wash at a high temperature. The machine in our old house was very frustrating. In the new one, we have machines which are both huge and have several cycles to choose from, but they still don't wash as well as the ones at home.

London City (Mum) 28 September 2012 at 17:39  

Sod the bloody machines. I am still looking for the laundry fairy.
She's not in Moscow perchance, is she?


Iota 28 September 2012 at 18:36  

Agree with NVG. The American machines are big and fast, but don't get the clothes clean. On the other hand, they are big enough to fit a 6 year old child in, as you say, and I found they got the children perfectly clean, even if they didn't do a good job on the clothes.

I have a washer-dryer at the moment, which I HATE.

Expat mum 28 September 2012 at 22:37  

LMAO at Iota, and have to agree with Nappy. However, I bought a new washer and dryer last year and they both have more than three programs on them and, they seem to be doing a fairly decent job. The ones I had before literally had a hot, warm and cold wash.
And even though my washer is huge, I still seem to be doing a load a day on average. What the hell is going on here? I think the laundry fairy" must actually just be some cow who takes clothes from one family and dumps them in someone else's hamper!

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