The most dangerous place in Sweden
When I’d first arrived in Sweden, I stayed for a while in student accommodation dorms. I’d landed in a country without knowing a single person so at once, I tried to befriend the natives. I’d asked a few new friends on differing occasions if they would like to eat dinner together to which I got the reply, “No, I’m doing my laundry”. What? had my reputation for being a bad cook already hit Swedish shores? What type of a country was this, where doing your laundry is more important then a shared meal?? And how rude was that, to actually say that to a person without any added embellishments? (well I’d love to! of course, but I have those assignments due…) But it was nup, point blank. I’d rather do my laundry then eat with you.
When this had happened for the third time, I’d finally plucked up the courage to ask one of my new friends why everyone was obsessed with laundry, and why or why would they not come a join me for some crispy yet still frozen in the middle fish fingers? “Oh, you don’t know the laundry room rules yet do you?” he’d said, as if a light bulb had just been flicked on. “The what?” I’d replied. “The laundry room rules, everyone must follow them, or…” his voice trailed off. His eyes darted from side to side.
So it turns out that Sweden has some very hard and fast rules about when and how you are to do your laundry. Everyone must follow them or must suffer the consequences: no clean clothes or undies for another week.
Nearly every apartment block in Sweden has its own, large fully equipped laundry room in its basement usually with quite a few washing machines and differing methods for drying your clothes. There is a strict booking system for this room, with the days of the month broken up into 3 or 4 hourly slots. Special laundry room booking keys, wooden pegs or digital systems are used.The nights spots and the weekend spots are the hardest to come by. And this is why the violence occurs.
With slight regional variations, the laundry room rules are thus:
1. You must book time to do your laundry. You can’t just randomly decide at the last minute that you need to put a load on, it must be carefully planned. In an overly busy apartment building, planning of up to two weeks ahead is sometimes needed.
2. If you miss your time, you are screwed. You will in most cases have to re-book and remain undieless for another week to 10 days.
3. If you miss your time because you are at a cafe with your friends, after the first hour another bastard is allowed to take your spot.
4. FOR FUCKS SAKE, CLEAN THE LINT OUT OF THE DRYER.
5. Leave the room as you found it, as clean and clear as a Swedish lake.
Failure to meet any of these requirements can mean eviction from your apartment building. With multiple offenses, it can mean eviction from Sweden.
Fights over the laundry room are not uncommon and some can even turn violent. In Stockholm in 2008, there were more than 70 cases of laundry-related threats and beatings reported to police. More common however is the good old fashioned ‘laundry room angry note’ that are left with references to time keeping, tidiness and rule following. The only rules it seems for those are that they need to be passive aggressive and above all, anonymous.
Here are a few stories that are based on truth, no liberties have been taken;
- A friend of mine has lived in the same small apartment block for the past ten years. She knows her neighbours, no one has moved in/out in a while. One day, she did her laundry but unfortunately, forgot to go and pick it up until the next day. She’d expected to find it either in the drying room where she’d left it or dumped on the table nearby. She found it in the rubbish bin. Someone had been so pissed off that she’d dare leave her clothes there accidentally, they felt it had been a normal reaction to place their neighbours freshly washed clothes, in the bin.
- In the apartment block where my parent-in-laws live the body corporate of the apartment block changed the laundry room booking system. They were all promptly voted out of office.
Oh yes Sweden. It’s all fun and games until someone gets their knickers in a knot. Literally.
The following are examples of real laundry room angry notes:
“You who stole my laundry key, may your balls burn in hell!”
“Dear neighbour that thought it was a good idea to nick a place in the drying cupboard and hang a stinking red hoodie in with my clean laundry.
Thanks a fucking lot, you disgusting dead bastard of satan! Now all of my laundry smells just as bad as your disgusting hoodie. What have you done? Rolled in fermented herring?
But I was a good neighbour and washed it, along with all the other laundry I had to re-wash. I had to use chlorine, because nothing else would help. The hoodie became pink but I don’t think it because any uglier. By the way, you are probably so ugly you that you don’t look good in red or pink. Doesn’t matter what suits you, no one will pay attention to you because you smell like a corpse and potatoes.
Once again, you are an asshole and should die. Look out!”