It’s very strange, but very Swedish behavior, I am told — a passive-aggressive tradition of warfare in the community laundry room. This is a little piece of Swedish culture previously unknown to me.

I have to say, I was amused. Perhaps it amused me because this was my first — and only a temporary — foray into the world of the shared Swedish laundry room. But, it is there that the conflict-avoiding Swede will lash out with venomous vengeance without actually having to come into contact with anyone. Who knew? This takes skill.


Two weeks ago, our washing machine sputtered its last cycle. My sambo and I have a washer and a dryer in our apartment, so I have never had to venture down to the basement of our building to use the community laundry facility. Most apartment buildings in Sweden have such a shared space. Quite lovely. Or so I thought.

Like a regular laundromat, our shared laundry is equipped with a couple washers, a large-capacity washer, a drier and the drying room. I, personally, love the drying room as one can hang sheets and blankets over the clothesline, turn on a big fan, and when you return your clothes are dry and ready to fold. The laundry room is free of charge and all one needs to do is sign up for a time slot and the room is yours for the span of four hours or so.

That was my first mistake.

It is not four hours or so. It is four hours. Not a minute earlier. Not a minute later. Woe to the person that leaves their clothes in the drying room five minutes into the next person’s laundry time. It doesn’t matter if the next person in the queue will not be using the drying room for another hour (while their clothes are in the washer). Running over your time slot is absolutely unacceptable.

Inquiring as I do when presented with a new piece of Swedish culture, I have had friends tell me stories of people who have become so incensed by others not following the rules that they ripped the clothes off the drying line and threw them willy nilly, or in a heap on the floor. Scathing notes have been delivered to the mailbox of a person who failed to clean up after themselves, or mop the floor of any random drops of water.

In my case, I neglected to remove the lint fluff from the dryer. My bad!

When I lived in the U.S., I was fortunate to have a washroom in my home, but I also made frequent trips to the laundromat to wash extra large loads of curtains or winter clothing which my home equipment couldn’t handle. I can’t quite recall, but I don’t remember ever having to remove the lint from a commercial drier. Doesn’t it get sucked out in a big air tube into fluff heaven? I don’t know … but I really didn’t give it any thought until … my lint fluff was delivered to me, via my apartment mail slot, with a nasty note from the lady who followed me in the queue.

“Really?” I giggled to my guy. “Oh yeah. This is totally a Swedish thing,” he explains to me with a grin. "This is Swedish culture."

We are now in possession of our new washer and while I'll miss that drying room, I thank my lucky stars that I will not have to make trips to the basement in the future. It’s just too scary.

By Lisa Mikulski