It’s true, i can now say I have cried over laundry. It is ironic…..when we were considering making the move to Switzerland, I started looking at other ex-pat blogs, and everyone had two cliche posts: one about how awful the laundry process is in Switzerland and the second on receiving at least one to two noise complaints typed in French from neighbors.
Ok, on to the laundry & basement part….
When we moved into the temporary place, we were given 3 keys. The guy who helped us in had shown us the basement upon our request. We assumed one of the keys got us down there.
After about 3 days of cooking all meals in the apartment, we realized we should probably take out the trash. We went down to the basement and tried to figure out where it should go. There were no other trash receptacles that looked fit for an apartment, no chutes, nada. There was a bit of recycling in one corner but I dragged it all out and it was definitely all paper, bottles, etc. In my “Living and Working in Switzerland” book, the cautionary phrase below is listed and we didn’t want to break the rules and were thus perplexed what we should do.
Gabe emailed our contact (in Connecticut by the way) and asked what we should do. We were told they’d look into it. 24 hours later, they said the management company reported the trash receptacle was just beyond the laundry room. What they were describing was the recycling room. We couldn’t take the smell anymore so I left our bag with the recycling, on the other side of the room. I hope that it qualified as correct and prayed i wouldn’t be taken to be shackled for trash neglect in the gallows of Old Town.
About a day later, I realized I should probably do the laundry since Gabe was going on a business trip and likely didn’t have enough clothes at this point. I knew it was forbidden on Sundays (no working of any kind in Switzerland on Sunday, even washing cars, yard work, or drying laundry) so I waited until Monday morning and blocked the morning off for it. I tromped downstairs and found…a locked basement. None of my 3 keys worked. I was unsure if it was still in the Sunday zone or not and they had put a special lock on it, so i waited, and checked every hour. At noon, the cleaning lady came with a guy from the building. He could speak a small bit of English, so I tried to explain that we couldn’t get downstairs. We walked and he tried all my keys. He informed me we didn’t have a key to the downstairs and if it was unlocked prior, then it was because negligent tenants had not fully closed the door behind them.
The cleaning lady was really nice and went and got a brand new key for me. Yippee, laundry time!! I tromped downstairs again. I got in the basement but this time the laundry door was locked!!! I tried all of my keys and this time, one worked if i pushed and slide my body into the door. Success!!!
I already knew European machines were much smaller, so I had subdivided the laundry into 3 loads. I guessed how much liquid detergent to put in (it was in mL) and I pulled the key card out (it had 50 CHF of credits on it) and stuck it in as instructed. The washing machine said it needed a certain # of credits to do the load but it didn’t match to what was available on the card/payment box. I just went over what I needed so I could do the full load and it deducted 6 credits. $6CHF (roughly 8 USD) to do one wash?
Nevertheless, my husband just needed shirts washed, so continued on. When it got to drying it was the same thing. It needed 31 credits but you could only buy then in 15’s. So, to get it to work, i had to buy 45 credits. However, the dryer wouldn’t do any more than 31 minutes at a time and you couldn’t use the leftover 14 minutes. After one go, the laundry was only halfway dry, so I had to buy another round of 3 for a total of $6CHF – $12 CHF in all which is about $16 USD for one load, and i still had another 2 loads to go….this was going to cost about $45USD to do 3 loads.
I felt like Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” when he was ripping hot dog buns open in the grocery story because he only needed a certain amount of buns:
I ended up air drying half our stuff on the bed in response. I couldn’t open up the wine I decided I needed either, and so when Gabe got home, I greeted him with tears and a bottle of wine stabbed with a corkscrew motioning for him to help.
Today it is a bit funny, looking back, how upset I was. However, i think it is my first true experience with culture shock. In one of my books it defines interpersonal culture shock as, “The ‘loss’ of or changes to the (capable, humorous, supportive, etc) person you know yourself to be.” Never in my life have i had so much trouble with trash or housework or for sure, opening a bottle of wine. It has always come naturally. I guess I’ll just have to see what the next one will be!! Stay tuned for more crazy stories about mundane Swiss life!