17 Nov 2009

the art of the angry laundry room note

The most foreign place in Sweden – at least for many immigrants – is the laundry room. Yes, the laundry room. You might think it would be easy – book the laundry room, do your laundry, leave the room relatively clean.


The Swedish laundry room is fraught with bewildering conflicts and Byzantine rules and customs. In a rather stoic (or repressed, depending on your point of view) country, the laundry room has become a place where passions are released, where it is acceptable to express anger.

But not directly. No, you do not express anger directly in a Swedish laundry room. You leave an angry note. Anonymously.

This is not the lament of a sunlight-deprived American immigrant either. The Nordic Museum here in Stockholm just opened an entire exhibition on the Swedish laundry room.

Now an angry anonymous note is not the ideal means of communication. It says a lot about life in a Swedish apartment building, a life of a few polite smiles, almost no words, but also no anger.

It also says something about a lack of resources – many laundry rooms are booked weeks in advance. You have your one shot at laundry for the week. No one better mess that up!

And you also take in and start to honor and live by the laundry room code. I have flashes of pretty intense anger now if there is lint left in the dryer or someone tries to steal my time.

Again, this is not good. Let us take it as a warning from our personal lives to our professional ones. We must communicate better than this. Do not let your company turn into a Swedish laundry room … so to speak.

Nathan Hegedus

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