Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I Scandalize the Neighborhood...

Since we came back from Serbia last month I've been rejoicing in two things:

#1. Heaps of Hot Water:
American showers with nearly endless supplies of hot water are WONDERFUL. I let the water run and run and run. I know I'm a gross-carbon-footprint-wastrel. After Serbian bathrooms I don't care anymore about being environmentally correct. No more little tank mounted on the shower wall with a temperature needle diving toward cold five minutes after the shower starts. No more having to turn off the water, after I put on the shampoo, to conserve enough hot water so I don't freeze when washing it out afterwards. Glory be.

#2. Laundry Takes 35 Minutes:
I do NOT understand. Washing machine technology has been nailed down since the 1940s. Aside from maybe adding a digital clock, nothing has changed. So why do Serbian washing machines take more than two hours to do the job it takes an American machine 35 minutes to do? It's certainly not because there's more work - Serbian machines take about 1/2 the load a US machine will. And it's not because they do a better job - the results are the same. I cannot conceive of how a Serbian family, especially with babies, gets the laundry done given how insanely long it takes.

However, (this is where the Scandal comes in) the Serbs have one thing right for summer months -- they hang laundry outside to dry. Aside from a few hand-wash-only dainties, I never hung laundry in my life until we moved there. Everything feels crisper, smells wonderful, and needs less ironing. (OK, who am I kidding? If you know me, you'll know I haven't ironed since the late 1980s.)

So this weekend I trekked to the store to purchase rope and clips, and then I asked my husband to put up a laundry line for us in the backyard. It is the only laundry line in the entire neighborhood and possibly the entire town. And there's a load of wash flapping out there right now, scandalizing the neighbors. However, they can't do anything about it. We're lucky, we don't live in one of those neighborhoods where there are rules and restrictions about this. (Can you imagine trying to explain to Serbs it's actually not legal to hang laundry outside in parts of America?)

But, even as I hung that laundry in the sunshine I sent a prayer of thankfulness up for the existence of our dryer. I never saw a dryer in any Serb home we visited. They must exist, but not perhaps frequently. I cannot imagine the horribleness of trying to get laundry dry all winter long without one.


Anonymous said...

serbs are in no rush like americans living in the rat-race... it's that simple, as to why they dont mind it takes 2 hours to do laundry :)

Dimitri Thompson said...


That was hilarious...Once you did break it down for me, I realized how right you are! Now living in States and enjoying all of the above...
Other thing missing in Serbia, there is no Coin Laundry places, as in USA or England, so if you have a big Laundry Day and/or need to dry it, you have a choice.

I have to ask my Belgrade friends with baby's what they do.....
Thanks for the tummy shake!

Anonymous said...

I know a Serbian woman who moved to America, has lived there for years, and complains that American washing machines don't really get the clothes CLEAN.

The thing I've seen here in Serbia is the washing machines with dryer in one, as in you don't have to take the clothes out of the washing machine to dry them. However it can take hours to dry in that kind of machine, and with the price of electricity here...

Drying in winter isn't so bad, you just take your drying racks indoors-- it helps add some moisture to the dry indoor air, too.