Monday, February 21, 2005
housework in france is weird
I am the first to tell you that I not only hate housework with a passion, but I also suck at it. Back in my single days, I did the absolute bare minimum. I mean, I wasn't slovenly, but you know, dusting? It's only gonna get dusty again. Since I've lived alone most of the time since I graduated college (with the exception of one very very wacky roommate), I generally got motivated to do the housework once a month and furiously cleaned everything in one go.
Well, that won't fly here, as much as I've tried. One thing is that I've got The Inspector (my mother-in-law) who likes to make surprise visits, and while Steph will happily shove her out the door, she certainly keeps me on my toes. She once offered to do my ironing for me, when she saw the clothes waiting in the hamper for me to do them the next day. I was horrified.
While Steph and I laugh about The Inspector, the truth is housework is my only responsibility now, aside from learning French. Until I find a job, this is it. It's funny, when I was working, I was like a totally different person. My mother was so surprised when she visited my office once - she looked around at my clean, orderly, organized area and said, "This is your desk?" So really, I have no excuse.
The thing is, there are subtle differences in things I just took for granted back home. Things like...
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The Laundry Marathon
Clearly, it could be worse.
Doing four loads of laundry literally takes me all day. It's not a big deal, as laundry is not exactly the back breaking work it was many moons ago, but I'm used to finishing a whole cycle of laundry in an hour and a half. Here, both the washer and dryer units are self-contained. This means if you want to wash your clothes in warm or hot water, the washer will warm up the water in the machine. One load of warm/hot laundry will take two hours in the washer. It's nice that I can take a hot shower at the same time, but that's about the only advantage I've found so far. Due to limited space, the washer is in the kitchen (and also serves as extra counter space) and the dryer is in the bedroom. Except for the noise factor, I kind of like it being in the bedroom, as I don't have far to carry around laundry once it's done, and it's an extra heat source in the winter.
This leads us to...
The Iron Housewife
Allez faire le repassage!
I do something here that I never dreamed I'd do before: I iron bedsheets.
Just let that sink in for a sec.
There is an ungodly amount of calcium in the water here. (Does this make water hard or soft? Whatever it is, my hair is still a wreck.) It makes anything washed in it so stiff that in homes all over France, everything is ironed, down to the underwear.
Underwear, people! I have issues with this!
I am so lucky. I have managed to find the appropriate combination of fabric softener and ceremonial prayer dancing that I am assured that ironing the underwear is not necessary. Unfortunately, blue jeans and bedsheets do not pass the test. While I've never ironed my own blue jeans, Steph does insist on his being done. At least I don't put creases in. That would just be silly.
There are a couple of other things, but I'm going to save them for another post. Maybe my fellow ex-pats can think of other things that they found strange in their everyday routines?