International laundry

I haven’t traveled very much but when I do my favorite thing is seeing the little day to day things that everyone does differently over the world.

Like, in Canada, we put the toilet paper in the toilet and flush it, but in Greece they put it in the garbage so they don’t block the toilet. That’s a small thing, but I guess that’s why I find it interesting. You never think of the small things you do every day that you could be doing completely differently.

I was reading a book today that’s set in Scotland and even though the family is rich, they have a drying room where they hang clothes to dry. Someone was telling me the other day that when she lived in London they dried clothes on a clotheshorse and, especially in small apartments will have a contraption in the kitchen that you can use to hoist the drying clothes up to the ceiling to keep them out of the way and so they will dry faster. Here, we might hang some things on the indoor or outdoor line, but as far as I know most people use a dryer.

It makes me think about all the different ways people do the same things. I wish I could see inside other people’s houses all over the world but since I can’t, maybe dopers can tell me about all the thrilling and exotic ways people do day-to-day household things differently in different places?

I already know about bidets. Another thing that I found weird in Greece was the proliferation of hot sandwich irons and shaken iced nescafe. Having not traveled much, what other little household things are people doing completely differently from in North America?

Sounds like a fun thread. Unfortunately I’ve never been out of north america, so i’ll bump it for ya.

I think the problem is, everyone thinks what they do IS normal and assumes that everyone else does it the same way. So, instead of asking people about what they do, perhaps the question should be, what have you noticed people in other cultures do that struck you as different.

To get started: I stayed with a friend in England a few years back (Leeds, if this is a regional difference) and was amazed that she didn’t rinse her dishes. That is, she handwashed them in soapy water and then just set them into the drainer to dry.

As opposed to: wash in soapy water, then rinse that water off, either by dipping into a second pan of plain water or (more common, I think) passing them under running water from the faucet, and then putting them in the drainer.

I asked her about the no rinse, because I’d always understood that leaving soap residue on the dishes was likely to lead to intestinal upsets/diarrhea, but she said ‘everyone does it this way’ and there’s no problems.

Not us, we know we’re weird. :smiley:

My Wife and I live in the Colorado Mountains. It’s a very snowy climate, we usually have snow on the ground for six months out of the year. Summers rarely get above 80 degrees. And winters often see –20 f for at a week or so. I don’t mind the long winters so much, but summer sure does come and go fast.

I don’t have to mow grass, but I do plow snow in the winter. It’s a trade off. I think I would rather plow anyway. We both drive 4 wheel drives (yes SUVs). And our ‘commute’ to work takes us over the continental divide, which is only about ½ mile from our house.

We live in a passive solar home, and until recently, heated with one big wood stove in the main room. About 6 cords of wood a year. This worked pretty well, but was quite dirty. Lots of dust and bark chips everywhere. It was also a lot of work.

Our bedroom would often get down to 50 degrees or so, but we like to sleep in the cold, so that was fine with us. The worst part was getting the house warmed up after work. And it was kind of a drag in the mornings before work. The fire was usually out by then, and the house getting cool.

Now, we have a propane stove (looks like a wood stove). Not as rustic, but it sure is nice to be able to set a thermostat.

I too am interested in how other folks live. I don’t think I could tolerate the TP in the trash though.

The first time I showed Mr. Athena how to put salt on ice patches on the driveway to melt them, he was amazed. He grew up in Texas and California; I’m grew up in the frozen north. I thought it was common knowledge that ice + salt = rapid melt, he’d never heard of it.

Along similiar lines: A common feature in homes here is a “mud room.” That is, a place to sit down and take off your muddy/rainy/snowy boots, big jacket, and hat & mittens before actually entering the “real” house.

When I was living in Greece, it wasn’t uncommon for different parts of the house to be accessed by going outside. That is, to get from the living room to, say, the bedroom, you left the living room, walked down a short outdoor walkway, then entered the bedrooms. Ain’t no way we’d get away with that up here!

Yes! That’s what I mean. I guess the only way to know is if you’ve stayed in other places. I also find it weird that people who move to Canada from other people don’t seem to keep too many of their habits. But the problem is, the ones that do I don’t notice or think are exotic. But not rinsing dishes is really weird to me too.

The other thing is that even it’s hard to really know what’s normal in another place. If I visited enipla I might think it was common for Americans to live that way.

Some other things about Greece were that people use their balconies to the hilt. They will have the table outside with the tablecloth and centerpiece and all, and just treat it like another room. A lot of people even have a little bed out there for taking a nap. Here, I can’t imagine bothering with all that since anything I put out there will need constant dusting and washing. I don’t spend enough time out there to make it worth it. They conserve water like crazy, and line-dry most stuff, so it seemed crazy to me to be so free with the linens. But it’s so nice to have dinner outside. Almost everyone keeps water in pop bottles in the fridge since it doesn’t get too cold from the tap.

And they put the fries right into the hotdog or sandwich. In places that don’t serve full out fries, they used those shoestring potato chips. It’s like any fast food on a bun isn’t complete without something resembling a fry in it. So if it’s a cart or a little shack at the beach, they put the chips in it. I can’t remember what those chips are called, they’re slivered like fries. You barely see them in Canada. I don’t know if that was a trend at the time I was there or if it’s still going strong.

Toasted ham and cheese sandwiches were everywhere too and they just called that “Tost.” It seemed like a quick breakfast or snack of choice.

I was also suprised that you could smoke in the bank and the tellers would be seated, and have a real cup and saucer of coffee and an ashtray for their own comfort. This was ten years ago, but ten years ago that was a pretty different scene from banks here where they already weren’t even allowed to sit down or leave a water bottle in view lest the customers notice they are humans and not customer service robots.

You could also buy cigarettes, candy, porn and phone cards at kiosks on every block. The porn wasn’t hidden at all so I guess if you walk down the street as a kid, you find out what the human anus looks like whether you’re ready or not. That also blew my mind. Mainstream men’s fashion magazines had sex inserts in them and nobody thought anything of seeing a male or female reading something like that out in the open on a bus or in a cafe.

On the local news, if someone died in a scandalous way, the dead body was shown on TV. I only saw that once but I was told that was normal.

Even though it was ten years ago now, Canada was very different.

I have friends from all over the world, and I notice that when they tell me about their countries, they always focus on huge things and the details never seem important to them. Especially when it is sort of like here, but with a difference.

I even love to go to a grocery store in another town and see how different it is. Going to Walmarts in the states, or a grocery store, there is such an amazing difference. It seems like so much more stuff. It even seems weird to not see any French side to the packaging. It makes you feel like you’re surrounded by props in a movie. Everything is so simple and absurdly abundant.

It blew my mind to find out on this very message board that not only are you supposed to take your shoes off in Canada, but that Canadian people didn’t seem to realize it was odd at all - I think it might even have been a Pit thread about “how dare you walk in my house with your shoes!” when half the people in the thread were all, “huh? how was I supposed to know that?!” Evidently there’s even, like, bags to put your nice shoes in for when you get there. It doesn’t surprise me when other countries have etiquette things like that, but I think of Canadians as basically like me only they eat that weird poutine thing.

One thing that struck me about Scotland, or at least Edinborough, was that people pretty much ignore the rain. Put on your raincoat, put the plastic thingy over the baby carriage and hit the High Street, business as usual.

I was also surprised, although I probably shouldn’t have been, to see whisky listed along side beer, wine and soft drinks at pretty much every restaurant, whether they had a bar or not.

It took me a few sessions of sitting around waiting in restaurants to realize that the server was not going to come back to my table unless I asked him or her to. In American restaurants, they usually come around to see if you want anything else or are ready for the bill.

I love shopping at foreign grocery stores. Its one of my favorite parts of traveling. I love to see the things they have available, what’s different, what’s the same. I also love ethnic groceries here in the US.

Just a small example, but in the US heavy cream comes in little cartons. In the UK, “double cream” comes in cups with a foil lid. (I can spend hours wandering the Marks& Spenser food shop and pondering these things.)

Or another: Indian grocery stores have these packets of fully cooked, shelf stable, vegetarian Indian dishes that are really good, and only cost $2 or so a packet. Brilliant idea!!

I was in Edinborough recently as well, and there was one thing in particular that I found odd about it … what was it … uhh, oh yeah: The big honkin’ CASTLE in the middle of the city. In NJ we usually don’t have castles. :stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously though, the one thing I did notice was the way sandwiches were packaged. The square sandwiches were cut into triangles, which were placed on top of one another with the insides of the sandwich facing the same direction. Then that would be the ‘front’ edge of the packaging, labeled, with the sandwich sitting upright on one of its crust edges. It’s actually a very logical way to package sandwiches, IMO.

:dubious: My time in the UK was spent almost entirerly in the company of someone born and bred in Leeds. And he certainly rinsed his dishes. The only difference we had about dish washing was he would do them immediatly and I would leave them to soak. But that’s just becasue I was rasied lazier than him :D.
To address the title specifically, I was surprised to learn that it’s more common in the UK to have a washer and dryer in one’s house than it is in the US. I would have thought that that would be more in line with the decadent American lifestyle.

(Of course that was the impression I was given, I await being informed that it was just those particular Englishmen who had all mod cons, and it’s really not English at all.)

I even noticed differences moving form the West coast of Canada to the East. The term dooryard threw me off, people in the east call their front yards dooryards, I had never heard that before.

The toilet paper thing isnt just Greese they do it in Nicaragua as well

Hello Again, there’s a company called Tasty Bite that sells those packaged dishes here. They tend to be in health-food-type stores.

Here’s their website:

Betenoir, I don’t know what your source was, but the great majority of people living in houses in the US have washers and dryers. Maybe they were thinking of apartments? Many US apartments, especially older ones, don’t have individual laundry space. People either use a shared facility provided by the landlord or go to a laundromat. I’ve never been anyone’s house who didn’t have a washer/dryer, though.

Yep, I know about tastybite. I buy 'em at Trader Joe’s. But in an Indian grocery store, they have like 10 competing brands (none costing more than $2.50). Its obviously a very established product to the Indian market. Not a health food or specialty item.

Actually the locals spell it Edinburgh :slight_smile:

I was confused by the salt when I moved to the Midwest, too. I wasn’t sure if it made the snow melt faster or just provided traction. Eventually I overcame the desire not to look stupid and just asked.

When I was living in Michigan, CrankyAsAnOldMan went out of town for the weekend and kindly lent me her car, as I had killed mine. It was late fall or early winter and she mentioned something about an ice scraper being in the back seat, and I remember praying it wouldn’t get icy because I had no idea what an ice scraper looked like or how to use one. Fortunately, it didn’t get icy, although when I was running errands it began to flurry and I panicked and drove home immediately. I don’t know how to drive in the snow.

A friend of mine - who’s originally from MA - told me a funny (to her) anecdote about how a Mexican man of her acquaintance went to Home Depot his first winter in Chicago looking for “the kit”. Apparently, he was under the impression that there was some kind of winter kit that had all of the stuff you might need…ice scraper, snow shovel, a bag of rock salt. My friend laughed as she told me this story, but my reaction was “That’s a great idea! There ought to be a kit!”

On the laundry thread…

I lived in France for several years (including one year in the south, and two+ years in the north). It is not uncommon for houses to have a “drying room” on the top floor, usually right under the roof, with no windows or slatted windows, and clothes are hung there to dry if the weather is too wet to dry them outside. This seems to be true especially for the northern areas, where rain and cold weather are more common than in the south.

All over France, it is quite common to see laundry hanging out apartment windows to dry, and they even make “window dryers” that are designed to hang from window frames so that wet clothes can be hung to drip completely outside the window. In addition, most apartment buildings are built around an open courtyard. This means that every room in the apartment has sunshine, but it also means that laundry can be hung on the “courtyard” side of the building, rather than on the street side, so it doesn’t drip on passers-by. Every apartment I’ve lived in in the US has had a rule against hanging laundry out the windows.

Also in France, it is virtually impossible to find windows with screens (like the fine-mesh metal screens most American homes use). I asked several people I knew about this, and the reason they gave was pretty much the same regardless of what part of the country I was in–they didn’t want to use screens because they believed that screens would impede the flow of air through the window. They would rather live with flies in the house than put anything in the windows that would impede airflow in the least.

At the same time, however, every family I visited complained constantly about drafts through the house, and they were constantly opening and shutting doors inside the house to help keep drafts to a minimum, even while all the (screen-free) windows were wide open. Some homes did have windows that were designed to open from top to bottom, though, so that you could open the window at the top (rather than the bottom) to allow fresh air into the house, without the danger of creating as many drafts.

Most houses and apartments also had in-flow water heaters, which turn on only when you are running hot water (in a sink or the tub), and heat water as it flows through the heater, rather than having a large amount of stored hot water as is typical of US homes. They are normally gas-powered, so you only use the gas you need to heat water that you are actually going to use. It also heats the water at least as fast as it takes the hot water to travel from the water heater in a US home, if not faster. My husband was really excited about these, and insisted that we get one when we first bought a house here, but they are so rare here that they are very expensive. (However, they are becoming much more appealing as gas prices go up in the US.)

The first “hotdog” I had in France was from a hotdog stand in a park in downtown Montpellier (in the south, about an hour’s drive north of the Mediterranean). The hotdog stand had a special device that was essentially a thick metal pointed rod that was electrified to heat up the rod. When a customer ordered a hotdog, the vendor took a baguette cut in half, and stuck the cut end of the baguette on the hot rod, making a toasted hole in the center of the baguette. Then mustard was squirted into the hole, and a steamed merguez (a thin smoked sausage typical of southern France) was stuffed into the hole. On the one hand, this didn’t surprise me at all (especially with all the sexual overtones), but on the other hand, it seemed like such a French way to make un hotdog. I never saw this in Alsace, though.

I also love visiting both markets and grocery stores in other countries. The markets are amazing, and like absolutely nothing that any Health Department would allow in the US, with fresh-killed carcasses hanging from the ceiling to produce vendors who do not allow customers to touch the merchandise, so that the merchandise is not ruined by the customers. (Some, if not most, do allow customers to choose their own, but there is also a strong feeling that the customer should trust the vendor to choose good produce, on the grounds that if the produce is not good when the customer eats it, they will not be return customers.)

The most interesting part of grocery stores in other countries, though, is the selection of foods that normally appear in the “American” section of the store, if there is one. Just as many of our supermarkets have international foods sections, with Chinese, Italian, Mexican, German, etc. foods, many foreign stores also have “American” sections. The predominant ingredient in the “American” section of French supermarkets is corn, and if you see anything with *Américain * in the name of a dish on a menu, you can bet that corn is included.

Uh…I meant to do that. I just wanted to be sure everyone knew that I pronounce it correctly.

I still think it’s weird that everyone can’t pay for goods and services with their bank card. In Canada, Interac Direct Payment (paying with your bank card) is everywhere. I swipe my card and put in my PIN everywhere I go*. Most stores won’t even accept a check anymore. Hell, I don’t think I’ve written a check for anything in ten years.

All my banking is electronic. I pay my bills online with an electronic transfer. I pay my rent through direct withdrawal. We get our salaries through direct deposit. I didn’t order any checks with my bank account. I can’t imagine what I’d need them for.

I am confused why other countries started using dedicated debit cards (like Visa check cards) when any bank card could be set up to do the same thing, with the same consumer protection and the added security of a PIN. Weird.

On the other side, Americans have so many more choices with cell phones and cellular plans. There are two choices where I live and neither is really impressive. I would never have caller ID on a cell phone or use it for long distance - it’s just too expensive. The American commercials I see say you can change companies and keep your number - no such thing here. No unlimited long distance. We’re getting ripped off, I tell ya!

*Except Tim Horton’s which insists on cash. Then again, if I can’t scrounge together $1.50 in change…