For most exchange students their first experience in the laundry room is one of confusion and bewilderment. What is the sign up sheet for? It is only after we are taught by someone that we are able to adhere by the laundry rules. There was one story in particular that inspired us to choose laundry terror' as our observation topic. One of our group members attempted to do his laundry at the time he had signed up for; however, the machine was already in use. Annoyed, but not prepared to make a fuss, he went back to his predominantly Swedish corridor and wondered aloud if he himself had made the mistake. The Swedes were incensed at this situation and stormed down to the laundry room and attempted to stop the machine. They pushed buttons and attempted to remove the electricity plug from the socket. These boisterous and rather aggressive actions were in stark comparison to the usually quiet and reserved personality of these people. This account of his first run-in with the laundry system in Sweden was a good introduction to the characteristics we wanted to observe and study. Our group decided to investigate if this was a cultural phenomenon or simply a case of strange housemates?
[...] Conclusion The example of the laundry system in Sweden could at the first glance seem commonplace or even rather boring, but it is indeed all the most relevant. Washing one's clothes is an element of the everyday life that could be considered as insignificant. But insignificance is very helpful in our case: it enabled us to observe some deeply rooted differences, some differences that are anchored in the very body of the people. The fact is that everybody tends to think they behave the way but this example can tell us that the routines and the norms we believe normal are just a social construction. [...]
[...] As the majority of the group waited in a nearby room, one member of the group stayed in the room in order to observe the reaction of the subject. When our subject arrived and realized the machines were both in use he was a bit angry. He removed the stuff from the machine which was not running and started it with his clothes in it. After that he unplugged the machine that was on and managed to stop the cycle and get out the soaking wet sheets. [...]
[...] Perhaps this trait was promoted by the government in order to retain control and project the image of Sweden as a modern country. This Brother' aspect of the Swedish government has been noted in academic work (Alsmark 89). Swedish people accept the input of the state in order to hold onto modernity and to prevent falling back into the image of a backward, peasant country. Sweden has a history of homogeneity and only recently allowed immigration. Everyone has grown up and accepted this conformity, therefore variation and deviancy to rules is seen as socially unacceptable and is resisted (Alsmark 100). [...]
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