When Your Roommate Has a Culture Shock Attack

February 27, 2012

I need to do laundry.

German roommate’s laundry is in the machine, done. British roommate’s laundry has been hanging all over the balcony for days, and she’s napping in her room.

I revel in the balcony sunshine, fold it all into a pile. Remove German laundry, hang it to dry where British roommate’s once was. Put my laundry into the machine.

German girl is done with Skype date with Arizonan. “Hope you don’t mind I hung your laundry,” I call to her, “I needed the machine.” She is lovely, smiling, happy as always.

And then she sees the lint.

All her clothes are covered in lint. Um, duh. Things don’t necessarily work the same way here in China as they do back home. Including washing machines. Exhibit A: My lint-covered body.

Her voice rises. It’s nearing a high pitch. Exhibit B: Her black, white-lint-covered underwear. Underwear.

“HOW CAN I WEAR THIS!?” “It’s underwear,” I reply, “just buy a new pair for that special occasion.” (Note: foreign women in Beijing don’t often enjoy special occasions.) She brings out her lint remover.

“DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG THIS IS GOING TO TAKE ME TO REMOVE?!” She’s observing her purple and black striped socks. Really? As in, she is hoping someone sees purple and black striped socks in pristine lint-lacking condition? Really??

“They’re socks,” I say. “You’ll be fine. Look at this red shirt. You can’t even see the lint on it.”


I am no longer allowed to wash the piles of laundry that have been sitting on my bedroom floor for two weeks waiting to be washed. My sheets have had some three friends sleep in them, and that extra set of pajamas was worn by two guests without a wash (don’t tell anyone). But no matter: her laundry needs a second wash first.

The ayis we’ve hired to scrub our bathroom have removed the washing machine hose and can’t figure out how to re-attach it. My just-finished laundry has refilled with sitting water. I must run it again, and it takes nearly an hour to run every time. And I have to leave very soon to teach English and then to have a farewell dinner. (The first expat friend I will have outstayed in China! This is only the beginning….)

German roommate hits the fan. Opens the machine, closes the machine, opens the machine, closes the machine. My forlorn sopping-wet clothes. “Please,” I beg, “you’re freaking me out. Please just leave the machine alone.”

“It doesn’t make any difference if it’s open or closed,” she says, her hand twitching up and down, the lid opening and closing incessantly.

I text the British roommate: “Culture shock attack. Don’t come out of your room.”

“We all have our days,” she texts back. “I’m hiding from the ayis, but I’ll need to pee soon.”


4 Responses to “When Your Roommate Has a Culture Shock Attack”

  1. Super-Duper website! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am taking your feeds also

  2. Thank you for your kind comment. Also enjoyed yours–you have a terrific sense of humor!


  3. Ah, the culture shock. As a Sydney native living in Paris, I experience them daily. Some good, some not so good – but they always make for an interesting story!

    I enjoyed your post and look forward to your next!

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