Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dryer Sheet Envy

Over the weekend, I was in the laundry room with my 75-year-old Swiss neighbor, when she eyed my big, imported box of dryer sheets.

“Where did you buy those?” she asked.

“In the U.S.,” I told her.

“Oh, I thought so,” she said. Then she got out her box of Swiss dryer sheets to show me that there were only 12 in the box.

“And this cost 8 Francs,” she said, shaking her head.

We inspected my huge box. “160 sheets,” I said. “And also costs about 8 Francs.”

My neighbor sighed, looking at her box of dryer sheets like it was more an envelope than a box. And who could blame her, it really was a pathetic sight next to my big box of Bounce.

“I can bring you back a box of these dryer sheets on my next trip home,” I offered.

She smiled big and nodded excitedly at the thought of getting more than 13 times the number of dryer sheets she was used to in one box.

“Yes!” she said. “Oh, thank you!”

And there, in a nutshell, is Switzerland versus the United States.

In other news beyond the laundry room (why do all things worth mentioning in Switzerland seem to happen in laundry rooms?), I've written a post for Kristi's wonderful blog, From A to Z, on the difference between foreigners and expats. Join the discussion here.

And thanks to all who have already checked out my new blog, Writer Abroad. So happy to see you over there. Thanks.


Mélanie said...

Cute! Nice of you to offer to bring her some, that is a lovely gift ;)

M'dame Jo said...

True, but isn't it also partially because most of us do not use dryer sheets, but liquid softener instead? I've only used those in the US, because there was no compartment for liquid softener in our washing machine, which actually managed to destroy so many t-shirts without actually washing them?

No, honestly, who lacked common sense so badly that s/he invented this instead of this

Gravity, anyone?

And don't even get me started on American vacuum cleaners. And fixed shower heads.

Well, to go back to your post, there's very little demand for those and I think it also explains why it's so expensive.

Chantal said...

I didn't even know my neighbor used dryer sheets until she showed me her box. It was so small it's no wonder I didn't notice it...

And yes, maybe the demand for dryer sheets is small, but this never stopped the Swiss from not offering more of a product before. Because if it did, I'd be able to get a sandwich past 12.30. Based on my old German bosses' swearing, I'm not the only one wishing for a post noon sandwich.

Anyhow, now that I'm Europeanized, I also hate fixed shower heads. Alas, that is another topic for next time.

M'dame Jo said...

You can't get a sandwich after 12.30? Really?

mrsmac said...

Haha, so true. It really is amazing, isn't it?

DRosie said...

I didn't even know Swiss dryer sheets existed. Very interesting.

Amanda said...

The mother of the boys I used to nanny would cut her dryer sheers in half to make the box last longer!

Chantal said...

Oh my God, that is hilarious about the cutting in half thing!

I think some areas are better equipped with sandwiches than others, but the big Migros near my old office would be out by 12.30 and wouldn't try to stock any more, even though there were plenty of us ready with Geld.

Elisa, The Unlikely Housewife said...

LOL - that is, indeed, CH vs. USA in a nutshell - well put ;-)

M'dame Jo said...

You know, I often hear that Switzerland (from expats, but also from swiss people who complain that everything's dull around here) has a poor choice of products, that Sundays are dead, that you can't get this, can't get that...

So, New York or San Francisco (where I really enjoyed living a few months), yes. You can eat around the clock, Whole Foods helped me surviving (but more expensive that any Coop), you can buy great jeans for $20 etc. But still... An example: finding ground sage, thyme or any basic (to swiss standard) herbs in SF was a challenge. Safeway? Of course not. Trader's Joe? What did I expect? I had to buy everything from Whole Foods, where each box was 8 bucks. I really think there's an demand/offer thing, here. And I don't care about dryer sheets, but I do care for easily available cheap ground sage (1.50 at Coop).

And I've spent a Sunday in Eugene, OR. Baden, equivalent "relative" size, is much much more lively on Sundays. I've spent a week in Albuquerque, where I am right now, actually. I may be able to get big packs of dryer sheets for nothing, but the choice of food is poor, most restaurant close at 9 pm, there's nothing to do but visiting the 2 poorly conceived museums and drink tequila. And if you want something else that burritos three times a day and look for a good restaurant that offers something else, you may have to pay your entree 30$.

It has close to a million inhabitants. Lausanne, 130'000 souls has so so so much more to offer. The cultural offer cannot be compared. And you can eat after 9 pm and go to the restaurant on Sundays. And go to cool clubs until 5 am.

I've lived three months in Palo Alto, I almost died of boredom. Because outside the shopping center, the independent cinema, the bars that close at midnight, there is nothing to do but running by the Bay, getting lost in the campus, and watching TV.

So when I hear, especially from Swiss people, that Switzerland's dull, I challenge them to spend a week in a small American town. After the thrill of being able to go to Walgreen's until 10 pm on a Sunday, I think that many places like Lausanne or even Baden would appear much shinier.

That was my "I woke up at 5 am because I'm still jet-lagged in a pretty dull place" contribution to try to putting things into perspective.

I perfectly understand the frustration of not being able to find a "basic" product, or having pay a lot for it, or not being able to buy a sandwich after 12.30, because it works both ways. We're used to having certain things, may it be intelligently manufactured household appliances and ground sage, or cheap sneakers and shopping on Sundays, we miss them when there not here.

So, anyways... I have a rental waiting for me for Saturday, I'm planning on driving up to Santa Fe, and I'd better be positively surprised ;)

In the meantime, excuse me, it's Starbuck time.

M'dame Jo said...

And by the way, I've also spent a little while in Baden - I was an intern at ABB once - and I don't know how you do it. Living in a small very swiss German town for an American must indeed be an experience, because it was for a Swiss who grew up in (culturally different and larger) Geneva.

Chantal said...

Ooh, Starbucks time. Sounds good.

Thanks for your input, M'dame Jo, it's good to have the Swiss side of things spelled out here on One Big Yodel. By commenting about Switzerland, I am by no means saying that the U.S. is perfect. Far from it, in fact. Of course there are many boring towns, thousands of them in the U.S. and I don't really find Baden boring at all (except perhaps on a rainy Sunday).

And I agree with you on the herb thing because a few weeks ago I was in a U.S. grocery store the size of an entire Swiss village and they had no fresh chives. No fresh chives in a store that big? I found that sad. (But on the other hand, I had to go to 3 Swiss grocery stores on Wednesday just to get all the ingredients necessary for 2 meals).

I think what we can all learn from living abroad is that in the end, no place is perfect and there will be things we like and dislike about everywhere we live if we're lucky enough to live lives where we can actually compare countries. It's a wonderful thing, and everyone should be so lucky.

M'dame Jo said...

By commenting about Switzerland, I am by no means saying that the U.S. is perfect

Indeed, you do comment the goods and bads, such as in your post about not being able to walk around in the US. But I do sometime feel the need to react ;-)

It's funny you mention having to go to three shops for two meals. Because I find everything I need at the Coop. The thing is, we probably cook different stuff and an ingredient which is essential for you may be useless to me, and vice versa. Similarly, I ended up shopping in 4 different places when I was in the Bay. Safeway for toilet paper and instant oatmeal, the European market for dairies, Trader Joe's for the basic stuff, Whole Foods for the spices and all. Plus the Farmer's Market for fresh veggies and yummy strawberries. Oh, and there was a "World Market" where I was going once in a while to get Italian coffee and Swiss chocolate! Because I needed all these shops to "recreate" my Coop.

This is really about being used to a certain way for 20 or 30 years.

And yes, we're definitely lucky to be able to experience these different views on things.

Chantal said...

Sometimes I go to different grocery stores because I like different products from each. But other times I just for the life of me want to go to one and I can't. Yesterday I had to go to two grocery stores again even though I only needed to buy 8 items. What is up with that?

JPM said...

I wonder if the availability (or lack of) dryer sheets in Switzerland has to do with their environmentally not-so-friendliness? Like the way trash sacks cost a ton, making it cheaper for you if you recycle. I find things like that here sometimes, like a subtle pressure to your pocketbook or whatever to do the right thing.

Tina said...

You should get those new dryer bars. They stick in the dryer and last for several months!

Cayjen said...

Wow - we are about to go visit our family in the States and I was trying to think of things I could bring back for our neighbor. I too am amazed by the small yet expensive dryer sheets. Thanks for the idea - I think I'll bring back some for myself as well!

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