We just got a brand new laundry room in our building. This is a big deal, as laundry rooms are a big deal in Sweden. I wrote about them a little at my company blog last year:
The most foreign place in Sweden – at least for many immigrants – is the laundry room. Yes, the laundry room. You might think it would be easy – book the laundry room, do your laundry, leave the room relatively clean.
The Swedish laundry room is fraught with bewildering conflicts and Byzantine rules and customs. In a rather stoic (or repressed, depending on your point of view) country, the laundry room has become a place where passions are released, where it is acceptable to express anger.
But not directly. No, you do not express anger directly in a Swedish laundry room. You leave an angry note. Anonymously.
Anyway, one guy did most of the work on our sparkling new laundry room (three washing machines, three dryers, all tile – it is heaven). He was a bit older, maybe in his late 40s, early 50s. He always smiled at me when I took out Baby B. But since he was older and not of my oh-so-enlightened generation, I assumed he thought I was quaint or cute or worse.
Then one day, we talked a bit.
How is paternity leave? he asked.
Great, I said.
This is the second time, I added, perhaps with a touch too much pride.
The third time is even better, he said with a humble smile and walked off.
Oh. Three times on paternity leave (at least). Talk about misjudging someone.
I mean, I know intellectually that Sweden has pushed paternity leave for almost 40 years, developing “child-centered masculinity.”
But it still catches an American by surprise …