Moving to a foreign country, one is required to relearn things they thought they’d mastered. Some are expected (driving a car, communicating with others). Others, not so much (doing laundry, taking a shower).

We’ll start with taking a shower. In France, and in much of Europe, there are no shower curtains. They just don’t exist. I believe this is because people sit in the bath and use the handheld shower to wash their backs and such. I could be wrong. However, if you’re an American and you’re used to standing up for your shower then you’re in for a very wet bathroom. Since I’ve been here a couple of times in the past I’ve already pretty well mastered the showering-without-a-shower-curtain technique. I’m just not really sure I like it so much. I seriously avoid taking a shower until the very last minute. I never really like showering much in the U.S. though so not much has changed.

Now, let’s talk about my laundry. First of all, my washing machine looks like it was made in 1964.

Because of this I’ve been afraid to use it. I’ve been worried that either my apartment would flood or my clothes would be ruined. But, having no other plans today and no euros, I decided to test it out on the sheet for the guest futon.

At first things seemed to be going OK. It washed and spun and such. But when I opened it at the end of the cycle (which was no easy feat in and of itself) I found that the sheet was sopping wet. Not knowing what went wrong (with my limited laundry vocabulary), and not understanding any of these symbols on the machine:

I busted out my giant French-English dictionary, which can just barely be seen in the picture with my washing machine. My first thought was that I must have to put it on a separate setting for the spin cycle. I figured it would be the last setting on the machine, but I looked up the word just to be sure.

vidange = to empty

Ah, OK, let’s try that. Nope. There’s still water in it.

So then I looked up a few more words and found this one:

essorage = spin-drying or wringing out

Now we’re getting somewhere.

But the essorage cycle was part of the original wash I did. So I tried just running the whole thing again.

Not a good idea.

Now instead of the clothes just being sopping wet, the washing machine is FULL of water. If you look closely at the washing machine picture again you can see two white lines near the bottom of the glass part. That’s the water line. And it’s definitely not supposed to be there. The first time I ran it there was no water in that outer chamber near the glass. Now it’s about halfway full.

Um, so I think the draining mechanism must be broken.

The questions now are:

Do I risk opening the machine to rescue that poor sheet with the hope that my apartment won’t flood? Or do I let it sulk in there until it starts to smell like mildew (yum)?

And what do they call a washing machine repairman in France?

I have a feeling I’m going to be hefting my laundry to the laverie libre (laundromat) for awhile…