There are still things that I miss from back home (like pants that aren’t size -00), but as more time goes on, I miss them less and less. In fact, there are some things that I originally dreaded, but now don’t even think about. One of those things is drying clothes.
Nobody here has a dryer. It’s just not a common appliance. I’ve heard it is more common up north, where the temperatures are colder in winter, but even when we did some traveling up there last summer I didn’t see any.
It’s a small thing, but has made a big impact on the culture and society. For instance every apartment has a balcony to dry your clothes. Balconies are not just for the rich and fancy penthouse apartments, but for every single house and dorm room, and poorest hovel. And not only that, but every balcony comes pre-made with some sort of drying mechanism. Like a pole, or a pipe or something you can hang things from.
While most people just hang their clothes (or their blankets on a nice sunny day) you can see all manner of items drying on balconies. Large hunks of meat, fish carcasses and other unidentifiable (and slightly gruesome looking) things fill balconies.
I also feel that laundry hanging technology has come a lot further in China. They don’t just have regular hangers and poles, but special hangers to maximize space. Most people only have a small balcony and if you live with a multi-generational family you can have a lot of laundry. So they have special round hangers, layered hangers and other quite ingenious things. My favorite is our little round sock hanger. We can fit 12 pairs of socks on this sucker!
And people are quite creative when it comes to laundry hanging space. Just in the teachers apartments near me people have made all sorts of crazy contraptions to maximize space and to build out their available vertical space. All they need is a little bit of bamboo, or wood, and some rope and they are off and running.
It seems like a small thing, not having a dryer, but think of the environmental impact. We all know that a dryer is a huge waste of resources. Just think of how much more energy China would use if everyone had a dryer in their apartment.
Honestly, I think it is something that American’s could take a lesson from. When I first got here, I felt that hanging clothes was a pain in the ass. Dryers do the job much quicker (especially in winter when a pair of jeans can take 3 days to dry outside) and they even unwrinkled clothes to boot. But, now that I have been dryer free for almost 2 years I don’t even think about it. There is a little pre-planning involved (and a sunny day is a laundry day) but it’s really not such a big deal.
But American society doesn’t support air drying, and in fact, actively discourages it. There are many cities and towns that forbid drying clothes outside because it makes a place look “trashy” which I think is a shame. I actually like the look of the dorms on a sunny day when all the laundry and blankets are out being sunned.
So many people think that China is behind the times, technologically. But sometimes I think what might be “primitive” technology is not only better for the world, but not as annoying to live without as many of us have been led to believe.
Picture credit for the top photo. (Other photos mine.)