(Note: This post was originally published in September 2012 for my Four Days In Hong Kong blog. While the subject matter is still relevant 5 years later, I have revamped the post and updated the photos and content for A Day In the Life.)
Moving to a new place like Hong Kong from California involves adapting to many new things. It's a different place with a very different culture, different foods, different money, different everything. People speak a different language. Additionally, they drive on the opposite side of the car and on the opposite side of the road from what we know! Obviously, getting used to all these differences comes with the territory of a big move.
However, I didn't anticipate that we would need to adapt to something as simple as doing laundry in Hong Kong!
When we first visited Hong Kong back in April 2012 on our look-see trip, one thing I noticed was all the laundry hanging outside. In windows, on rooftop patios, in front yards, above shops, on balconies overlooking the harbour or mountains, and outside apartment windows 30 floors up. I had never seen anything like it!
It's not that I haven't seen clothes drying outside on a line before. I just hadn't seen clothes hanging on the side of a tall building, or out for everyone to see!
Of course, there are the typical thoughts that goes through someone's mind upon seeing all this laundry out in the open:
For the laundry hanging outside apartment windows, what happens if there's a big gust of wind and your underwear falls down to the sidewalk below? Or worse yet, what if your clothes blow away, only to be lost forever?
What if there is a sudden torrential rainstorm (which is not uncommon here) and the clothes that are hanging out to dry are suddenly soaked?
And do people really hang their underwear and bras outside for the public to see??
In speaking to the relocation agents, we learned that clothes dryers are not common here. Washers are pretty much standard. Units that come with a washer AND dryer are obviously designed with the westerner/expat in mind. (Same goes with ovens, but that's another story...)
On that very first visit to Hong Kong, my husband and I agreed that a place with a clothes dryer was a must. With a dryer, doing laundry in Hong Kong wouldn't be much different from doing it in California. How difficult could it possibly be to find a place with one?
Fast forward a few months later and actually living in Hong Kong. We get the keys to our place and there's a combination washer/dryer unit! How exciting! I had never seen one before and it took up less space than two big machines. When I asked the landlord about using it, he just laughed and said he didn't recommend using the dryer feature. He said it would use too much energy, cost too much to run, and the clothes don't get very dry.
Of course, thinking that he might not know what he's talking about, I decide to try it out anyway. They wouldn't make 2-in-1 machines like these if they didn't actually work, right?? I put my load in for a wash cycle, then left it all in there to go through the dryer cycle. And how did it go??
Let's just say we went to IKEA and bought ourselves a clothes drying rack. 😐 To make myself feel better, I got cheerful blue and green clothes pins! Clearly, doing laundry in Hong Kong was going to be very different than what I was used to!
Let me be clear, though, and clarify that I do not hang our clothes outside the windows. I also don't put them on the rooftop patio in fear that there is one of those sudden Hong Kong rainstorms. Furthermore, I worry that birds will dump on my clean clothes and I'll have to wash them all again, except they'll be even more disgustingly dirty.
Fortunately, we have space to keep the drying rack inside. During the more humid months, we also use a dehumidifier in that room to help the clothes dry, and for bed sheets, we drape them over the stair banisters. I also have to space out laundry loads out over days because once the drying rack is full, I can't do any more until the clothes are dry and I can put them away!
Please keep in mind that I'm not complaining. Doing laundry in Hong Kong is just very different that how we were used to doing it in California!
On the bright side, I've learned that a quick run under an iron softens clothes right up! It's just an extra step that takes more time and I'm suddenly ironing t-shirts! But it's the closest way we can get soft clothes and sometimes we just have to do what it takes!
Before I forget, let's go back to that earlier question...what happens if your clothes are out to dry and there is a sudden rainstorm??
You have wet clothes is what you get! Looking out the window during one of these crazy sudden rainstorms, I saw a neighbor's laundry hanging out to dry. I guess it's basically another rinse cycle...with no spin!
Needless to say, after living in Hong Kong for over 5 years, we still do not have a dryer. I know that many people here do not have as much space as we do, so hanging their clothing out the window is the only "laundry room" they have. While I would love to have a tumble dryer, I am still very appreciative of the space we have. And let's just say that I never enjoy doing laundry so much as when we travel to Canada or the US and do it there!
So next time you are collect your soft, wonderful smelling laundry from the dryer, be grateful as you think of me doing laundry in Hong Kong with my colorful clothes clips! 🙂 Happy washing!