Laundry, like love, transcends cultures. It could even be cosmic. If there's life on other planets, somebody's doing laundry there, too. Where there's life, there's laundry.
I've done laundry domestically and internationally. It's been a strained relationship at best, even when I lived in France, where things mundane, like eating, take on poetic and grandiose proportions. Though doing laundry sounds elegant in French (faire la linge), the potential art of it is lost on me. The simple beauty of the interplay of suds and soaked clothes will not reduce me to tears. But the thought of actually having to do the laundry will. It takes up time I could be spending doing something more enjoyable.
Laundry is a chore, like other housework. For me, it's the final frontier. Especially when you have to go somewhere to do it.
Since moving to San Francisco, I've apparently taken a step backward in this department. In the past decade I haven't lived anywhere with an on-site washer and dryer. To complicate matters, my closet space is at a premium, free time is a rare commodity, and the extent of my wardrobe is way out of proportion to that of my storage space and obligations.
It took me a while to figure out that I can pay someone else to do my laundry.
I felt guilty at first about not doing my own laundry, especially when I thought about my mom, who did laundry for six people until past midnight on weeknights. She also had a full-time job (and on-site washer and dryer - big difference!).
But my predominantly Asian neighborhood features "leave the washing to us" laundry places on practically every other block - more prolific than a certain coffee-shop chain I could mention. It seemed only reasonable after a while to take part in the culture around me, and that culture includes wonderful Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Korean restaurants as well. I can eat while having my laundry done and call it soaking up some local color, guilt-free.