Do you Want Perfume on that?

Going to the lavandería (laundry service), provided us with yet another situation that perfectly illustrates how important context and culture can be when trying to understand a foreign language.

The first time we went to pick up our clean clothes at our new local washing place, we found it to be manned by a second-generation Chinese-Argentinian who wasn’t really thrilled about the weird American chick trying to chat in Mandarin! On top of it, she managed to stump us with her seemingly simple question in Spanish, “Querés perfume?” This was one of those cases where we understood all of the words, but for the life of me, we couldn’t figure out what she was talking about.

As Tom and I tried to parse her question, everything began moving in slow motion. Our clueless expressions were interpreted as a green light, and she grabbed her generic bottle filled with a blue, Windex-like substance and, with the practiced ease of a gunslinger, started pulling the trigger and spritzing all of our clean laundry with “perfume.” (I use the term very lightly here.)

Needless to say it is the most foul smelling substance you can imagine, its strength would put Drakkar Noir to shame. Tom and I watched in horror, frozen and unable to speak.

Finally, we snapped out of it and started yelling, yapping over one another, “No perfume no perfume!” Yes, we are doing our part to cement the image of Americans as goofballs.

2 Responses to “Do you Want Perfume on that?”

  1. Dennis

    I’ve been meaning to query my buddies back in the US to see if anyone had ever heard of this either. The stuff that comes from our laundry service isn’t terrible, but isn’t great. I think that the “problem” is that the detergent and rinse that they use are not scented, so that the clothes end up smelling basically soap-y. In the US, we have “Mountain this” and “Fresh that” scents on all of these things so the separate perfume isn’t needed.

    Next time in the supermercado, you can wander down the aisle and pick up your own spritz bottle of perfume. I’ve definitely seen it at Carrefour (where the 20-items-or-less line goes down that aisle, so one has time to observe the less-well-known products).

  2. Michele

    *smile* Those clothes came back so stinky, we couldn’t stand to be in our own room because of the smell emanating from the closet!

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