It’s our guilty pleasure, how about you? I love reading books about the expat experience but I also love to watch House Hunters International and see people look for a place to live in interesting locations around the globe.
We have our DVR set up to record the show, and lately we’ve seen people move to Budapest, Sarajevo, Brussels, and Dublin. But we’ve been watching the show for ages and there are a few things that we see over and over again. Maybe it’s because the shows are heavily scripted… but the people actually say this stuff, and we say “shame on you, international house hunter!”
Here are what we hear most – and what drives us the craziest:
“This kitchen is way too small, and it doesn’t have a dishwasher!” Well, I hate to break it to you, folks but most of the world doesn’t usually have dishwashers in their kitchens, and they don’t consider it a major problem to spend ten minutes after meals washing up.
“WHAT? This is the refrigerator? I couldn’t handle that!” Most countries don’t have “American Style” fridges, (aka: huge) – they have small under-counter ones as their spaces are smaller and they shop more frequently.
“We need a big open space because we like to entertain.” In many other countries the homes are small so people entertain in restaurants and event spaces – or they cram people in and still have a great time.
“Really? There’s just this little machine under the kitchen counter to wash clothes? Where’s the dryer?” Americans don’t realize how good they have it, using fossil fuels to dry their clothes. The rest of the world just hangs them out on a clothesline to dry in the sun.
“This place is so much smaller than our place back home.” Well guess what, people, this is home now. Get used to it and embrace the differences. Maybe even get rid of some stuff.
“We really want to immerse ourselves in the local culture… but please show us homes in gated expat communities, please!” That one speaks for itself.
“What! No bathtub? I don’t know how we’ll bathe the kids!” I recommend showering with your child or getting a plastic tub for their use while they are little.
“OH, this is just so unsafe!” This is said to balcony railings, spiral stairs, and loft bedrooms. It is amazing that children abroad aren’t hurling themselves off balconies round the clock, really.
“We need a big outdoor space for the kids to run around.” Most countries have smaller homes without much outdoor space that isn’t used for hanging laundry… so they make good use of public spaces like plazas, parks, and beaches.
I truly could go on and on. It is embarrassing sometimes how clueless Americans with regard to how they sound to others. The realtors on these shows struggle with trying to find them “American Style” homes, and you can feel their frustration and sometimes see a bit of a snicker.
I bet a lot of these first time International House Hunters will cringe at the things they said on TV after six months to a year in their new home. Hopefully they’ll be making good progress conversing in the new language, trying new foods, enjoying the plazas and parks, and making do with less stuff. I bet they’ll find they enjoy the expat life as much as I do.