The Shame of House Hunters International

July 1, 2014

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.

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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.

More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in Mazatlán, México.

20 Comments
    1. I use to watch that show all the time and finally got tired of the stupid Gringos as they go about trying to live their American lifestyle in other countries. Ok, there were a few that would meld into the local lifestyle but those seemed to be much younger vagabond types that were setting up their scuba or tourist business in some paradise.
      Americans for the most part would be lost if you took their Safeway away from them, and showed them what a carniceria was. I value the ability to go shop for fresh fruits and vegetables either daily or every other day, just doing that really negates having an energy hog of a 25 cubic foot refrigerator in the kitchen next to the 45 minute cycle dishwasher.
      One reason not to invite more Gringos to live SOB for they want to bring all their bad habits down and ruin it for the rest of us!

    1. Nancy, I”m SO SO glad you wrote this post! I watch that show with gritted teeth. The gringoes are actually embarrassing. Spoiled Americans, to put it mildly.

      I watch the show because I like to see what houses are like in other countries, or in a recent segment to see what Frankfurt Germany looks like.

      The last time I watched the show, I got up walked into the kitchen muttering, “If I were a realtor, I wouldn’t last two days! ha.

      NOW, here in SMA, people have pumps for more water pressure, security systems to protect themselves with louder the life alarms, dishwashers, garbage disposals. Well, you can see, the list goes on and on. I had someone write to me who is moving to Mexico with a laundry list of things she wanted to find before moving here. I told her, which is true, I don’t have any of those things so you’ll have to talk to someone else! Sheesh.

    1. We have been watching it for years and every time I hear someone say these things, I look at my husband and say, “Did you hear what they just said?” It just amazes me. I realize some people, not many are moving to another country for because they have to. But most are doing this by choice. And I wonder what on earth were they thinking? This is not America. If you want American, stay in America. I love all your points above. It was really quite amusing to read because it was like exactly what I’ve been thinking along.

      And some people have millions to spend, but I just love the ones who have these tiny budgets but are so demanding to the realtors. They MUST have an ocean view, close to town, lots of outdoor space, 3 bedrooms, a garage, large kitchen, move-in ready, fully furnished, (with THEIR taste) 24 hour security, (because it’s so much more dangerous than America)and a gourmet kitchen. Oh and lots of old world charm, but nothing too old that needs any work. And could you do all that for under $100,000 us dollars?

    1. I’ve never seen the show, but I still have my $.02 to share. Gringos are a schizophrenic lot. They’ll ask “What does an apartment or house cost?” without realizing that values vary immensely.
      On one hand, they’ll claim they want to go native, thinking that Mexicans are one homogenous bunch. Would they be willing to go without hot water in the kitchen like a lot of humble Mexican homes? Do without a bathtub?
      Then they’ll bemoan rejas on the windows, insisting that they never lock their doors back in the Old Country. And they can’t understand why cochera doors are locked at all times.
      They’ll insist that all gated communities are filled with expats, not having the first clue that gated communities run the gamut from Infonavit to the very plush, the latter filled with Mexicans who could buy and sell them several times over. They harbor this notion that all Mexicans are poor.’

      What they just don’t get is that Mexico (and any other foreign country short of Haiti) is filled with a broad range of lifestyles and budgets. And yeah, I am Mexican and live like one – with a garbage disposal, side-by-side refri, chest freezer, vacuum cleaner, electric gates, and rejas on my windows.

      1. I love all your comments, sounds like I hit a chord.

        What redshoesarebetterthanbacon says really resonates with me… we have a big fridge and a clothes dryer but I feel like they are a gift every day. I don’t feel a sense of entitlement. And you’re totally right about the gated communities – they run the gamut from very modest tiny houses to expensive mixed Mexican and Expat communities and everything in between.

        I think the thing that embarrasses me about this show is just how little awareness some people have about how others live… and they are so quick to assert that their way MUST be the right way!

        Anyway I would probably say something stupid too if I ever was on TV so I can’t tempt the gods too much!

    1. I love this one, too. That color! That will never work. Double DUH….it is called PAINT.

      Everything you said, though Nancy, I cringe at when I watch. It is just so egotistical and selfish not to mention ignorant. It HAS to be somewhat scripted as they all say the same thing.

    1. I’m sorry to say it’s usually the woman who says things that make me cringe. On the other hand I saw a House Hunters where a Mexican woman (single mother) and her two daughters moved to the U.S. so the mother could get a better job (she was in the medical field if I recall). Her wish list for a house had a mere three things: a roof that didn’t leak when the rains came, in an area her daughters would be safe, and she’d always dreamed of a fireplace. It made me cry.

    1. I agree with you in every single line,also i want to people to know about TONICOL that is a vanilla based drink and how delicious it is ! ! You can get those all arround Sinaloa in Mexico

    1. Indeed, I suspect many of us said the same kinds of things, well not so much about the kid’s playground – mine was 22 when we came down and we bought on the ocean, so. We did want a big US style BB Grill, but haven’t gotten around to adding one because we go out way too often. We changed our way of life and assume that we will change it some more as time changes. Our big concerns were accessibility in the event one of us became infirm and is there access to the internet. We have not assimilated and probably never will, but we do have friends in the local community and we hae a significant ex-pat infrastructure. We are happy.

      Oh, yeah, we have become accustomed to the fact that paint is a temporary phenomenon and we are always fixing the roof.

    1. I dunno…I don’t think Americans are stupid, only ignorant of what goes on in other countries. We Americans are a spoiled lot and although we claim the current generation of American children feel entitled, I think that’s true of almost every generation. We want it all!
      I downsized from a 3700 sq. ft. house, to a 2200 sq. ft. condo, to an approx. 1800 sq. ft. house and the house I’m moving to is even smaller! I don’t even know the square footage…and I don’t care! Like a lot of my fellow Maz expats, I have no dishwasher, no garbage disposal, and my washer is in my kitchen. I have no yard at my current house and just a small courtyard to accommodate 3 dogs at the new place. Gee, I guess I’ll have to WALK my dogs and maybe run into friends ~ or make new ones ~ along the way. I’ve found each house, smaller than the last, to be more liberating!
      Until a few years ago, I spent every summer living in France, in a town built in the 1300’s, so I guess I’m used to small spaces.
      Love the show, though ~ love to see all the different places, though I’m always drawn to the tropics.

      1. Zoe, You are the queen of paint!

        Barbara, I remember seeing that episode, too. Quite moving.

        toSkO Sanchez, Thanks for visiting the blog, I have been blogging from Mazatlan for about 7 years, and even wrote about Toni Col once before, here’s the link: http://www.countdowntomexico.com/2011/10/10/tonicol-sinaloas-local-cream-soda-cola/

        Dennis, I agree, you change your perspective the longer you live here! And I agree about assimilation, it is not something that happens easily or quickly. I expect it to take me many more years, if at all.

        Christine, I don’t think I said Americans were stupid but did say they were shamefully ignorant! I live in a big house but feel in so many ways my life is simpler. I don’t crave “designer” anything and I waste so much less! It’s a good life south of the border!

    1. Enjoyed your article…….My wife and I watch HHI occasionally and have viewed a number of ‘Mexico featured’ episodes where the buyers comments seem scripted.

      We built a home in Sonora in 2008-2009 and moved here full-time, after vacationing here for over ten years. Building a home here is a challenge….but well worth the effort. We were able to incorporate many nice features such as dishwasher, large fridge, etc.

      When our small town was featured on HHI, we were disappointed with the representation of our ‘fishing village’ (no town views to speak of) and discovered right after the episode aired that the home that was chosen at the end of the show had actually belonged to the ‘buying couple’ for a number of years. HMmmmmm……

      Thanks Again for the article

    1. In Mazatlán I lived in some of the more ‘working class’ neighborhoods. Homes in a constant state of being built, torn down, or falling down, livestock, and unreliable water and electricity – maybe it’s like that all over. To Americans it might have seemed like long-term camping (with cement structures). Not only did we manage just fine, we thrived.

      Now in the US, I laugh every time a neighbor complains about someone’s weeds, grass too long, ‘ugly’ paint color, etc. I suppose I just chalk it up to lack of perspective.

    1. Great post, never watched the show but I can just imagine based on your words. I strongly dislike Canadians and Americans telling other cultures ( in this instance, Mexicanos ) how to live the ‘right way’!

    1. I just never watch the show 🙂 I know the crews have come to Merida a lot and I know that each show is *completely* staged and scripted.

    1. I love this post, LOL. I used to watch that show before I left Canada and it amused me then. After living in Mexico for so long it amuses me even more. I hear these kinds of things all the time here. It makes me laugh.

    1. I see House Hunters International as a guilty pleasure too as would love to move away and live in an exotic country (I live in very nice Canada so not sure why I feel the need) and I completely agree. The househunters come off as spoiled “everyone must bow down to my wants” buyers – frankly it is downright embarrassing some times. It makes you wonder if they or their relatives ever regret going on the show. I hope I never sound like that.

    1. OMG I totally agree…I enjoy the show but do shake my head a lot with how insensitive and naive people can be. I love the ones who want to be in the center of town but don’t want to deal with all the people and noise! LOL Oh well, we loved the two years we lived in Mexico including the small fridge and stove, the noisy wonderful neighbors and the washer on the patio and the clothes on the line!!

    1. Nancy, I didn’t mean that YOU said Americans are stupid…just that in general I don’t think Americans are stupid, maybe just ignorant of the way people in other countries live. I don’t think square footage matters so much as the simpler pace of life. Big house, small house, it doesn’t matter here, but for me, downsizing simplified my life tremendously. Living a simpler life is so much more relaxing and leaves me time for so many other things. I love that there’s no keeping up with the Joneses, no more living in the fast lane, no more rat race. And if giving up a few conveniences, like garbage disposals, are unbearable to people, maybe they are looking in the wrong place ~ or looking for the wrong things.

    1. don”t have tv so have never heard of that show….but I love Toni-col as well, but it is getting harder and harder to find on Mazatlan and the island due to coke coming in and giving the local free coolers and plastic tables as incentives to sell their product…sad.

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