Thursday, February 2, 2012

International Living

Have you ever seen the show House Hunters International? I'm fascinated by it. I swear, I could leave HGTV on that show all day long and never get bored (well, I'd have to be multi-tasking, but I'm kind of unhealthily addicted to multi-tasking). The concept's fairly self-explanatory--person/couple/family is moving to a (usually) new international location, real estate agent shows them three properties within their budget and guidelines (or at least, near their budget and guidelines), he/she/they chose one to call home. What's interesting is just how different homes can be across the world. Price-wise, size-wise, amenity-wise--there are so many different combinations. Who would ever guess?

Nicole and I found out a little bit about this when we moved to Finland and then Germany years ago. In our small--and I mean small--Finnish apartment, the sink was literally in the shower.

(Yep, two of us shared this for three months...)

And that's apparently not so uncommon. In an episode of House Hunters, a couple was searching for a home in Stockholm and kept running into the same situation, which they dubbed a "Stockholm bathroom." They also saw (and eventually chose) an apartment with a bedroom that had a window into the dining room--yeah, you know, in case you want to make sure your fruit bowl doesn't run away while you're sleeping.

Some of my favorite episodes take place in Japan because, and I found this out when two of our closest friends moved to Japan a few years ago, most homes come without ovens. It makes sense, I mean, how often do you see Japanese baked goods? But it's something I would never have thought of, simply because it's such a common amenity for us. (And because I love baking, obviously.)

I also get a huge kick out of the episodes in Germany because (we learned this after our first apartment viewing): you build your own kitchen in Germany (for the most part). In one way, it's pretty cool, because you have the freedom to design the kitchen the way you want it (or at least, the way you want it based on what Ikea has to offer, if you don't have a fortune to spend). On the other hand, you have to install your own sink and cut your own counters--cut your own counters. Whaaaaaat? Americans especially on the show are always shocked and somewhat appalled by this, and it makes me laugh. Because I thought it was pretty cool when Nicole and Micha built their kitchen (that and I love that kitchen, not only because of its lime green color). Of course, that probably also has something to do with the fact that Nicole got to drink beer and "supervise" while the German men built and installed.

What do you think, know of any other fun country-specific living quirks I didn't mention? Would you like to build your own kitchen? Or live with a shower-sink? Ha, could you live with it?

P.S. Just for funsies, the entirety of our Finnish apartment (sans air mattress that we took turns sleeping on every night). I'm still not sure, sometimes, how one of us didn't end up killing the other in those three months.

All photos by Natalie & Nicole

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