Flipping through the myriad of cable channels the other evening, I landed upon House Hunters International, a staged-reality show where buyers are shown three homes and have to pick one of them to buy or rent. I say “staged-reality” because this isn’t a true reality show. As far as I have understood, it is made to look like a reality show but behind the scenes, the final decision has already been made, the documents signed, and thus the drama and conflict in the show are contrived.
All that is neither here nor there, however, because the location of this particular episode was in Würzburg, Germany, and I found myself staying up long past my bedtime in order to watch fake reality TV.
The rewards were plentiful: stereotypical German realtor, stereotypical American expectations, stunted and parallel communication, and cookie-cutter German apartments.
What is a stereotypical German realtor? Well, I can’t say that I know for sure, but the woman who was the realtor in this show seemed just perfectly German. Her thick accent made her speech difficult to understand, and she never really listened to her clients, nor did she understand their expectations. Watching her interact with them was fascinating.
The stereotypical Americans were expecting more aesthetically pleasing spaces than they encountered. This is something I am very familiar with, after plenty of apartment and house hunts in Germany. Functionality might be high, but I don’t want to spend money anywhere that doesn’t look nice. Here is one fantastic quote from the Americans on the show: “Why are the bathroom walls tiled all the way to the ceiling? I’m not liking that at all.” Another comment was about the balcony being off the bedroom, and thus guests having to walk through the bedroom in order to reach the balcony (we Americans like our private and public spaces more separated). Then there were comments about shoe racks in front of the apartment door, about never having seen Rolladen (exterior shutters) before, about tiny refrigerators, and the list went on.
My joy in watching this was twofold: one, because I have been there. I have been that American whose expectations aren’t being met, and who doesn’t know yet how luxurious it is to live with German high quality building standards. Two, because I won’t have to do that house hunt in Germany again. I found my balance of function and aesthetic and I won’t be giving it up anytime soon! I also reveled in the cultural miscommunication, watching two women from cultures that are similar, yet still different enough to cause major gaps in understanding and ability to relate.
We have all been there, sometimes completely unaware that we aren’t communicating properly, yet vaguely aware that our counterpart is judging or laughing at us. This episode just happened to be captured on film. Despite my searches of HGTV.com and youtube, I have yet to find video of the episode . If any readers manage to track it down, please post the link in the comments!