Ideas and Ideals
Do you sometimes watch the apartment hunting TV shows in Europe? I do, just because they bring the flavor of France, Holland, Spain, Italy, etc. And I must say, I often giggle at the buyers’ remarks… “No dishwasher?!”, “No closet?!”, “No elevator?!”, “Only one bathroom?!”, “This bedroom is too small”, “We want a balcony with a view…”, “The neighbors are too close.”
Why do I find myself giggling? Because, even though I left France many years ago, I still understand it the way it was and the way it still is now. The Europeans have made some great changes and improvements in their lifestyle over the years, but they are not used to having space like we have space or create space here in America.
Let’s see… How much space do we have in this kitchen? Little. So little that we can only have one appliance - a clothes washer rather than a dishwasher. You cannot find a laundry closet in the average apartment anywhere in Europe. As a result, the kitchen is the perfect and only place for the clothes washer – Just for your information, houses are equipped with a dishwasher in the kitchen, and the clothes washer is then in the bathroom. Yes, in the bathroom. Laundry rooms are still scarce.
Few bedrooms have a closet indeed. They barely have enough space for a dresser or an armoire. Then, you might be curious to know where people put their clothes… The Europeans do not have the wardrobe that we have here in America. The need has not been created. Also, there is hardly any money left at the end of the month. The Europeans are taxed heavily to support many social programs, and they live from paycheck to paycheck. Women do not have dozens of outfits and as many shoes as they have outfits. They have one coat and one pair of boots for winter. They have one raincoat for spring. They do not need as much as we “need” here in America.
Do not be surprised… There are still some old apartment buildings in European cities that are not equipped with a lift.
“Only one bathroom?!” Somehow, a family of four will manage to be organized enough to get ready for the day without conflicts and discussions over the bathroom. They are used to the morning and evening routines, and they take turns. Bear in mind, the toilet is never in the bathroom. Rather, it is in the “WC”, the “water closet”. That makes it easier… although… there is no sink in the “WC” to wash your hands. You still need access to the bathroom to do so, ... unless you can use the kitchen sink. It seems to me that Europe could learn practicality and functionality from America. The “all in one” concept is great here.
A 3-bedroom house in America usually features 2-1/2 baths, a 4-bedroom house 3-1/2 baths, etc. The French call it the “bathroom obsession”. No comment!
“We want a balcony with a view…” The guests of HGTV shows are often looking for an “authentic” apartment downtown Barcelona or downtown Milano. That means they want to be downtown where the restaurants, the coffee shops, the action, and the live music in the summer are. Inevitably, the downtown apartments there are small and cluttered. Having a balcony is a luxury. Balconies are common in the apartment buildings in the suburbs, but not common in the old sections of the cities.
As for the view… If they want to be close to the coffee shops of downtown Barcelona or Milano, their view is bound to be the neighbors’ windows, not the ocean or the park. And yes, those neighbors are going to be close…
This is to say, our opinions are based on our daily environment, our habits, our lifestyle, and our world experience. Traveling teaches you a lot – You can actually see a monument, a museum, a castle, an aqueduct that you had only read about. You learn about different cultures, and you become aware of your own flaws. You realize how much or how little you have.
Watching those shows on TV, at least for me, is more than getting the flavor of Europe. They remind me of our differences between nations and how eventually we have to adapt and give up some ideas and ideals.