When we had cable, my wife used to love watching House Hunters on HGTV. Now that they’ve added it to Netflix, it’s been on frequently in our house. They have both a domestic (U.S.) version and an international version. Both are similar in that there is usually an American citizen or expat involved, which shows just how fucked up American’s are with their budget management, expectations, and entitlements. It’s illustrated to a higher degree in HH International where buildings are usually older or general house or apartment infrastructure/features are so different than typical modern homes in the U.S.
If you haven’t seen the show, they take someone looking to buy or rent a house, often due to a job relocation, and you get to see three houses or apartments they’ll get to choose from within or just above their budget. Often they are couples, either moving in together for the first time or married and moving. It’s really a first-hand view of social dynamics between a couple and is fascinating to watch for that reason alone.
Usually, the expectations are unrealistically high. And I will totally paint with a broad brush here, but are often driven by the wife or girlfriend. It will be something like “I want a large yard, an extra bedroom as a playroom for the kids, large master bath, huge walk-in closets, fence, great curb appeal, well landscaped, great neighborhood, and open floor plan, and I’m hoping to pay $1,000 per month.” Then the Realtor shows them what their budget will really get them: a small house on a busy street, no closet space, with a small yard. So they’ll nitpick every little thing (“I don’t like the narrow kitchen” or “the countertops are old” or “it looks a little warn”) and poke holes in all the homes, only having to choose from one of these dogs. Or alternatively, they’ll have a huge budget (not sure if these people overextend themselves or just have high-paying jobs) and be shown three McMansions and they’ll still hate large portions of each house.
A few International versions we were watching had a European dude (one was french, one was English or Irish) and an American girlfriend who was moving to work or go to school, after a long distance relationship. So much awesome in those episodes, and by awesome I mean the entitlement syndrome of the American women is a train wreck to watch since they have little income. The apartments in Europe are much smaller, or older, or different than in the U.S. Things like a “wet room” are common (bathroom and shower combined into a single room). The ladies predictably hate these, though Holly (who lived overseas in a non-English speaking country) said they are common and you get used to them.
Things we take for granted here (like a dishwasher, or “normal” sized refrigerators) are often a luxury. Seeing their whiny expressions and reactions to these European commonalities makes me smile. And the boyfriends didn’t give a single shit. They were used to this (and if you’re like me and grew up in a house without some of these modern conveniences, you are hardened to some degree and know you can live anywhere), and simply wanted to appease their harpy girlfriends. When they were choosing, the man’s attitude was literally “I don’t care one iota, you make the decision.”
And that’s where seeing life through the Red tint of the ‘sphere colors even a simple TV watching experience. My wife and I discuss those relationship dynamics and can see trouble ahead at this early juncture of the marriage or relationship. When the dude is already putting his balls in his girlfriend’s purse completely, or giving up proximity to a job (making life much more inconvenient to him) so his stay-at-home wife can have a different bathroom or a dishwasher, it’s like the stress cracks are already there but unnoticed. I think watching a House Hunters International – Where are They Now would be a great show. “Oh, we broke up, it just didn’t work out,” showing the ex-girlfriend with a $2,000 Coach purse, living back in the U.S. surrounded by White Knights and being $100,000 in student loan and credit card debt to boot. Meanwhile, the Spanish ex-boyfriend is still taking his public transit, living in a smaller home or apartment, enjoying 8 weeks of paid vacation, living a frugal lifestyle and happy in that environment.
So men, regardless of if you really care what you eat, or where you live, or what house you live in, at least make up an opinion and have a backbone. Watching these wet noodles buy homes as they get bulldozed into decisions you can tell they don’t really like, is painful to watch. Having a wishlist is fine, but in reality, if you are happy in life and your relationship, having a roof over your head is all you really need. Sometimes pushing back on unrealistic expectations (and especially budget) can pay back immensely in the future, both monetarily as well as in your social dynamic. Compromises can be made, but don’t just bend over and make a bad decision to avoid confrontation. I absolutely hate the term “happy wife, happy life” as it is usually said by a sappy puppy dog of a man with a wife up on his pedestal. How about “happy couple, have life” instead, with you climbing up and being a leader on that pedestal?
Anyways, I expect this show will be on in the background for many hours in my house this winter while I’m reading, and I’ll enjoy the relationship train wrecks and fighting that occurs on many episodes when they disagree.