Different countries have different customs, but not only… different countries also have different houses!
For those who relocate, the house is of basic importance. In order to live comfortably in a country, you have to feel comfortable in your home! Let’s have a look at the different architectural elements in the world, and how they affect us.
Personally, in all the countries where I have lived, I have always tried to choose the house I fell in love with at the first sight. I looked for a place where I was sure I would feel good. A house that matched me, that reflected my ideas of home. But this is not always easy. What we find in Italy does not necessarily correspond to the architectural criteria that we find across the world…
But what do Italian expats in other countries look for in order to say “this is the house of my dreams”?
Believe me, I’m not making this up. I carefully read our topics on Expatclic and there is indeed one thing we do miss a lot, but really a lot, and that we seek out assiduously: the bidet. Oh yes, the bidet… And the question arises: are perhaps the Italians the only ones who use it?
And this is hard, really hard… I confess that here in France I personally went to look for a bidet under the horrified gaze of a bathroom accessories salesperson. He asked me: “Excuse me Madam, but what do you need it for?” “Uhm, you see, let me explain…”.
Tactics for the bidet
If most expatriates adapt, albeit under sufferance, and get over it, there are those who take their bidet with them in their suitcase. “After spending Christmas in Rome at my mom’s I went back to Berlin with a… camping bidet. Brilliant, I recommend it!!!” (Think of our Silviaexpat at Fiumicino airport about to board with her brand-new bidet).
Sure, let’s be honest, there are countries that have alternatives for the missing bidet. I would put Japan ahead of them all. The surrogate bidet is directly incorporated into the toilet bowl. Just like the toilet bowl, it is controlled by a mechanism that regulates the stream of water, and that can make it cold, warm and direct it to different strategic points. You don’t even need a towel: there is an efficient dryer you sit on and that dries much better than a hand drier… but I digress.
Less hi-tec systems
There are places with less hi-tec systems, that we sometimes find amusing. “In Libya there is no bidet, but you can wash yourself all right because near the toilet there is a faucet with a hose. You use it sitting on the toilet. It is fast and quite handy once you get the hang of it. The first few times I flooded the bathroom because the water pressure is high and squirts everywhere. If you open the tap too much you can injure yourself“.
In India there is the same system, both in homes and in public places. In this case, though, the question I always ask myself is: how do they dry??
But we must not think that the Italians are obsessed with the bidet only: the bathroom in general intrigues us, attracts us and disappoints us … it is never like the one at home (i.e. home in Italy), the worst thing (after the missing bidet) is the separate bathroom, which has a toilet in one room and everything else in another, fairly typical in France for instance. And the question is when there is no washbasin in the toilet…how on earth do I wash my hands?!?! Hard to digest!
Bathrooms without windows also trouble us and make us anxious, but to be honest windowless bathrooms exist in Italy, too, so we focus less on this point!
Positive elements in the bathroom
But then there are positive elements in the bathrooms: huge bathrooms, “bathrooms so big that you can roller-skate in them !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I swear to you that the bathroom of my room in this house in Lima is larger than my son’s bedroom !!!!!!!!!! And I have seen this in many homes. Huge bathrooms, sometimes with a Jacuzzi” (and after Silviaexpat at the airport with her bidet, here is the bucolic image of our Claudiaexpat lounging in her whirlpool!).
In these gigantic bathrooms there are items that attract us and that we could consider introducing in Italy: the drain to collect water in the middle bathrooms and kitchens… Also handy for washing the floors, “a small manhole cover of 20 cms, it allows you to pour as much water over the floor as you like and get rid of it all down the drain with the help squeegee mops. So you don’t get angry when your man leaves the bathroom in a pitiful mess, and your tiles are always clean“.
The bathroom is very important
Basically the bathroom is very important: we want it bright, spacious, with an immense bidet, a large Jacuzzi, a huge window (ideally overlooking the ocean!), strictly no carpet (what a crazy idea….) and with a large manhole cover! Take note, girls, for your next house…
But let us focus not only on toilets, let’s go further! We don’t spend our expatriation sitting on the bidet… Again there are details that kill us, personally I will never forget the house in India completely made of marble in various tones of pink, a kind of not-so-rare architectural gem in the East, huge houses that look fake, a cross between the Barbie’s house and that of Ridge in The Bold and the Beautiful (if anyone remembers it…).
In Houston we have “the festival of fake: fake Tuscan villa, a fake Spanish villa, fake castle …. as soon as they have money here, they let the creativity free… The obscenity of lanterns outside the houses with little fake candles, a light that flashes intermittently at zig-zag angles, horrible”.
Saudi Arabia: “… four huge bedrooms, four bathrooms (the latter as large as the bedrooms I have now here in Paris) and all the walls of the room covered with mirrors that hid closets that I never succeeded to fill and use completely“.
In India, my landing was so big that we used it as an exercise room and we ran round in circles in 10/12 like in the school gym!
Houses badly lit or lit in inappropriately for the country they’re in: “A typical and absolutely baffling thing in Lima are the tinted windows. Lima is a dark and gray city for most of the year. Surely that’s why houses, and especially the newest apartments, have very large and spacious windows. But make them in dark glass! Once thing the houses of this city really lack is a system of lights and lighting adequate to the climate…sometimes you feel as though you’re living in a cave“.
And then we like details so much, those that make us say we have something special, different from the others or maybe not so far from the beloved house we left behind three countries ago… For me it was the lighting system in Tokyo, really incredible, so hi-tec that after 3 years I did not know which switch was turning what on, but it didn’t matter, the house was suffused with shades of light from bright to lively, according to my taste, anywhere… very very romantic.
Less romantic but practical is storage space , and we obviously need to consider this for the perfect house.
Even in this field, I must say it, Japan is streets ahead, but I notice that even other countries do things seriously.
Italian expats appreciate everything from “the space for the washing machine in the basement, with a special sink to remove stains and the like, and a big room with a fan for drying clothes“, or “the well organized closets and the huge dressing room with a hidden shoe rack, where to put it all“, to the kitchen sink positioned in front of the window, possibly with a view of a flower-filled garden with flowers, so that we can wash the dishes with a smile and if our sink is equipped with “a recessed garbage disposal, no more unpleasant odours from the garbage bin: all organic material is removed and homogenized instantly down the drain!” (but reading this, you may well think that we are perhaps a little fussy about cleaning, smell, tidiness…)
At this point I can only draw up a short list for my next house, which of course I want to be perfect, with big and bright windows, well organized spaces where everything fits comfortably, beautiful rooms, spectacular views and a huge and royal bidet in the middle!