When friends found out we’d planned to move to Europe, many of them suggested we apply to House Hunters International. For my non-American readers, it’s a TV program that “assists” people in finding suitable accommodation in their new host country. You’re filmed meeting a real estate agent, visiting potential houses and discussing what you like / don’t like about each one. Before the show is over, the tenants select a home and move in.
The storyline wraps up “3 months later” when the film crew returns to see how they’ve settled in. They ask the tenants if they’re still happy with their selection and -spoiler alert- 100% satisfaction.
Sounds like a fun opportunity, right? And full of helpful information for someone planning an overseas move! Sure. Unless you consider that 1.) It’s a reality show, and 2.) it isn’t real.
Taking the “reality” out of reality TV
It an open-secret that House Hunters International, and other programs just like it, fool viewers with manufactured drama. Looking for proof? It’s easy to find articles written by past participants who don’t mind admitting to the sham. Lies about storylines, housing prices and the authenticity of the homes filmed are common. You can read about it here, here and here.
So, the show is real-ish. Yes, certain aspects are fake, but does production accuracy matter? I don’t think so. For my enjoyment, I focus on the truth at the heart of House Hunters International, which is that expats MOVE. Some of us do it again and again (in my case we’ve moved three times in seven years). I won’t sugarcoat it, the process and logistics of international relocations suck. Especially when you add:
- 1 scoop of unfamiliar rental rules,
- drizzle a lack of available housing inventory, and
- sprinkle a language barrier on top.
Voilà! It’s now a nightmare sundae that no one wants to eat. But if you’re an expat, grab a spoon. Because we’re all tasked with achieving the same goal: find a safe and suitable place to live abroad.
The couples on House Hunters International make me laugh. The search criteria they’re focused on during the house hunt is comical. The (fake) dialogue includes disagreements over house colour, bathtub vs shower and price. From the few episodes I’ve watched, the only item they agree on is a desire for an American-sized refrigerator …in Europe? That surprised me. Where do they plan on putting it?!
Funny storylines aside, what frustrates me is that it’s fundamentally an unrealistic conversation. Why isn’t anyone concerned about the closest metro or walking distance to a grocery store? It’s like everyone forgets that they’ll have to shop for food everyday (because they won’t get an American-sized refrigerator). They all talk about wanting to explore Europe, so why don’t they look for a house close to transportation hubs? Why this isn’t part of the conversation.
I struggle with understanding why tv programs can’t paint a more realistic picture of an international house hunt. I think it would help to better prepare current or potential expats in their very real relocation. It would also educate the audiences on the true complexities that we as expats face. I’m think I’m looking for more authenticity of what we all go through. What’s wrong with being more honest about the challenges we face? Enough with the overdone clichés and fluff.
So, if a House Hunters International producer is reading this blog, I hope you’ll consider my suggestion. Don’t be afraid to show us the dirt or the struggles. Show us how we can prepare ourselves for an overseas move and help us set our expectations. I guarantee something positive can come from it. If nothing else, we’ll stop expecting American-sized refrigerators.