Buying a house is one of the most stressful events in life. According to ‘Which’ (a UK consumer website), it topped the stress list with 91%. So, buying a house in a foreign country, where your language skills are basic at best and then even deciding to renovate it, is just plain crazy! But what is life if you don’t push the boundaries a little? That’s what we told ourselves as we chose a small house with an idyllic view and the need for a little modernization.
So, here we are, owners of a Dutch house and all the physical delights of stress. The few quick fixes were rather more involved than first thought… rotten window and doorframes, a wall to be rebuilt, a new bathroom, an attic conversion ~ no big deal, right?
Our wonderful builder and plumber speaks a little English, so between us we flounder around with Dutch, English and pictures drawn on the wall and laugh a lot! We are learning what ‘Sani Dump’ is (a bathroom outlet store) and now find ourselves learning Dutch words that we never thought we’d need. ‘Gipsplaat’ (plasterboard), ‘stopcontact’ (power outlet), ‘douchebak’, (shower base) and the lovely ‘rolsteiger’. Not, as you might think, a Shakespearian actor but scaffolding on wheels.
Each week we wander around, what we now lovingly call "The MoneyPit," picking our way around mounds of rubble and scaffolding and tell each other, "It’ll be lovely when it’s finished" with a slightly hysterical tone! It is stressful, particularly as we speak very little Dutch, and choosing paraphernalia such as bathroom equipment and radiators are pushing us to the edge of a minor breakdown! This Dutch refit is going to cause a breakdown in international relations if I’m not more circumspect in my comments on a country’s individual style! Although I am remembering, as I write this, making similar comments on American taste when we moved there. Each country and culture has it’s own individual design aesthetic and it’s something you have to embrace, rebel against…. or start buying on-line! My American design pique was the love of dark wood and heavy swag drape curtains. I dealt with that by painting my dark oak kitchen cabinets turquoise and reveling in the local’s reactions! My European design peeve, is the so-called "design radiators". Unfortunately the real innovative designs are out of our price range and we are left having vertical radiators on a wall…. a strange fashion! So, this is another cultural difference that we are trying to embrace. I don’t think painting them turquoise will help this time though!
It will be lovely….it will! The view outside our window is just about worth it ~ a traditional Dutch scene of a couple of windmills, a harbor and a local pub. The town is cute, with cobbled streets, wobbly cyclists, inquisitive tourists and small friendly restaurants. It has the necessary flower shop, baker and cheese maker, and I imagine myself walking, with my basket, to pick up my fresh warm bread in the morning, greeting the locals, in my clogs. We will watch Sinterklaas arrive from our window and maybe I’ll even ride my bicycle to the grocery store, a truly Dutch lifestyle.
But for now I am still taking the medication, have picked up a can of turquoise paint and am off to explore Praxis, with my translator app. Anyone know what egalisatiemortel is?