6) Huge Windows. I feel a bit ironic/complainy-pants with this one. After all, "great lighting" was my #1 requirement (besides a practical toilet location) when JP was house hunting last year and he certainly hit a home run in finding the lightest and brightest flat I could imagine (swoon). We have 10, almost floor-to-ceiling windows wrapping around 1/2 of our place - it's pretty incredible. And while the volume of our window situation might be a bit more architecturally extreme than the average home, giant, street facing windows are not. In fact, it's quite common. Walk, bike or drive down any residential area and you'll likely encounter giant picture windows. Here's the thing. Unlike California, front yards and sidewalks are tiny - so the house is right there (and by default, what's inside) and no one seems to really care. Sure, some take privacy measures, be it curtains, shades or vinyl window adhesives. But not as many as you might imagine. There are always those free spirits who just put it all out there.
Upon discovering this "free spirit" element during my first month here, I was pretty astonished. It was so odd. On one hand, I could not HELP but peer into the open houses. But on the other, I felt like a total creep. JP summed it up pretty nicely "if the curtains are open/not existent, they are basically inviting people to look in." Seemed logical enough, but it's not so nice when you're the one without window covers.
Up until yesterday, we fell into that "free spirit" category. Except it was totally weird and unintentional. Our street is pretty busy. Between the sports cafe (bar) across the street and the neighbor living above the cafe who spends 12 hours every day looking out the window (and often into our flat) it seemed as though we always had an audience.
Luckily, we fashioned some old curtains in the bedroom immediately after moving in, but other than that - we basically had to assume someone was looking at all times. As you can imagine, this made things like exercising, spontaneous dance parties and midnight bathroom visits quite exciting. You're probably wondering "so why did it take 6 months to put up some curtains? Are they exhibitionists?"
Well, I'll tell you why (and no, we are not exhibitionists). We simply could not find a solution that covered all points of concern. My main focuses were 1) preserving the beautiful, natural light (what's the point of all these windows if we're going to cover them up) 2) Privacy 3) Eliminating shadows so I could continue using the space for photography. JP's main concerns were 1) How this would logistically work with very old/crumbly walls 2) keeping the bedroom pitch black. We looked into just about every curtain imaginable but we ran into a problem - our windows were too long. Or the curtains were ugly. Or the material was gross. Nothing seemed to check all the boxes. And when you're spending that kind of money, it needs to be right. Finally, we decided on shades -blackout shades in the bedroom, white, light filtering shades in the rest of the house. They are perfect (and big kisses to JP for pushing through the grueling installation).
Conclusion: The Dutch approach their housing a bit differently than we do in the States. The inconvenient toilet location still remains a mystery (someone, PLEASE enlighten me), but the rest of it makes a lot of sense. Houses were originally built tall and narrow for political/financial reasons, and this set a precedent for future construction. People tend to stay in one location for years, even decades, whether they are renting or buying. People want the freedom to customize details that are generally pre-set in the States - where their storage is located, the lighting fixtures, window covering and even flooring (luckily ours came with beautiful floors, but I've heard many stories about self-installation). And while these difference can seem odd and inconvenient for the un-prepared, hopefully now, you'll be ready for your move or visit :).
What were you shocked about when you first moved to your country? Or new home?