We’re more than a week into the hunt for a flat in Edinburgh, and it’s been quite the rollercoaster. We’ve seen some horrible places, and some less-horrible ones, but nothing that we’ve fallen in love with yet.
The main problem is our stuff. It’s always the stuff. When we moved from the US to Italy nine years ago, the agent had a hard time finding apartments for us to view because we were adamant about not wanting to buy a kitchen. In Milan (and Munich), the vast majority of rental flats come completely empty – no light fixtures, no window coverings; the kitchen is usually just an empty room with a water pipe coming out of the floor where the sink should be.
While it would be delightful to design my own kitchen one day, it’s hard to stomach the expense when we don’t know how long we’ll be in a place. Luckily that’s not a problem in Edinburgh. The issue keeping us from considering 90% of the rental flats in the city is the opposite – they come fully furnished. Sofas, beds, often dishes and cookware, too. We own all those things already. And, despite the high Ikea content of our pile of stuff, we actually prefer it greatly to the stuff that Edinburgh’s landlords want to provide.
It’s still novel that I can speak my native language with everyone here (without it being a lazy shortcut), but opening my mouth still outs me as a foreigner, even more quickly than my accented German did in Munich.
Here Americanism seems to enjoy the same status as a mildly disfiguring physical affliction – a large scar or webbed fingers, perhaps. How to let someone know that you’re comfortable with their little difference without making the afflicted feel self-conscious? Often we get asked where we moved here from. “Munich” seems to leave the askers unsatisfied, as if we’ve rejected their desire to discuss the large, hairy moles on our foreheads. But politeness reigns, and there are no follow-up questions. I’ve found I can provide significant relief by voluntarily adding “… but we’re originally from the US” to my answer. This elicits responses along the lines of, “I thought so but didn’t want to offend…”
Is this a general polite approach to foreignness in Scotland, I wonder, or are Americans the only ones who get this? I’ll have to start asking other foreigners I meet about this. (If it’s only Americans who get the kid gloves, I have a feeling that the blame could be shared between easily-offended Canadians and everyone who voted for George W. Bush).
But I digress. We’re still hoping to land the perfect flat before I head off to Japan next week. I should be looking for new listings now, but keep getting distracted by this show “Prime Minister’s Questions.” Brilliant writing, if a bit unrealistically presented. Will they solve the root causes of world hunger by the end of the episode, or will it end in a cliffhanger?