Three Americans on “House Hunters International” Who Prove that We Should Have Been Banned from International Travel Much Sooner

Who got her very first passport less than three months before a global pandemic hit? The author, that’s who! (Photo by cytis)

For many years, an American passport was a ticket to anywhere. There were very few places that had travel restrictions for Americans, and Americans could visit many of the most popular international destinations without a tourist visa.

Then came COVID-19.

In classic filthy American fashion, we have not managed to contain COVID-19 at all. This has, very obviously, resulted in us getting banned from pretty much every other country in the world. Sure, some countries are still letting us in if we quarantine for two weeks or take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, and even fewer countries are letting us in with no restrictions at all (I would urge all of these countries to reconsider), but, as many articles and editorials have pointed out, the American passport has basically become as valuable as a coaster in a matter of a few months.

Of course, many Americans can’t afford to travel at all, let alone internationally, pandemic or no pandemic. I have been one of these Americans for my entire life. However, after recently advancing from lower-middle class to middle class (the American dream, baby), I was set to leave the country for the first time in June. I was going to London, the number one place I have dreamed of visiting all my life, and partaking in my life’s passion, making fun of the English. Afterwards, I was going to Naples, Italy, where I planned to sacrifice myself to Mt. Vesuvius. Needless to say, none of this happened (except for making fun of the English, which I can fortunately do from anywhere).

And yet, as I was planning my trip, I remember thinking, “They really just allow Americans to go anywhere?” Have they seen how boorish we are? How we never bother to even try to learn basic phrases in the local language? How we travel to beautiful island locales with amazing scenery and vibrant local culture and then spend the whole time at the hotel pool? How we’re weirdly obsessed with the size of refrigerators and where we’re going to find space to barbecue?

In other words, have they never seen an episode of House Hunters International? I have been obsessed with the House Hunters franchise for well over ten years now, and I have long since learned that Americans should have been banned from traveling internationally a long time ago. Really, COVID-19 has just given the world an excuse to finally do the right thing. I can’t blame them.

Yes, House Hunters is very, very staged, and most people probably play up a character to make for interesting TV. But there are some things that can’t be faked, such as not even trying to learn the local language or just a genuine sense of entitlement that many Americans unconsciously give off at all times. Or, in the case of the most notorious person on this list, just being a deeply terrible person. While Hulu’s limited collection means that these people probably aren’t the worst Americans ever featured on the show (except for one, who genuinely is both the worst American and the worst person ever featured on the show), they all demonstrate why Americans should not be allowed to travel anywhere.

Dawn: Moving to Malaysia so that her kids can learn Mandarin, or something. (Season 141, Episode 2)

Penang, Malaysia (Photo by Marufish)

Meet Sean and Dawn (in my accent, their names rhyme, which makes the whole thing even better) of North Carolina, who, for some bizarre reason that is never fully explained, are obsessed with their kids learning Mandarin and have therefore decided to move to Malaysia. Yes, that’s it. That is truly the sole reason why they want to move to Malaysia. Or, to be more precise, they want their kids to experience travel and culture and they are in a position where they can both work remotely, but there is never any explanation given as to why they’re so preoccupied with Mandarin; or why they chose Malaysia, where the most widely spoken languages are Malay and English (although a large portion of the population does speak a Malay dialect of Mandarin).

All of this is weird, but in and of itself not the worst thing in the world. Sean grew up in a military family, meaning that he spent his life moving around a lot and is genuinely excited to experience Malaysian culture and share those learning experiences with his kids. Dawn? Not so much.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why Dawn agreed to move to Malaysia when she so clearly does not want to. She, like many Americans featured on this show, is obsessed with having a home that reminds them of the United States. As in, she wants to live among other expats rather than among locals, and she wants a house that looks like an American house (this is way too common of a request on this show). When their realtor shows them a heritage house, Sean is excited that they have the opportunity to live in a traditionally built Malaysian home, while Dawn inexplicably hates the courtyard and, when Sean asks her to give the house a chance, shouts in reply, “What is there to give a chance?!”

Now, I’m not saying that if I moved abroad I wouldn’t get homesick. I’ve lived in the Midwest my entire life, and I love it to death. I spent a summer in North Carolina and, when I went to see a showing of The Wizard of Oz in the park, burst into tears when Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.” But if I decided to live abroad (something I have always dreamed of doing), I would want to immerse myself in that country and city’s culture. That’s why I’m going! If I was homesick, I could text a friend, log on to Netflix and watch American TV for six hours straight, or go to the nearest McDonald’s. And as I was sitting there eating my ten-piece chicken nugget meal, I would remember how lucky I was to have the opportunity to live somewhere new, meet new people, and experience new things. I wouldn’t want to hang out with a bunch of other Americans and talk about how much we missed garbage disposals.

Anyway, Sean and Dawn end up moving into a very westernized resort community filled with expats, though they are, at the very least, not all American expats. We are not told whether or not their kids are learning Mandarin.

Kathryn: Moving to Indonesia because her midlife crisis came early. (Season 137, Episode 10)

Candidasa, Bali, Indonesia (Photo by Martin Fuhrmann)

Meet Kathryn, a Los Angeles native who got out of a long-term relationship, lost her job, became a travel writer, and developed a “spiritual connection” with Bali despite not speaking a word of Balinese or Indonesian. She explains that she wants to be a “real adult” by buying a house in Bali. You guessed it: her dad comes along to help her look.

Kathryn is hardly the most offensive person I’ve ever seen on House Hunters International, but she is, perhaps, not that bright. Besides demanding three bedrooms and three bathrooms while living alone and spending most of her time traveling (because, you know, she’s a travel writer), she also complains about a living room seeming “more like a TV room” (whatever that means) and a swimming pool not being big enough (while also demanding that she be right on the beach). While talking about her “spiritual connection” with Bali, which seems mostly to manifest itself in the form of her doing yoga, Kathryn describes how she enjoys attending traditional Hindu ceremonies, describing herself as a “ceremony junkie.” In other words, yes, she is the stereotypical SoCal native.

Anyway, after claiming that the houses her realtor showed her were “too western” (they weren’t), she decides to build her own house which, as someone who has recently started watching Selling Sunset, I can confirm looks like the most basic Los Angeles mansion in the hills you can imagine. The one saving grace of this episode is that her dad is awesome.

Tressa: Moving to Norway in the most hateful way possible. (Season 21, Episode 5)

Fredrikstad, Norway (Photo by Denis Simonet)

I have saved the worst for last. I mentioned earlier that this list did include the worst person who has ever appeared on House Hunters International, and here she is: Tressa, of Ohio. Many years ago, Tressa married a Norwegian man named Bjorn. They have since made their life in a McMansion in suburban Ohio, but Bjorn is now being called back to Norway for work. Tressa somehow never considered this possibility when she married a Norwegian man, and is determined to be as hateful about Norway as possible.

Keep in mind: Norway. One of the best countries to live in in the world! But Tressa can not be pleased. All of the houses they looked at were too Norwegian. In Tressa’s own words: “My dream house in Norway would be an American house.” She has a strange fixation on garbage disposals (something none of the Norwegian homes have). When they arrive at a beautiful, traditional Norwegian home with a Norwegian flag flying outside, she exclaims, “We’re going to replace that with an American flag!” All of her horrid, xenophobic, ignorant objections are made in the nastiest way possible. In the end, they build an American McMansion in Norway, complete with garbage disposal. I have no doubt she is walking around Fredrikstad with a MAGA hat today. This episode remains one of the most embarrassing and heinous half hours of television I have ever watched, and should be reason number one (yes, even above COVID-19) that Americans are banned from traveling internationally.

Cat mom, librarian, and writer in Chicago.

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