Home » Guest Post: Our Home Swap Partners Share Their Southern Experience

Guest Post: Our Home Swap Partners Share Their Southern Experience

by Ashley
Published: Last Updated on 3 comments 395 views 7 minutes read

For four weeks, we swapped homes with Cora and Hans, a sweet and fun-loving couple from the Hague. We got to experience city life in the Netherlands (bikes, history, gin and very tall people), and they got to try on Southern living for a minute (heat, churches, music and hospitality). They wrote up a few thoughts about their time here in the States for me to post here. It’s always interesting to view your home through the eyes of an outsider. So take a look at what they saw.

Big n Beautiful by Hans and Cora

Talking about over-weight people (unbelievable by the way, never seen in our whole lives, so many and so huge), the toilet problem seems a minor detail to us. It looks like a phenomenon that found fertile circumstances in the USA.

A big country with endless space, limitless resources and people that are proud to show the world they enjoy.


Nashville has space, a lot of space (500 inhabitants/km2; The Hague 6359 inh /km2). For stand alone housing and for cars. At least for the middle and high class people space in and around the house is a normal thing.

Coming from the big n beautiful motto, houses are relatively big and comfortable. As far as we can see, big, comfortable and attainable by car are crucial in the way public and private space is designed. It has nothing to do with a laziness of American people. Although lots of roads have an indicated bicycle lane, no way that a bike is an appropriate device of transport.

So what do you do in Nashville when it’s so hot (and there are so many bugs and mosquitoes)? Going from the air-conditioning at the house to the air-conditioned shopping malls, restaurants or bars. Why are they so cold that you are freezing? In the Netherlands cafe’s temperature is high so people will drink more.

Shopping Americans visit a mall where all kind of shops are gathered and there is enough space for parking. There are no separate shops for bread, meat, vegetables etc. Always you have to go by car. Never going by bike or walking, always needing the car is in our opinion really not comfortable.

What are you doing when living four weeks in other people’s house, like Ashley asked? We don’t have any urge to snuffle in any kind of stuff like paperwork. But of course we look in every cupboard in the kitchen, out of curiosity and moreover we want to see how Ashley and Justin cook, what they eat (and Cora couldn’t manage her impulse to put up the hairpiece of Ashley, or is it Justin’s?)


Note from Ashley: This was the wig I used for my Kesha Halloween costume 🙂

We tried to build one food processor of the various components, but that was quite difficult :-(. Not one we could use. A few hours later we noticed that there was in a light in the plug in what caused that it didn’t function at that moment.

We had a wonderful time in Nashville. All music shows were really fascinating. We exchanged the car too, so we could go everywhere. Ashley has a super car which brings us everywhere. Although in our opinion it’s a big one, there are bigger ones here in Tennessee :-). We are in love with the pick-ups! We cannot imagine that every man driving a pick-up needs it to carry material for work or so.


And is the environment not an item in Tennessee? Could you not hang up your clean wash outside instead of spoiling energy while using a dryer (I suppose it’s not meant the way we did)?


Nashville you have to discover, it takes time to find all the different interesting places, miles away from each other.

The friendliness – people are definitely more polite and more friendly than in our country- we would like to export to the Netherlands, always the question how you are doing, always saying something friendly.

Going back to the bed item. Why do we have two mattresses? It’s a matter of luxury. At a certain grown up age 🙂 you don’t like it anymore that with each little movement of your partner you wake up to move with him/her. So you can split the mattresses, keep one eiderdown to live in love together.

– Hans and Cora


I also wanted to post Hans’ enlightening comments following my post about Dutch toilets, for anyone who may not have seen them:

Although I am not graduated on the subject of toilets and restrooms, I will try to reflect on the toilet topic.

First of all, the so called poop shelf. Apparently indeed a strange thing.
Let’s have a closer look. Since Europe – and The Netherlands are part of it- is the old world it means there is a lot of history and heritage to look back upon. One could say, “looking back” is part of our culture, our way of living, our identity. Things that past in our history make us feel proud. E.g. the Golden Age, Rembrandt, the resistance of the Dutch Republic against Spain. Later on Van Gogh, European Football Champion in 1988, and several times winner of the European Son contest. Looking back and being pride of what we made. It’s obvious why there is a shelf.

The giant buttons are part of a design in which the toilets are ‘floating’ above the ground. That means that the floor of the restroom is easy to be cleaned. Only the seating part is floating and the reservoir, together with the construction for the floating seat, is hided in the wall. The button system is a smart system in which the amount of water can be regulated, depending on the amount of stuff you leave behind. That comes from a time that we were very keen on the use of the amount of water, mostly because of financial reasons. In the fifties and sixties people even used to put a brick in the hanging reservoirs so there was less water in it.

Peeing while standing is becoming less regular because of the obvious reasons. In public so called urinoirs (Schiphol) for men there are small marks of flies made in the bowls. Men try to aim on the flies (we are hunters, aren’t we?) and less problems from splashing. I have solved the problem by not standing anymore while peeing but take a seat. It is a safe way of peeing that gives me a small opportunity for reflection. I can highly recommend this approach.

To resume I must admit that I like the American way of flushing. It should be able to be combined with a floating seat, odor-disguising water and the adjusting buttons.

But remember to take a seat every now and then, have your moments of reflection while looking back of what you have produced and where you come from.

– Hans van Oel




Jackie Baumann September 23, 2016 - 8:12 pm

Having grown up in Austria myself – I very much identified with and enjoyed this blog post, understanding the differences and view points! We should dry our clothes more outdoors! I like the reasoning behind the toilet shelves and buttons! Now that I have lived here in the US for over 30 years though I have also come to love some of the comforts of air conditioning and yes, the friendliness of Americans in general (not present political climate/hate included). Some of our smaller cities though such as Sarasota, Asheville or Cashiers and even NYC have those special cheese, bakery or fresh markets so very common in Europe though! Yes, I wish we could walk to them more……And lastly I drive a pick up truck (!) and yes, mostly it does not contain construction items – but it comes in handy for sure when you have them or trash to haul away etc. Thanks for sharing both family experiences – it was amazing to live through you all vicariously 🙂

anywherewithbrooke September 23, 2016 - 10:24 pm

I just want to say that I did not plan on learning so much from this- or identifying so closely with it! It honestly made me realize that I belong in a place more like Europe than America. The laundry thing, the truck thing, the stores thing, I just like my experience with those in France rather than America. Which is why I am trying so hard to go back! Thank you for sharing!

Eurotrip Adventure 2016 Wrap Up - No Place Like Anywhere March 17, 2023 - 4:35 pm

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