There are no good drying days in the US. Or at least none that Portland Oregon resident Oonagh Morgan can avail of.
She misses Ireland’s outdoor washing lines. “Some states and homeowners associations don’t allow them in the US,” says the woman from Mayobridge, Co Down. “I can understand it from an aesthetics point of view, but there is something nostalgic about washing lines.”
The summers are definitely getting hotter here. Most people didn’t have air conditioning back in the ‘90s because there was little need for it, but slowly it’s becoming a necessity rather than a luxury
“Using tumble driers is such an environmental drain. I think it’s ironic that the US would have such laws given the current energy crisis,” she says.
Having done a stint in Oregon in the mid 1990s, Morgan returned to the state in 2012 after time in both San Francisco and LA. “The summers are definitely getting hotter here. Most people didn’t have air conditioning back in the ‘90s because there was little need for it, but slowly it’s becoming a necessity rather than a luxury,” she says. Indeed in the summer of 2021, western North America experienced a record-breaking heatwave.
“It’s become the norm to have several days reaching over 38C each summer,” says Morgan. “We’ve already had a few this summer and last year was particularly bad.” Temperatures reached up to 46.6C in Portland. Researchers said although it was a rare event, it would have been virtually impossible without climate change.
Central air conditioning is the norm in households that can afford it. “The city typically opens cooling centres when temperatures get really high, and the malls and cinemas tend to get pretty packed with the people who aren’t fortunate enough to have air-conditioning in their home.”
We don’t have radiators here, I think I’ve seen them maybe twice in my 20 years in New Zealand,” says Mulhern. “They are not big on their internal heating, there is none of that
For Sinead Mulhern, home in New Zealand is all about the outdoors. “People live a lot outside their houses. They are really connected to the outdoors,” says the Carlow native. She has lived in New Zealand for 20 years. The home she shares with her Kiwi partner and their two daughters is on the edge of Fiordland National Park in New Zealand’s South Island. “We bought what they call here a lifestyle block, where you have an acre or two and you can keep a few cows and a few sheep,” she says.
Summers are slightly hotter than in Ireland and winters are slightly colder, but not that much, says Mulhern. Property sales websites there will always amplify a home’s connection to the outdoors. “Indoor-outdoor flow, that’s one of the most important things for people buying a property here in New Zealand I think,” says Mulhern. “You always have a deck, there is always a barbecue and there is a lot of outdoor living.”
Summers are lived mostly on the deck. “It’s probably very different from when I lived in Ireland, but in the old style bungalows, there was very much a disconnect between outside and inside. You are either inside or you are outside. Here the deck is just so easily connected to the house,” she says. “So it’s the big sliding doors, the deck, the barbecue and the really easy flow in and out of the house – so no steps out or narrow doorways.”
The Kiwis are a hardy lot. “We don’t have radiators here, I think I’ve seen them maybe twice in my 20 years in New Zealand,” says Mulhern. “They are not big on their internal heating, there is none of that. You will have a fireplace that has a wood burner with a door on it.” Houses can be cold. “Honestly, the insulation is pretty slack in some houses, they really need more insulation. It’s getting better, but the regulations aren’t in place like in Europe.”
I fell in love with the place – the people, the culture. Tokyo is such a huge city with nine million people, but it is so orderly and friendly and clean
Mulhern will move house soon, or rather her house will move. She is in her forever location and the family plan to build another home on the site, but first she must sell her existing house. “I will literally post it on TradeMe, you can post anything and everything on there, or even a local community Facebook page. I can stick it up and say, ‘Anyone want a house? Come and tell me what it’s worth’.” Once a buyer has consent to put the house in a new location, they will come and take it away.
The house has already been around the block. “It was actually moved here from Te Anau about 15 years ago. They lift it up, put it on the truck and bring it on out. The piles are ready and they just plonk it on.”
The family’s new home will be wooden framed with better insulation, says Mulhern. “It will be U-shaped with lots of sliding doors, straight on to the deck.”
Visiting someone in Japan? Then be sure to wear decent socks, that’s Eamonn Murphy’s advice. The Dubliner fell for the country on a work posting and is now a Tokyo resident of eight years. “I fell in love with the place – the people, the culture. Tokyo is such a huge city with nine million people, but it is so orderly and friendly and clean.”
He lives in the city with his Tokyo-born wife and baby daughter.
The genkan is the aspect of Japanese housing that strikes him most. “In Japan, you always take your shoes off when entering a house,” says Murphy. The genkan is essentially a porch where you transition from outside the house to the inside. It’s a separation between the world and the haven of home.
“Your shoes are placed here and they should be placed with toes directed to the outside,” he says of the tradition. When tradespeople visit a house, they often bring their own slippers with them too, he says. “I’ve had many overseas visitors who, once they get used to this habit in Japan, are adamant that they’ll implement the same when they return home.”
It’s such a nice thing in the winter months to go down to the sauna. You can go out the back steps into your garden with your bathrobe and cool down outside, and then go back in again for the sauna
The tradition is not confined to homes either. “In some public buildings, you have to take your shoes off, for example in some restaurants and schools. It’s always important to have clean socks, with no holes,” says Murphy.
While living in Japan means being prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis, day to day, “the general level of safety is really comforting”, he says. “It’s a fantastic environment. Within a five-minute walk is my daughter’s nursery, lots of small parks, you can cycle around, the train system is fantastic. Despite it being a megacity, everything is very convenient and easy.”
The housing density of Tokyo is very high, and there are positive consequences, says Murphy. The main one is people’s consideration of neighbours. “You will rarely hear any noise from a neighbouring house or apartment,” he says. “The other thing is the cleanliness of the front of your house. If it’s sweeping the area in front of your house or removing all the snow, people are very conscious of keeping their surroundings clean.”
Proper waste disposal is taken seriously with exhaustive guidelines. “Each local government organises the collection of garbage and the rules are very strict for recycling. Four days a week I have the garbage truck driving down my road picking up different items each day. The convenience is fantastic.”
Ever since I’ve lived in Germany I’ve been told don’t even think of mowing your grass or cutting hedges between 1pm and 3pm
Having a cellar is pretty typical in Germany, says Shirley Heinen. “I definitely wouldn’t want to give that up,” says the Co Wexford woman. She has lived in the country for 25 years and her husband is German. The space takes pressure off the rest of the house. The sauna is there too of course.
“That’s such a German thing. It’s such a nice thing in the winter months to go down to the sauna. You can go out the back steps into your garden with your bathrobe and cool down outside, and then go back in again for the sauna. It’s typical here,” she says. Cellars work hard in a German home.
“One room has the washer and dryer, in another room we have the gas heating system, another room is where we keep all our drinks and in another are the Christmas decorations and bicycles. It’s lots of space. You have the whole size of the ground floor and you do use it.”
Local laws make for peaceful gardens. “Ever since I’ve lived in Germany I’ve been told don’t even think of mowing your grass or cutting hedges between 1pm and 3pm,” says Heinen. “If you want to have a peaceful life, you just don’t do it.” It was typical for older generations to sleep at this time. If you haven’t stopped work, you will likely get a gentle reminder from a neighbour, she says. It’s a two-way street though. “For yourself, you go outside and you are reading a book in the back garden and you think, excuse me, it’s 1pm, why are they not finished. It’s amazing how you get used to it.”
For problems with neighbour noise, people call the local Ordnungsamt, a force responsible for various aspects of public order in Germany, says Heinen. Their officers will visit and say there has been a complaint.
On trips to Ireland, her family notices dogs off-lead – it doesn’t really happen in Germany. “Dogs walking around on their own, you would never really see that here at all. If they were, you would call the authorities and say, there is something wrong, there is a dog walking around on his own. People would be very quick to say, ‘Excuse me, put the dog on a lead’.”
For those redecorating or moving, then Sperrmüll is a help. This local authority service collects bulky waste. ”If you are renovating or getting new furniture, you ring them and say you have furniture you need to get rid of. They give you an appointment and say, ‘yes, leave it out and we will collect it’. They give you an exact time and date it has to be outside. That’s included in your bins, so it’s not extra. That’s dead handy. It makes life easier.”