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Finding the house was a long process, but redesigning it took even more time. We argued about a number of details with the municipal engineer: where we could put windows, how large they could be and what they could look like. In February, we were suddenly notified that municipal bosses would assemble the following week to decide on the fate of our project. We waited in limbo for the decision the whole week.

We had no idea how large a role politics, personal relations or sheer luck played in getting the designs approved. When you are building in a foreign country, you are at the mercy of other people, and you just hope that no one is cheating too much. Luckily, the council – which has a reputation for being very strict – gave the green light to the project. In the end, only minor changes were required.

When the plans had been approved, it was time to pick a construction company. That was an easy enough choice: we settled on Hugo, our project manager’s brother. Hugo is always cheerful and friendly, and he never objects to our decisions. Instead, he tries to find a solution to every problem.

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