Friday, April 6, 2012

Euro Living, Part II

Goofing around while getting some coffee in France. ;)
  What it's like to live in Europe, take two! (If you didn't catch the first installment, make sure to check out part one!)

  It's been pretty fun to put all these differences to paper. When you are just going about your day as usual, you don't really notice, or think about any differences you might encounter. It's also been fun to recall the funny/awkward/frustrating moments I've experienced through the years.

  Here are a few more examples of the contrasting European and American ways of life:

Home Living:
  First and foremost, the majority of living spaces in Europe come in the form of apartments, or attached homes. In the 'country' you'll find stand-alone houses, but usually that's the only occurrence.

  Suburbs are fairly non-existent in Europe. You either live in the city, or in the country -- nothing in between. So that's the most obvious difference in regards to homes. (I also addressed this to a lesser extent in an early blog: Where'd All the Fat People Go?)

  Once you get inside the house, the differences continue to pop up! One of the things I miss the most when I'm in Europe is not having garbage disposal. It might sound like a weird thing to miss, but I will never get used to it. Those of you in the US right now, think about how many times you put food scraps down the kitchen sink drain. When you're washing dishes, and cleaning the kitchen, you'll definitely notice the lack of a garbage disposal!

Looking down from my apartment in Como, Italy center.
  Speaking of washing dishes, dishwashers are a luxury item in most countries in Europe. On one occasion in nine seasons I've had a dishwasher. For me, it's not too big of a deal. Cooking and cleaning dishes for one isn't that difficult. It's only after you host a dinner party do you really notice the absence of a dishwasher. Just don't let things pile up in your sink!

  Another common household item in the States is a clothes dryer. But again, that's a rarity to see too often in Europe.

  In Sweden we had dryers, but an entire apartment building shared two.

  When I played in Portugal, we had a dryer, but had to be conscious of what time of day it was, and what else was on in the apartment. Nine times out of ten, running the dryer would blow a fuse. So it was usually more trouble than it was worth!

  Individual apartments aren't equipped to handle the electricity output of dryers I suppose. I have gotten used to hanging my clothes up (and sometimes use the heat registers to speed up the process), but definitely miss having a dryer. Socks and t-shirts that become like cardboard is not a good feeling!

Attached homes/apartments in Wolfenbüttel, Germany.
  During my years in Italy I always noticed there was a long string/cord in the bathroom. Usually near the shower. I never did figure out what it was for -- an 'I've fallen, and I can't get up' cord?? I was always afraid to pull it! So if anyone knows what it's used for, fill me in!

  Even though I do my own cooking, and I can stay on my own eating schedule, I've noticed that I have a tendency to slowly creep into the European tradition of eating a late dinner.

  When I'm in the US, I think I usually eat around 6:30 - 7pm. However in Europe 8 - 9 pm seems to be the norm in France, and even later in some places. 

Yummy French crepe & cafe.
The Coffee Experience:
  Europeans love their coffee, as do Americans. But getting coffee is a whole different experience here. Small, privately owned cafes are a dime a dozen in countries like France, Italy, and Spain. And at any point during the day, those cafes will be jammed packed with coffee drinkers.

Starbucks in Germany -- to go cups! With Jeza & Cicci.
  In Europe, getting coffee is a social experience. You go with a group of friends, you have some nice strong coffee, and maybe treat yourself to a small dessert.

  You never see a person go to a cafe by themselves, and you would never see them sitting there for hours on end reading, working, doing crossword puzzles, or surfing the web (like we see each and every day in Starbucks and Peet's around the US).

  Another thing you don't see very often is coffee to go. There are exceptions, but usually those exceptions come in the form of a to go Starbucks, McDonald's, or Subway cup.

  Hellos and goodbyes are one thing. But let's forget the actual words for a quick second. Figuring out (and remembering) what is status quo for hellos and goodbyes in each country should come with a manual.

Cafe car in Italy with Cheru & Francy!
  In Germany, you shake hands. In Sweden, depending on the friendship, you might hug or shake hands. In Italy you kiss cheeks (sometimes one, two, or three kisses -- depending on the person). In France, it's always one kiss on each cheek. In Belgium it's one kiss on the cheek. In former Yugoslavian countries many times it's three kisses on the cheek. And so on...

  In the US, it can be anything: a head nod, a hand shake, a hug, a fist pound. Anything BUT kisses on the cheek!

  All the different greetings are something I have definitely had to get used to over the years. And it's a constant reminder that I'm not at home!

  Sometimes I forget where I am, and don't follow the traditional greetings, and do as I would as if I were in the US. Hopefully when that happens, people don't think I'm rude, and cut me a little slack!

  There are situations that can be a bit awkward -- exchanging kisses on the cheek with complete strangers for example! But you roll with the punches, and have to remember where you are.

  Part three is coming next week! Hope you all have a great Easter weekend!


  1. the string in the bathroom is a laundry line. you pull it - anchor it. and hang delicates on it...

    1. I don't think that's what it was...I've had those before. There was no place to anchor it. This had a handle on the end... :)