Friday, April 27, 2012

Euro Living, Part IV

On the Charles Bridge in Prague.

  It's been a few weeks, but I haven't forgotten my last entries about Euro Living, and how day-to-day life differs from that in the US. I figured since my time in Dunkerque and France is winding down for the season, there's no time like the present to get that series finished. Here are my previous three entries on the subject: Euro Living Part 1Euro Living Part 2, and Euro Living Part 3

Out and About:

  Banking, for me, is a different experience in Europe. The only time I EVER go inside a bank is when I'm in Europe. In the US, I do all my banking online, or at the ATM. While there is online banking with European banks, I'm not THAT confident in my abilities to correctly translate a website...and once again, the bank is definitely NOT the place to have any mis-communications!  

  One thing I also notice is that checks are still used on a regular basis throughout France. While seeing a person in line at the store write a check is almost unheard of these days in the US, it's still a regular occurrence with the French.

Berliner Dom in Berlin.
  Either in Europe, or at home in the US, my day-to-day routine more often than not consists of a trip to a fitness gym for a workout. There are no giant 24 hour fitness-type gyms in Europe. The gyms you find in Europe are most-likely, privately owned, and are in a building that has been converted into a gym. The areas usually are smaller. For example the gym I go to in Dunkerque has four treadmills. Compare that to the gym I frequent in the US that has probably 20 of them.

  If you're an American eating out anywhere in Europe, and you enjoy your bottomless lemonades or Cokes, you'll find yourself disappointed (and stuck with a fairly large bill for those drinks). No free refills here in Europe. And no, not even at McDonald's!

  But one standard rule that works in our favor (as Americans), is that you don't usually tip waiters in Europe (the UK is an exception! Learned that the hard way!). So maybe you can make a little bit of your drink money back in that manner.

Wall of beer in Bruges (Belgium).
  Though I am not a beer drinker (I know, I know...I've been told many times that German and Belgian beer are incomparable), I've noticed that it's completely normal for a pint (or whatever you call it) of beer to be cheaper than a bottle of water. If you know me at all, you'll know that it's no small miracle that I haven't developed a taste for beer just to save a few pennies!

  The beautiful architecture throughout Europe goes without being said. Walk around any European city, no matter how big or small, and you'll find the buildings by themselves are a joy to look at. Whether it'd be cathedrals, libraries, castles, monuments, universities, city halls, or even some apartment buildings, they're all nothing short of spectacular in my opinion. The sheer age of the buildings is pretty awesome. By comparison, the US has nothing that rivals the 'old' in Europe.

The Facilities (Or Lack Thereof)

Dinner in Prague with Mom, Nana, Steph, and Cicci.
  Walk through the streets of Dunkerque, or any other French town, and one thing will  become clear very quickly: the French don't pick up after their dogs (this is the case in several other, but not all, European countries I have lived in). Carrying a plastic bag to take care of any presents your dog might leave behind hasn't quite caught on here on the 'Old Continent' yet. So if you're out for a run, or just strolling through the streets, you have to constantly be on the lookout for landmines that might be hiding. Gross, I know.
Il Duomo in Milan.
  While it's not the case in France, paying to use the restroom at rest stops or gas stations along freeways is a regular occurrence. From memory, it usually costs about 50 Euro cents (70 cents), so you better have some change on hand. The good news about paying for the restroom is that it usually means (not always though) it'll be a pretty clean facility.

  I was reminded of this last nugget just a few hours ago as we made our way though Belgium and Luxembourg (on our way to Strasbourg). You are much more apt to see a man on the side of the road not bothering to take a trip to the restroom (come to think of it, I don't know if I've ever seen that happen in the US -- I know if happens, just not in front of me!). And you thought Americans were lazy! 

No comparison to the Colosseum in Rome.
  While we're on the subject of the facilities, the toilets are fairly different as well. But I won't go into any more detail than that. ;)

Random Trivia

  One random piece of Euro Living trivia I've always found pretty entertaining is the amount of hand signals, sign language if you will, that is used. It seems to me that every country has several widely known random hand signals, sounds, and gestures, that have very specific meanings. I wish I could visually give you an example (maybe I could do a video blog for this one day!!), but I'll list off a few of my favorites.

Wroclaw Plaza in Poland.

  In Italy alone, they have signals for: 'let's go', 'come here', a really skinny person, full (as in the arena was jam-packed), someone who is talking ad-naseum, and so on. Did I miss any??? It's amazing what can be conveyed just with a small gesture.

  Another few small differences: When counting in Europe, you start with your thumb as one, and continue with your index finger for two, etc... (versus starting with your index finger in the US).  And in France the kids, very specifically, raise hands in school with their pointer finger extended.

  So there's part four of the most obvious differences between the US and Europe I have found while living abroad. I'll have the fifth and final entry for you next week!


  1. Learned the hard way about no refills on soda in Europe. I did have to pay to use the toilet at a subway station in Paris. I've found the way the trash is on the curb in London disgusting and smelly in summer. Same for not picking up after dogs.

    1. Agreed...street cleaners coming by every couple of days doesn't quite cut it!