OK guys, so I’ve been to Europe several times, but the last time was 5 years ago making me a 16 year old brat that wouldn’t let anyone take her picture in front of a 300 year old palace. That was the last time…until last month. Now that I’m a slightly less bratty 21 year old gal, I obviously took advantage of all the Instagram opportunities, but more than that, I tested myself to find out which parts of the European culture were truly as shocking as I remembered, and which parts were actually just the result of a teenager not having wifi or a snack in 2 hours.
Coffee is truly as tiny as I remember it being, lets start there. If you go anywhere besides Starbucks or McDonalds, like a typical restaurant, they bring you a teacup of coffee smaller than an espresso shot that looks like it came with my easy bake oven. What’s up with coffee across the Atlantic y’all? I think I ordered one decent cup of coffee during my two weeks in Vienna this year, but it was half milk so I don’t think that counts.
What struck me more than the coffee though, was the people. In general? Rude. The kind of rude where they see you coming and press the “close door” button instead of holding the elevator. I mean it metaphorically, but I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if it were to actually happen. No one held the door for me in the course of the 15 days of my trip, and if they couldn’t understand what I was saying, I was as good as invisible. Now again, let me stress that I’m not speaking for the entire continent of Europe, but the personal experience and encounters I had in Austria in comparison with the general experiences I’ve had in the United States my entire life.
Now, the most uncomfortable thing for me was going from spending half of my life in a smoke free zone, to being thrust into a society that considers a cigarette dessert. That’s right, A CIGARETTE. Not some trendy millennial marijuana smoke, but good old- fashioned nicotine. For those of you who haven’t been outside the protection of the non smoking zone (a.k.a America) in the last decade and a half, consider this your warning. Apparently Europe hasn’t gotten the memo: smoking kills. And you can do it just about anywhere. It was kind of chic for a second like a 1970’s film, but it got old real quick when my closet started to scream “chimney sweep” instead of chic. Seriously though, it is kind of surreal to be sitting at a restaurant in 2018 and see the table next to you light up. Or to relive the laughable “Non Smoking Section” which is actually just 6 booths on the other side of the room.
The atmosphere itself started to feel kind of cold and lonely after awhile. Partly because all my social interactions were limited to a handful of English speakers, but also because I was away from my daily ins and outs, and I was yet again reminded of the harshness of the world. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like everyone was mean and nasty, but it was definitely not a hippie, west coast music festival promoting world peace and neighborly love.
So in conclusion, I guess my experience wasn’t all that different. I wondered if age and wisdom (lol– five years of both) would somehow change my perspective on all of the things that shocked me about European society, but instead I learned that the truth is always going to be true, no amount of age or wisdom will change that. What did change, was my tolerance, and my ability to find more beauty than ugliness. So I guess I can technically attribute that to maturity (age, wisdom, etc.). I chugged my 1 ounce coffees, held the door for all the people that didn’t hold it for me, embraced a little nicotine in my clean air, and truly stopped to smell the roses. Truly, guys. There were so many incredible florists out on the streets.
I found myself sticking my head out the Uber window and gazing at the city lights around me, pretending I was in Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” music video. I ate everything, I drank everything, I got the bartender laughing when we couldn’t understand each other, I even had a cold for 3 days but still rocked a hotel room photo shoot and smashed some darn good pizza.
All in all, there is no perfect world. I think I love mine so much because it’s home and it feels like Christmas pajamas on Christmas eve. Warm and fuzzy, familiar, like nothing bad could ever happen; like I know the ending to every story that’s told in that place, and that this is exactly where I want to be. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel extremely fortunate to be able to experience life outside of my own, it just means that every time I set foot outside of my American soil I will be reminded not to take my freedom, my customs, my culture, my upbringing, or my life for granted. God bless America! And God bless the world!
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