While there is no place like home, it's hard not to miss a few things about Europe when I'm back in the US. Going back and forth between the two places I'm always having to adjust to the different lifestyles, the different ebbs and flows of day-to-day life, and different cultures. I always try to live in the moment and be in the country I'm in without thinking about what would make it just a little better, but here's a list for anyone wondering what Europe has that the US could work on.
Honestly I love the food in the US. When I was home I went a little crazy on the Sweet Green, Chipotle and Cava, but our bread is shit. After developing an addiction to fresh baguettes over the past two years, when I can’t get my daily dose for 1€ I go into withdraw. If you want a baguettes it’s either a $3 monstrosity filled with ingredients I can’t really pronounce like Azodicarbonamide or a $5 artisanal baguette that still doesn’t measure up to the French bakeries. While there’s nothing wrong with a good piece of white bread toast, you start to miss the crunchy, steamy French baguette back in Europe.
2. Cheap transportation
A flight to Barcelona round trip for 35€? I’ll take it. Milan for 43€? Yes. A month unlimited use of buses and metro in my city for 28€? Thank you very much. Europe’s public transportation system is a lot better developed than it is in the US. In a country where car is king there isn’t the same need for the infrastructure they have in Europe. While I understand that in theory I don’t want to make sense of it when I’m home and having to Uber into the city for $35 once the metro stopped running. When I used to work in the city and commuted every day that $6/day 5 days a week added up to $120/month which is a lot more than the $33 I pay here.
Going off bread, you don’t get cheese in the US like you do in Europe. There is definitely good cheese in the US and believe me when I say I loved cheese even before I’d eaten it in Europe. But the fact that cheese has to be pasteurized in the US destroys the microorganisms can lead to that stink (and the stronger taste) that the French and Swiss and other Europeans love. That stink might not be for everyone but there is no debating the difference between a good Camembert/Parmesan in Europe versus one in the US.
The pace of life is so much more relaxed in Europe than the US. People aren’t as stressed about being 5 minutes late to something. They drink their coffee on their balconies slowly instead of on their commute to work. They have at least an hour break for lunch, sometimes two. They walk more slowly and they eat more slowly. They’re not in a rush to do something for someone or to get ahead of someone else. It’s really refreshing (until someone is walking SO slow in front of you.)
5. Les Vacances
Five words, 26 letters, sounds like heaven: four weeks minimum of vacation. The French have at least four weeks of vacation a year and sometimes more. Working as a teacher, I get a two week vacation every six weeks from the end of August until mid-June and then 2 months of vacation in the summer. The Spanish have 4 weeks of paid vacation. The UK has 28 days off. Most of my friends in the US have 10 days of vacation a year and one couldn’t even go home for Christmas because she had to work Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas because she hadn’t accrued enough vacation days in her new job (a story that was received in disbelief from my French coworkers). Also, their full time is only 35 hours instead of 40 hours which is also a pretty sweet deal.
6. Old architecture
The most random little street in Europe might hold little world wonders. You might walk down a random street and end up at a 500 year old church just tucked away in between the cobbled roads. I walk by houses carved intricately out of wood, houses that are tipping sideways, but still standing, and beautiful stained glass. There are just a lot of hidden treasures that I miss stumbling upon. So because of the newness of the US there just isn’t the same old architecture.
7. Cheap (but good) wine
The cheap wine in the US is around $5 but it’s mostly for young kids trying to binge drink who don’t really care about the taste. If you’re wanting to sit down with friends and pop open a bottle of wine you’re looking to pay more around $12, but in Europe you can get a quality wine, the kind you want to sip slowly and enjoy for $5. When I’m spending more on $10 it’s a special occasion because my $6 and $7 bottles treat me just fine every other night.
The French don’t beat around the bush with how they feel about certain things. If they don’t like how slowly the printer is working they’re saying how annoyed they are. If they have a friend mistreat them, they’re telling them to their face that they’re not going to be treated like that. If the government isn’t treating them how they want, they’re striking in the streets with trash can fires and explosives (and with peaceful marches, of course). But if shouting in the street with your complaints for all of your neighbors to hear ain’t honest, I don’t know what is. While Americans are generally honest when it comes down to things, they tend to worry more about hurting other people’s feelings (which can also be a good thing!) instead of saying how they feel.
Like the architecture, Europe has a richer history than the US due to the fact that the countries have been around a lot longer than the United States has. The fact that you can walk in the colosseum where the gladiators fought, run the original marathon, and visit cities created in 6000 BCE (hi Plovdiv, Bulgaria) is pretty insane.
This is honestly one of the best things about Europe for me. It’s so much easier to learn another language when you’re in a continent with 24 official languages and home to five out of the ten top languages in the world. I love having to learn a few new words before I do any traveling and then learning even more when I get there.