Culture shock is a typical component of study abroad. Living and studying in a foreign country will obviously differ from what college students are used to at their home universities. There are clear differences, and then there are little aspects of daily life for which you begin to long after awhile. Based on my experiences, here are 10 things to miss most about the United States while in Europe:
1. Free public bathrooms.
For someone with a bladder the size of a pea, this has been one of the most expensive parts of my trip! At nearly $1 a trip, you can see how the costs add up. Sometimes museums and restaurants where you have already paid for a ticket or a meal, charge you additionally for a bathroom. This may have led to me ducking under a bar through a child's entrance on one or two occasions...
2. Free tap water.
I am honestly shocked that more people are not dehydrated in Europe! At 2 to 3 euros a bottle, water in restaurants can be more expensive than a beer or a cocktail. Obviously if you are paying for it either way, many side with the cocktail and dehydrate themselves even more. Sometimes, restaurants even charge you for tap water!
3. Smoke-free areas.
European culture is all about one cigarette after another. I participated in an event in Germany sponsored by Marlboro where I could not enter a certain area because I do not smoke! It is the norm in Europe. Many restaurants and clubs will fill with smoke and you spend more time coughing than you actually spend your time there.
4. Unlimited phone access.
Study abroad is a great chance to unplug -- many study abroad students opt out of expensive data plans and solely rely on Wi-Fi. While some days it can be extremely gratifying not to check your phone, other days you spend hours searching for barely accessible Wi-Fi just to reach someone and talk for two minutes. And if you are like me and you enjoy actual phone calls, you waste more time saying, "Can you hear me?," than actually conversing with them.
5. The food.
You may think I sound ridiculous as parts of Europe have some of the best food around! It's true, but after awhile I found myself craving my local Thai or Vietnamese place. The food here is great, but it's not the same as the restaurants I frequent at home and it is hard to subdue the familiar cravings.
6. Allergen-friendly options.
In Europe, most waiters and waitresses receive a salary and do not value tips as much as in the United States. Additionally, European culture is much more relaxed and laid back. It can take hours in a restaurant and they will never bring your check without being asked first, which can take even more time. A quick meal is unheard of and you always need to allot substantial time for dining.
I miss cars. Granted, this could be the control freak in me who likes to go wherever I want, whenever I want, at my complete and total convenience. Public transportation in Europe is amazing, but it can take so long to go such a short distance. I miss the ability to get in my car and go to the grocery store without needing to lug my bags on public transport and up and down the streets.
9. Your friends and family.
Call me a sap, but sometimes the best part of being home is being with those you love. It can be hard enough adjusting to a foreign country, but doing so without "your rock" and others close to you can make it even more difficult. Just remember that they are only a phone call or text away, even if it takes two hours to find Wi-Fi to reach them.
While learning a foreign language is an incredible skill, when it's been a long day and your brain is fried, finding the words can be difficult. Sometimes I just missed easily asking for what I was looking for and the person actually understanding me. This can actually work to your advantage when you feel the urge to mutter under your breath, as chances are a lot of people have no idea what you're saying.