As I am suffering from separation anxiety due to a recent end to my study abroad trip, I figured I would share some knowledge I obtained while I was overseas, especially the things that stood out the most. For some background, I went to six different countries: Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Greece, and Spain in the span of twenty three days. I walked over one hundred fifty miles, and almost every step was worth it. I definitely recommend that anyone reading this thinking about going, you should. It is 110% worth every penny. Before you go, aside from jet lag and a six to seven hour time difference, here are some differences you are going to want to be ready for:
Yep, this is what they look like. It's a pain in the ass if you don't have an adapter, so I suggest buying ones beforehand. You will need it for your phone, iPad, computer, hair dryer, electrical razor, curling iron.....everything. You will not survive without an outlet.
I cannot tell you how hard it was to find STILL water. Europeans drink a lot of sparkling water and wine. I was definitely not used to that, especially when I was dying of thirst. The last thing I wanted to drink was warm sparkling water. Sink water it is I guess. Also, you have to pay for water in restaurants. It's not free my fellow Americans. So, don't waste money on water, buy yourself a nice Mojito instead.
For the most part, a price tag is a price tag. If something is eight euros, you are going to pay eight euros. Even on food and drinks, if you pay one euro for water, then it will be one euro, not one euro and six cents.
Most restaurants in Europe don't expect you to leave a tip after a meal. They welcome you into their restaurant and serve you almost immediately. It is never a rush. However, dinner itself is time-consuming.
This was definitely awkward at first with my host family. I didn't know how to greet, they weren't sure either. However, the proper way to say hello and goodbye is to lightly kiss on each cheek. Get used to it.
Politics is a very important topic in Europe. Europeans are quite invested and educated about what is going on in their government and upcoming elections. They also can tell you a lot about their country's political history.
Driving is super hectic, busy and unorganized. Cars swerve in and out of lanes. There are barely lines on the road for any dictation of lanes. For your safety, I know there are a lot of jay-walkers in America but do not be caught walking across a street or even a crosswalk without the green walking symbol because I promise you, you will get hit. They do not care. Pedestrians first.....no, not so much. Also, the driving age is eighteen.
Drinking age is sixteen/seventeen. They are a lot more casual with drinking though. Wine or beer is served at almost every dinner. Unless you look like you're twelve, you won't be carded at bars either. So congrats underagers, you will be able to buy your first bottle of alcohol.
There was actually a lot of different ways we got around. Besides planes, there are trains, metros, bikes, scooters, taxis, Ubers, cars, buses, and of course my favorite....walking. I recommend learning to use the metro or train often if you want to go places farther away to save yourself money and your feet from hurting.
Yes, the currency is different. Not the most outrageous difference, but definitely worth noting. The currency exchange is rough, Especially if you take out money from an ATM. Also, they have one hundreds, fifties, twenties, tens, and fives in paper form, while twos and ones, fifty cents, twenty cents, ten, five, and one cent are coins. Another note, the bills are different sizes because it helps blind people dictate what bill it is.
This is probably an obvious one, but I put it here because you should know how to at least say hello and goodbye in every language of every country you intend to visit. Otherwise, some will laugh at you, stare at you, or just feel bad for you. It's very polite and respectful to at the least, attempt their language. If you are fluent then just keep scrolling.
Shopping was a little different than in America. For example, the store H & M in America brands popular tourist places internationally, while H & M in Europe sells clothes that brand popular places in America like NYC or LA. There are also a lot of pharmacies and expensive shops like Gucci, Saint Laurent, Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, etc. So save up.
Believe it or not, as a whole, Europe is a lot more environmental friendly and cleaner than the United States is. There are plants everywhere and garbage cans, recycling cans, and street cleaners on almost every block. I also saw people working to pick up trash left in the streets. Love it.
14. Smaller Spaces
Everything was smaller. Stair cases were in a more spiral form, elevators fit one person with a suitcase or two without, bathrooms were smaller, and I don't think one toilet had the handle to flush. It's all buttons.
Dogs and cats are so well behaved. Dogs are barely kept on leashes, and are allowed in stores and restaurants casually. Cats are everywhere, sprawled out on sidewalks, ledges, in front of restaurants, in the middle of store aisles, especially in Greece and Barcelona. Don't worry though, they are well fed and taken care of for the most part.