I have now been traveling for more than four weeks, and over that time I have seen, done and learnt a hell of a lot. It hasn’t always been easy, and there was a point in Paris where I genuinely didn’t want to continue. I left all of that negativity in France though, and it’s been nothing but up since then!
As you’d imagine, I’ve discovered that there are so many differences between life in isolated little New Zealand at the bottom of the southern hemisphere and this incredibly diverse continent on the opposite of the globe. Language is the major difference that comes to mind immediately but there are so many other factors that I have come across that have made me stop to think, laugh or grumble. To demonstrate I have made a list of 10 random or interesting things I have noticed on my journey so far:
- Everybody smokes.
In Paris you could hardly walk down a sidewalk because so many people were outside their buildings with a cigarette in their hand. At pedestrian crossings you need to make sure you are not next to a smoker, and if you are you better hope the wind is not blowing in your direction. I have been on the receiving end of more second hand smoke on the past month than in my entire life. My lungs are probably one exhale in the face away from being tar sealed.
2. They not only drive, but also walk on the right.
I have walked into poor unsuspecting Europeans too many times to count. I’ve become a professional awkward ‘left, right, wait no left’ dancer as I try to navigate my way around people walking towards me. On escalators here people are supposed to stand on the right side, so that people in a hurry can walk up the left, but I have been the reason for many a traffic jam because I just can’t get used to it. Sticking to the left is ingrained in my mind like a tattoo to skin, and I would like to make a formal apology to all the Europeans I have blocked and bumped in to. My bad.
3. You need to pay to pee.
This is one thing I cannot get behind. Why are we punished for having bladders? I do not want to pay to use a public toilet, and I DEFINITELY do not want to pay to use one in McDonald’s (I’m looking at you, Brussels). If I could go all day without a toilet stop I would, happily. I’d love an extra few 50 euro cents jiggling around in my pocket. Unfortunately though, I am a human being. And human beings should be allowed to consume as much liquid as they’d like without having to pay to let it out!!! Peeing for free should be a god damn human right!!! Let’s start a petition.
4. If you are willing to pay to pee, you are going to do it in a water closet.
All the signs for a toilet here say ‘WC’, meaning water closet. Why? I’m not really sure. But it’s pretty funny.
5. Carbs, carbs, carbs.
If you don’t like bread you are shit out of luck, I’m afraid. Europe is literally carb heaven.
Disclaimer: After three months please read that last sentence as ‘Europe is literally carb hell’.
6. The public transport is incredible.
I remember freaking out at Heathrow Airport, knowing that I’d have to get the infamous London Underground for the first time. As it turns out, the tube is wonderful. I loved it. You get thrown around like clothes in a washing machine, but you arrive at your destination dry and punctual. Public transport in Europe makes New Zealand look third world. Every city so far has had an easy to navigate, efficient transport system. In my whole time here I have never had to wait longer than five minutes for a train, metro or tram. Sure beats an old, slow, bouncy Tranz Metro ride into Wellington.
8. The coffee is awful.
This upsets me. What upsets me even more is that my best coffee so far was from Starbucks in Hamburg. ‘Starbucks’ and ‘best coffee’ should never have become words I was able to use in the same sentence. I feel like a failed Wellingtonian. In London they burnt, well, everything. In Paris and Brussels they used long life milk. I shudder just thinking about it. That is truly the stuff of nightmares.
I’m pinning all my hopes and dreams on the Italians, but I think my first flat white when I get back home is going a very emotional moment. It’s normal to cry over coffee, right?
9. The money is weird.
Pounds were bad, Euros are worse, but even if I was here for a year I don’t think I’d ever get my head around the Danish Krone. Also, Europe, what is the point of one and two cent coins? And why are your coins not sized logically? Feel free to flick me an email as I’m genuinely intrigued.
10. Always carry cash.
At home I NEVER have cash on me. Never. I don’t need to, because everywhere has EFTPOS. Here lots of places are cash only and do not accept cards. I’ve had to make emergency dashes to ATMs to withdraw cash to pay for things such as, but not limited to; A hoodie, a falafel kebab, an umbrella, (bad) coffee and a package being sent home from Hamburg.
Bonus point: 11. Pillows come in all shapes and sizes!
A pillow is a rectangle, right? Except for when it’s not. Last nights was a huge ass square that meant I had to sleep with my head halfway down the bed. I have had to deal with this a surprising amount of times. When I left New Zealand on a mission of self discovery, the shapes of pillows in different countries was not something I imagined myself becoming interested in… But here we are. Life is full of surprises.
I’ve already experienced the cultures of six different countries and I still have two months to go. With Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Munich, and multiple places in Switzerland, Italy and Greece to look forward to I am sure I will eventually be able to compile a very, very comprehensive list of ways in which Europe is confusing as hell to a girl from lil ol’ New Zealand.