As an American, visiting and living in Europe is truly a treat. As most would expect, I adore the history, culture, languages, food and proximity to incredible sites and other countries.
What you won’t expect is that I also appreciate some curious particulars. These are the minute details I delight in while here and the things I miss when I’m back in the States.
Flavors of chips/crisps. I love hitting local markets and testing out flavors not typically found in the USA, and have been surprised by Prawn Cocktail, Paprika, Roasted Lamb and even Kebab flavored chips.
Bathroom variances. I am amused when I have to figure out how to flush a toilet or work a sink. I’ve seen everything from a round flush button (or two) on a wall, a pull chain on a tank that’s mounted overhead, to a simple hole in the floor. (Needless to say the latter is not my favorite.) Sometimes even the sink area can be fun with handles, sensors, or a floor pedal to turn on the water. As for an American figuring out a bidet, well, that is another story entirely.
Concoction of aromas. Oddly enough, I enjoy a blend of perfume/cigarettes/coffee in the morning for nostalgic reasons. It takes me back to when I first studied in London and those smells permeated train stations and shops as professionals briskly commuted to work. I doubt that I could market that mixture as a mass-produced scented candle, but it does something for me.
Well-dressed individuals. European men and women present themselves incredibly well, and flawlessly don smart eyewear, sharp watches, excellent footwear and beautiful scarves. I especially appreciate that the men utilize hair product and cologne for a polished appearance.
Bells, hooves, trains and sirens. My ears are always in tune to the sounds I don’t often hear in the States. Nearly every village and major city has a church (or five) with a bell tower that carols and chimes on the hour. I also appreciate the sound of horse hooves clip-clopping on cobblestone, the whirring of trains passing by, and the sounds of sirens cutting through the air. Taken for granted as typical background European noise, I appreciate how rarely, if at all, I hear these sounds back home. The exception would be sirens, but ours sound completely different.
Numerous languages. I have a passion for words because they open communication doors and connect me with new people around the globe. Back home, I primarily hear English and sometimes Spanish, but in Europe, I encounter German, Italian, French, Russian, Dutch and more. I love using what vocabulary I can and will miss practicing these languages when I move back to a primarily English-speaking area.
Drinking in public. Prohibition did some damage on the view of alcohol consumption in the United States, and it transitioned from being a long-standing tradition to being frowned upon and concealed in private. Nearly a century later, there are strict laws prolonging drinking age, prohibiting sales, and limiting consumption areas. In Europe, however, I take great pleasure in sitting at a park with a bottle of wine and a baguette, cracking open beverages on trains, and sipping on “road beers” while riding in the car.
Blending in. I’m a people person and love a variety of cultures and customs. I enjoy picking up on subtle social practices and try to be a chameleon as much as possible. Whether it’s queuing up in Great Britain, not waving to strangers in Germany or kissing each cheek in Italy, I enjoy practicing social nuances that help me feel as though I’m fitting in.
So yes, I love Europe for all the “big” reasons, but sometimes, it’s the little things that count the most.