#3: Friendships are frequently more steadfast
I just want to preface this article by saying that there is not necessarily any legitimate weight to the claims I’m making. They are merely reflections of my own thoughts and experiences.
With all of that said, I lived in Germany for four years teaching English in different international schools, tutoring German children outside school, traveling, befriending Europeans (several of whom I grew quite close with), and writing a travel blog while there.
Living in Europe has given me a different perspective for which I am so thankful. This has added richness to my life in monumental ways. It’s given me different ideas about how one might live, having experienced alternative value systems and varying ways of things being done.
The things I personally have loved about living in Europe thus far (and in no specific order):
Café culture. The U.S. is mainly dominated by sit-down restaurants or unwelcoming to-go eateries where one is encouraged to grab their food and hurry on out.
Either way, one often gets the sense of being hustled out of these places the very second they have taken their last bite. This is kind of a bummer. It doesn’t really allow one the chance to feel relaxed, as though they can linger and just hang out for a while.But cafes allow this, and actually, they encourage it.
The concept of a café is, with the purchase of a cup of coffee or tea, you are more than welcome to hunker down, revel, while the afternoon away for as long as you please.
I love this. I think it encourages a mindset of truly enjoying life and the company of others. Of actually taking time to relax into the moment. Of now always hurrying and rushing on to the next thing. Of appreciating and reveling in what and who is right in front of us, without pressure to race off to somewhere else.
It’s SO much better than in the U.S. On the one hand, I admire the ambition the U.S. encourages. There is definitely an aura of motivated desire for achievement in America that can absolutely be a good thing if harnessed correctly and not taken to the extreme.
However. I think in the U.S., they often take this to the very extreme. With regards to the hire-and-fire mentality that seems to infiltrate most of the workforce mindset, the minimal to non-existent allotted paid vacation time people receive, and the overworked and often underpaid way that many people are pushed towards. All of this to me adds up to less life happiness. It adds up to more stress, more pressure, less free time, and less mental and physical health.
In America, the mindset is generally that one should live to work. But in Europe, it’s that you work to live.
In Europe, your job is a means to fund the rest of your life. A career is still an important and fulfilling part of life to many, many people. But family is equally, if not more important. Time with friends. Time to pursue passions and hobbies. Time to relax and actually feel good. Time to visit other parts of the world and actually see the planet on which we live. All of this is just as important as a career in Europe.
And in the U.S., it is not touted as being this way. Job is first, everything else is at the bottom of the rung, which I think is a disheartening, lesser, and stressful way to live. It’s so important that one’s life outside of work is given equal weight, priority, time, and value as part of what is important in life. You get one opportunity to be here alive on this earth. You don’t want to look back and realize that most of what you did was work, work, work.
Americans are often more bubbly and may act as a friend more quickly, which they may or may not really mean over the long term. Americans are quick to say, “Oh my god, let’s hang out next week,” and equally as quick to not follow up or through on it. In Europe, though, friendships stereotypically take a bit longer to establish, many Europeans take a bit longer to warm up to you, BUT I discovered that once they do, they are generally the real deal.
You will meet hundreds of people throughout your life. Most of whom you will not connect with deeply. Most of whom you will not love. Most of whom will not go on to become “your people.”
Therefore, when you find the ones you do really connect with, when you find the ones you do feel yourself loving when you find “your people,” whether romantic, platonic, or familial, hold on to them. Put in the effort to maintain those connections. Those are rare, and that is what makes life AWESOME, full, and are what will bring you the most joy.
Yes, I was living check to check. Yes, I had to be super frugal on these trips. But it was so much easier to make these happen rather than if I’d been traveling over to Europe from the U.S. For example, one week in Portugal can be done for 500 euro total, from the standpoint of living here in Europe. That is including airfare, Airbnb, and spending money for the week. A steal of a deal.
If I were to plan that same trip but from the U.S., the total would be a couple thousand dollars, so this aspect about living in Europe is THE BOMB!
I always feel especially happy and grateful around that time of year, for the great people I have in my life to whom I am close. I love baking and cooking. Love the parties, the decorations, the lights, the glittering snowfalls. I just love everything about Christmas and Christmas markets are the epitome of Christmas splendor and magic.
Because then when one enters the workforce, they have to start off with a major financial blow right from the start, which tends to follow them for years and years before they are able to actually pay off the loans in the first place.
Some of the most scenic places of my life were viewed from the windows of a train, winding its way through part of Europe while sitting inside by the window, gazing outward. (One I can think of right off the bat, traveling to Zermatt, Switzerland, the train curving and bending its way alongside the staggering, snowy, vast Swiss Alps).
Europeans believe that the way you present yourself matters. That what you wear exudes and says something. They like to feel and look good. Personally, I think there’s merit to this. Knowing you look your best impacts your emotional and mental state in positive ways. It’s also more fun to people watch when other’s are dressed in interesting, fun, or fashionable ways. It adds pizazz to the landscape at large.
However, upon first embarking on a said eating spree, I was shocked to find myself wracked with stomach pains, my skin broke out horribly, and I went on to gain roughly 5 lbs/2.5kg in the span of a few weeks. I felt AWFUL. It was one of the worst periods I have ever felt in my life, health-wise.
And I realized as I was eating these foods, which I’d dreamed about for so long, that actually, a lot of them didn’t taste quite as great as I remembered. They tasted fatty, thick, chemical-laden, fake, sugary (too much even for my taste), just yuck. To my surprise, I found myself longing for the foods I’d grown used to eating in my life overseas. Simple, fresh, unprocessed foods.
Therefore, to me, the diet and foods generally opted for and readily available in the U.S. are problematic in terms of long-term health, weight maintenance, how one feels on the inside both emotionally and with regards to how their body functions, and more.
Of course, healthy food is available in most places if one truly wants to seek it out and maintain that type of lifestyle. But the U.S. makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle, that’s for sure. Healthy food is WAY more expensive in America than it is in Europe, and with the easy availability of all sorts of junk, as well as people typically being overworked, it’s so much easier to reach for the crappy stuff in the U.S.