Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Guest Blog: Realizations of an Expat in Europe

By Stephanie Condon
She is married, with one son, living in Europe (Germany and Belgium) for the last 13 1/2 years. Works at NATO. Loves to travel and experience other cultures, especially the cuisine. Speaks English well, and can get by in French, German, and Dutch.

After living in Europe for 13.5 years, I've made some observations. Here are a few.  Have you noticed the same things?

Life as an expat realization #1 
There is no such thing as personal space. Get used to it. If you need it, move back to America. Maybe Ohio.

Life as an expat realization #40 

Learning a foreign language well is useless if you then move to another country where they don't speak it. Also, everyone there speaks English. Maybe better than you.

Life as an expat realization #75 

Feeling homesick? Go to Hard Rock. They are all over the world and do the best job of approximating American food, cocktails, and customer service.

Life as an expat realization #137 

"Show me your papers" is a real thing. Without papers or adequate identification, you can be detained by the police indefinitely. Yes, even in Western Europe.

Life as an expat realization #186 

Keyboards, even in English-speaking countries, are not the same. Try typing in your password on a British QUERTY or a French AZERTY keyboard. Fail!

Life as an expat realization #203 

Filet Américain is not a steak. It's certainly not American. No American would eat it. Raw, spicy, ground meat.

Life as an expat realization #298 

Fertilizer is usually cow poop. They spray it on the fields a few times a year and it smells disgusting. On the other hand, it's not full of toxic chemicals, so there's that.

Life as an expat realization #340 

Everyone you meet knows about America. From "Pimp My Ride" or "The Kardashians." You will spend a lot of time explaining that America really isn't like that. And then no one will believe you, anyway.

Life as expat realization #387 

I find that I'm not even qualified to be the drink cart girl on the Thalys, as one must be fluent in 4 languages.

Life as an expat realization #431 

Europeans manage to work 35-38 hours per week, stay home on weekends and holidays, take 3-4 weeks of vacation per year, and still get all of their work done (especially Germans). What's wrong with us??

Life as expat realization #543 

I used to prep for highway exit about a mile away from the exit. Now I only need 200 meters to get across 5 lanes.

Life as expat realization #575 

Church attendance may be low, but most holidays are religious. If you are offended by that- keep it to yourself. Most countries, even in modern, secular, Europe, don't view separation of church and state the same way we do.

Life as expat realization #652 

Americans are identifiable everywhere by khaki pants, sneakers, white socks, sweats, ball caps, or baggy grandpa suits. If you are traveling and want to speak to an American, look around. You can usually pick them out. Everyone else will be wearing tight, dark clothing.

If you like this article, check out 12 Doses of Culture Shock for This American in Europe.



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