Culture shock….

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I’ve been thinking about writing a post about this for awhile since I’ve been here, but hadn’t gotten around to it.   I’ve noticed some differences in my European travels in the past, but actually living here really brings out those differences – and how they apply to the daily life of an American living in Europe.  Obviously, I live in the northeast US.  Things could be very different for someone who lives in say Kansas, or Utah, etc.  I can’t speak for them.  But I can speak as someone who’s lived her whole life mostly in PA, and also in Boston and Delaware.  Here are my observations…

Number one biggest difference to me: things close early here – stores, businesses, everything!  Back home, I think so many of us get used to a 24/7 culture.  You need eggs at 3:00 in the morning?  Well, just go the the 24 hour supermarket!  And back home you can shop on a Sunday!  It seems like EVERY thing here is closed on Sunday.  You actually have to think on Saturday…. do I need anything for the rest of the weekend?  Cause if it’s Sunday afternoon and you finished the last bottle of Coke the night before… well, let’s just say you’re going to have to deal with your caffeine withdrawal headache until the store opens on Monday!

However, on the flip side, bars and clubs stay open MUCH later.  Back home most establishments close at 2am.  (The only exception I know of are some places in NYC.)  Here, they stay open anywhere from 4am to 6am.  So most people don’t even go out until quite a later hour.  It’s totally normal to get to the club after midnight, as you still have hours of drinking and dancing time to go!

Another great difference – the train system!  Seriously – you can get ANY where you need to go by train over here in Europe.  During my whole stay, I’ve had no problems whatsoever getting from place to place via the train.  When I got here, I flew into Munich and took the train to Vienna.  We had an easy train ride out to Salzburg for our overnight.  I took the train to Frankfurt (then the commuter train to the burbs) for one of my auditions.  I easily got to Croatia by train.  And this next weekend, I’ll be heading to Switzerland by train.  In the States, I feel like you only have this kind of access to trains if you live in a major city.  And even then, there are many cities that are NOT accessible by train.  I know that where I live, you need a car, period.  It’s not a maybe kind of thing.  In Europe, you could easily live without a car.  (Plus, gas here is insanely expensive.)

Customer service is another big difference in Europe versus the States, and this is one situation where I think the US comes out way above.  I’ve worked in MANY jobs that require me to be in a position of providing excellent customer service.  We’re very much trained to be incredibly nice to our customers and clients – we bend over backwards to make them happy.  It’s what we also expect from others when WE are the customer.  And I find that treating people really super nice makes them happy – spread the happiness!  That is not the European way.  I’m not going to say that Europeans are rude when it comes to customer service, no, it’s just that it’s kind of, well, not really there.  I’ve encountered the full range here, but mostly it’s a sense of cold politeness that you’ll encounter from people in shops, and servers at restaurants. My worst experience was in Bratislava – I went up to a kiosk type thing to buy a Coke.  The sign said $.80.  But then he wanted a full Euro.  So I said to him that his sign clearly says $.80.  Well, I decided not to buy the Coke on principal, and he shouted out a lovely “F-ck you!”  (Debbie and I had a good laugh about it!)  That would be a prime example of terrible customer service if I ever encountered any.  Although I have to say the best customer service I received here was in a Douglas store.  (Cosmetics chain here in Europe.)  I ran out of my perfume and went to buy another.  I had a lovely conversation with the woman working at the register and she gave me a coupon discount even though I didn’t have the coupon.  That was the best service on my whole trip.

Overall, things are also much more expensive here.  Clothes AND food.  It’s quite the shock!

And then there’s the every day living differences.  I’m still quite perplexed at the separate rooms in houses and apartments for the toilets.  There’s just a random closet-sized room with a toilet in it.  Then you walk to the rest of the bathroom to wash your hands.  Although it is nice for the increased privacy when more than one person is sharing a place to live.  They also have trays inside the ovens instead of the metal wire racks.  When I first got here, I was looking around for a baking sheet to use for cooking.  But there weren’t any, because inside the oven was already a tray that you use instead of a baking sheet – that is your only option inside your oven.  The other strange thing is that it seems all beds are made up in a weird double-comforter style.  Each hotel I’ve been to has had this, and even when the cleaning staff comes to my apartment, that is how they make the bed.  Basically, you have two comforters on a bed that are folded in half.  I much prefer my comforter spread out, so I just unfold it.  It’s not a big deal, just an interesting observation.

I’m sure there will be more differences that I will think of and will add later, but these are some of the biggies that have really stood out in my mind.

No wire rack in the oven, just this heavy metal tray
No wire rack in the oven, just this heavy metal tray
Always with the folded double comforters...
Always with the folded double comforters...
Photo of author
Jennifer was initially drawn to Europe for two reasons: music and love.  She lived in Vienna for four years, and now calls Croatia home for much of each year, as she married a native Croatian. Since 2015, Jennifer has worked as a tour director and cruise director on European river cruises for a major American travel company, and has become an expert in all of the cities along her routes on the Danube, Rhine, and Main Rivers. She also has traveled to Disney World almost every year since 1985, and knows Disney World inside and out. As a travel agent, Disney World is her primary specialty, and she has helped many Disney newbies and veterans have amazing trips with her insider information.

3 thoughts on “Culture shock….”

  1. Wonderful observations, Jen. While the double comforter thing is interesting, it makes sense in this way. If you’re alone, you have one, and if you’re not, you each have one – this latter avoids the “stealing the covers” situation that frequently happens in cold weather in my house, and makes my wife kick me out to the guest room….

  2. It’s the end of June, and I still have a burn mark on my arm from that metal baking tray in the oven. Hahahaha! And yeah, the double comforter thing was just weird and I didn’t like it. If you want to snuggle with someone, how do you do that under separate comforters?!


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