All posts by Sally

We Major

Continuing the theme of nasty sex talk week…

kidding! HI-O. Roosh is disgusting isn’t he?

I used to be a real clotheshorse back in my college days. That’s when I had disposable income – I decided I would start saving for retirement at 25 – and I liked to LOOK GOOD. I still LOOK SOOOO GOOD but now my primary expense is travel. Second is food and drink – mostly drink because I personally believe that drunks are good people, and non-drinkers are very, very bad (ask me about my empirical evidence) and third is books and maybe clothes. Well, maybe not last month, because I bought this rabbit-fur jacket, but that’s only because it is beautiful and warm and it reminds me of the real bunny I had to give away last year. And if anyone from PETA says anything right now, I’m going to eat a double cheeseburger with extra bacon while wearing it, don’t make me do it.

Anyway. Travel. This month I am all over Europe more than I’m at home, which is awesome. Because I don’t hostel, I probably spend a little, okay a lot, more money traveling than some people might and by some people I mean six months in South America. What I am getting at is that recently I hosted a friend who was traveling to Europe for the first time. I love her a lot, but sometimes, she really set my teeth on edge. She’s a picky eater (oh really? are we still 4 years old?), which is crazy-annoying to deal with in Europe because there are some weird foods – chicon anyone? It smells like garbage. It’s also bewildering to watch someone who has expressed worry about the American financial crisis spend nearly 500 euros on a Louis Vuitton bag at the tacky flagship on the Champs-Elysées. Or how about being afraid of the airport, costing nearly 100 euros and 2 hours to take a cab there and back (public transportation strike). I mean, after a week I could not even deal. It’s hard because I want to give visitors a great European Experience, but it’s Expensive, and Exhausting.

Really I just wanted to whine about all that. But therein lies a warning: if you do not bring your game face to Europe, you’re going to wind up doing what I want to do, which is eat steak tartare, drink champagne, go out to Versailles, and put your ass on a train to the airport with a quickness.

Differences Between European and American Bar Scene

-In general, Europeans do not binge-drink like Americans. I thought I drank pretty well, but Europeans have perfected the art of maintaining a buzz for an entire evening as opposed to pounding several drinks in the span of a few hours. Many Europeans do not get drunk while they are out.

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-Going to a bar or club is not really a reason to dress up. People will go out in their work clothes (and I don’t mean like “hey I’m an asshole who wears a suit to show you how important I am”) to a fancy bar or they’ll wear a basic jeans/top outfit. I once threatened to leave a cool rooftop bar if I saw any women there wearing dirty Converse sneakers. There is less concept of going-out clothes – the exception is people who live in party-heavy cities, like Barcelona or Paris.

-Eurotrash is a stereotype but it’s also true. Have you ever seen adult Americans spraying each other with champagne at a bar?

-In Europe, you do not approach strangers who are unknown to your group. Europeans in general are somewhat distrustful of people unless they have been introduced to them by someone they already know. My girlfriends and I have never been approached while out, and a stranger would absolutely never try to dance with us.

-Because bars and clubs are not limited to people over the age of 21, it can be tricky to figure out which places are legit and which are a bunch of high-schoolers trying to act cool. For instance there is one particular club I can think of that is written up in every guidebook as “posh” and very much a scene, but it’s full of 18-year-olds.

-No matter what city and what bar you go to, you will hear the song “Everyday People” by Arrested Development.

It’s Always Something

To me, living in Europe after having lived my entire life in the U.S. is like learning to drive a standard transmission car after only driving an automatic. At home, I knew exactly how everything worked, and it was fairly easy. But in western Europe I am constantly hamstrung by process, by language, or by rules… and it’s usually a matter of learning how to navigate all of these obstacles – clutch, shift, gas. Or whatever the order is.

For instance, I’ve learned to do all of my errands (dry cleaning, buy milk, buy printer paper) during the week or on Saturdays, because either there’s no place open to buy them on Sundays, or you’d have to hoof it across town to find the open store. I don’t have access to a car, because the car-sharing program here only has standard-transmission cars – which I can only drive with a gun pointed at my head – meaning that a trip to Ikea or the post-package depot (40 minute bus/metro ride) takes serious planning. The English-speaking customer service assistants are all on vacation in August, so better have my phrasebook handy if I’m going to deal with an internet outage, a missing electric bill, or the phone banking system. Hardly anything has a web site, or the pertinent information on that site; so whereas I might go to the DC DMV armed with the right papers to get a driver’s license, it took a couple of visits to figure out what I would have to do here. I won’t even get into the process to get a residence card other than to say it took 6 trips to the city hall and 3 months.

When I first moved here it just felt like life was a series of bad days. Any little thing that went wrong seemed worse because I was living in a foreign place without much of a support network, and there were a lot of times where I just crawled back into bed. But slowly, things got better. Now the idea of doing errands on Sundays seems a sacrilege when I could spend the day reading in the park or playing tennis. I’ve traveled nearly every weekend, I eat the freshest food, and I’ve learned to live on less money because I don’t feel the need to impress anyone here. The good days are outnumbering the bad.