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.

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c
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Where are you living? I’m in Warsaw right now. As for language, there are more sz, cz, and drz combinations than I thought possible. For instance, the word for ‘man’ is ‘Mężczyzna.’ ‘Door’ is ‘drzwi.’

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T. AKA Ricky Raw
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I was going to ask the same thing, where in Europe are you?

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M.
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This is slightly redundant but.. yeah – the post would have been much better if you had mentioned the name of the country you’re living in.

Eric
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Yeah, I just moved to London and experienced the same transitional pains, although there was no language barrier to overcome. I’m studying here, though, and the bureaucracy at the university is astounding. I’ll be moving to Estonia next year to continue my studies, though, so I’m sure I’ll encounter the exact same communication roadblocks soon enough.

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Jon
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The fact that everything’s close by in Europe is a good thing and a bad thing – I remember the last time I was in Brussels I badly wanted to take the train down to Paris or to Munich but just didn’t have any more days left on that particular trip… definitely travel as much as possible! Oh, and have you been to a bar called Delirium Tremens, with a pink elephant as its logo?? Their beer list was like a phonebook…

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M.
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A comparison between Brussels and Washington would be interesting to read. They sure know how to fuck things up in Brussels.

“To critics, the European Parliament is the EU’s travelling circus. Once a month or so, thousands of files are locked inside metal cases and dispatched on a 350- kilometre trip from Brussels in Belgium to Strasbourg in eastern France.

Thousands of people – legislators, secretaries, administrators, translators, lobbyists and journalists – follow suit. The files and the people are then decanted. There is a debate lasting four days, then everything is packed up again and makes for the reverse trek.”
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10533466&ref=rss

The G Manifesto
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Sounds like you have done (are doing) the classic European lifestyle transformation.

Its a good thing.

– MPM

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Peter
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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.

Well, heck.
If you’re in America and call a customer service number for a credit card, online seller, computer company etc., chances are you’ll reach an “outsourced” representative in some foreign country who barely speaks English.

terps
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Ive heard great things about Belgium’s chocolate. Is it all its cracked up to be?

Also, Im glad you’ve grown comfortable living there. Moving to a new country and settling down is quite an endeavor.

Wiscanadian
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that sort of sounds like my experience moving to the US. Everything is just different enough to frustrate you.

Anonymous
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Dear Peter:
I think the comparision should be try calling customer serive in America and talking to a French or Dutch customer service rep.

-Beligique c’est fantastique

Roosh
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I’m spoiled here where everything is on the internet (bus schedules for instance). Abroad i have to find the right person or else i’m reaching in the dark. But that’s part of the adventure!!

The G Manifesto
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“Abroad i have to find the right person or else i’m reaching in the dark.”

Great opportunity to talk to a fly girl.

You can’t beat traveling.

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Torey
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Is this the only way (if any) to contact Sally?…

I’m trying to save up enough money to move to Ireland by September of 2009 and I just wanted to hear more from a current ex-patriot like you. I’m going there for a music conservatory where I can earn a bachelors.

Do you have any experience living in Ireland?

Where are you living now? What’s the job market like there? How many hours a week can you have with a “Work Visa”?

thanks for your time

dchero
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Brugges was a great movie and I have an awesome pic of me next to Mannekin Pis. Really all I know about Belguique…

And speaking of 3rd world countries in Europe, did you see how you can actually hunt bears in some Romanian cities now? http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/09/26/europe/EU-Romania-Bears.php?pass=true

Holy fuck that country is a shithole. At least the girls are all sluts.

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Travel pussies
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Europe? Are you serious? Please. The U.S. is not more “developed” by any stretch of the imagination. Have you been on the most ghetto of ghetto transpo systems called the NY subway? And that’s supposed to represent our “best” city! The stupid planes in this country essentially have no schedule, similar to African countries. I don’t know what you’re on about. I was in heaven living in Hong Kong for 3 years!

Schweizer
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Even if it sounds as like you are getting along the European experience. It doesn’t beat the typical US citizen’s ignorance on the view of things.
Europe is more developed in most ways than the US, the only better thing in the US is customer service.
But Europe is socially more developed, there is no poverty like in the 3rd World country the US seems to be in many parts.
There is access to technology in public services (think transport system)
More ecologically friendly, better air…
People are more cultured, speak many languages as normal.

Torey: Ireland is not the best option for music education. I toured Ireland (playing classical music) in August, gave masterclasses etc…BUT their level at least in performance is not so good according to what I saw in students at some of their music universities. It is a nice country, though, people is very amicable and they are the closest I find to US people in their positive attitude, which is a nice treat of US people.

Zictor
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What I find most difficult about moving to other countries is getting used to the typical local life. In Germany, I could do that no problem. I like the Germans and speak their Language.

Now I live in China. No matter how good my Chinese is, I’ll always be a foreigner, and they always treat me like one.

Torey
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Hey Schweizer thanks for your response – it’s awesome to hear something like that from a working musician.

My goal is to get a bachelors from Newpark Music Centre(Dublin) and then move to a more prosperous music scene like Berlin for a masters. I’m mainly a jazz bassist, so you could see why trying to make a living in Ireland’s “jazz scene” would be problematic.

Have you visited Newpark and what’re your thoughts about it?

Anonymous
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But Europe is socially more developed, there is no poverty like in the 3rd World country the US seems to be in many parts.

Socially more developed? There is still tremendous racism in Europe. The roots of poverty are rooted in racial disparities in intelligence. Just look at the state of non-white minorities in Europe. Not good.

Gannon
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If you really believe that Belgium is a third world country you have never been in Bolivia. By the way, I know Belgium and thankfully it doesn’t look anything like certain parts of Washington DC.
Germans are cousins of the english, so obviously the distance between a German and an English is nothing compared to a Chinese. In the end, all westerners are pretty much the same.
Ok, because you are a woman I can forgive you for driving automatic cars. Real men drive mechanic, because they acelerate and drive much better, but US consumers like dumbed down products and useles gadgets. Also, every westerner should at least speak one romanic language: Spanish, French, Italian or Portuguese. They are all alike, and speaking one you can pick up the other extremely fast and even read it at comprehension levels.

Gannon
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By the way, considering that Israel is so hated by its neighbors I have often asked myself why the US or Europe doesn’t have friendlier inmigration facilities for Israelis, at least Ashkenazi Israelis: they would get high IQ capital acumulating inmigrants.

Joe T.
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“I’ve learned to live on less money because I don’t feel the need to impress anyone here.”

This is the most telling sentence of your entire post, and speaks to one of the most central differences between Europe and the US.

The US is the ultimate consumer culture. Not by chance, either — by design. Corporate America has deeply embedded into Americans the culture of consumerism, because that’s what drives their profits.

The profit motive exists in Europe, too, but it’s not as central to their culture or way of life, which in practical terms means that people aren’t as compelled to buy stuff just to impress other people.