Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

What I miss in Europe… kind of.


Phew, I’ve been absent lately. It’s simply that I have to study A LOT again and I’m also working more than average to cover for a rather sick coworker. I also had to buy new shoes for work (we have a sort of “uniform” at the cafe now, I’ll tell you more about that soon!) and they don’t fit very well… my feet are blistering! It’s not pretty.

Anyways, I’ve always had issues adapting to certain things in Europe – daily life things. I’m crying on a high level here, though, so I’m not really going to complain, but here are some facts:

1. Did you ever run out of milk on a Sunday or holiday? Did you ever run out of anything on a sunday and just went to buy it? Well, you better be well stocked in Europe, because shops close on Sundays and holidays. All of them. The entire day. No exceptions made. Even if you live in a region in the US where there are restrictions, you’ll most likely still find what you need on a sunday. Not so in Europe! Of course, important facilities are still open (like hospitals) and typically gas stations.

Funny fact: There are no restrictions for bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes and so on. Alcohol may still be sold like every other day of the week.

2. I bet my socks that you pay most of your shopping with a credit card. Feel free to leave that safely at home if you ever come here, because credit cards are about as alien here as little green men. Literally no shop, restaurant, gas station, whatever, will accept your credit card. Some hotels do. The only rather common form of electronic cash are debit cards. However, many smaller restaurants and cafes don’t accept that either. Your safest bet is to have the money you’re going to spend with you in cash. It can be quite annoying to realize you can’t pay whatever you want simply because you don’t have cash with you.

3. Big cars. Nothing like feeling high up there in a truck. Trucks are something you won’t see here (just like credit cards). But I guess it’s for the best. A Smart the size of a golf cart needs a lot less gas anyway.

4. Which leads me to gas prices. I don’t know how much you pay for gas in the US at the moment, but we pay $9 for a gallon. Makes you not want to drive a truck, right?

5. Empty land. I love Europe, don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful with lots of amazing nature, but, wow, it’s crowded! You won’t find much empty land anywhere any more. Driving for 2 hours without seeing a trace of civilisation? Pfffft!  In Germany alone we are almost 85 million people living in a country slightly smaller than the state of California! (Compare: The US altogether has “only” ~300 million citizens) Think about that next time you’re driving through miles and miles of empty land. It’s beautiful.

Yes, I guess that’s my Top 5 of the things I miss. What do you think you would miss if you were to live in Europe?


20 thoughts on “What I miss in Europe… kind of.

  1. I lived in Portugal for 11 years back in the 80’s. The only thing I really missed was American underwear. I just never felt comfortable physically in bikini panties. When I came back to the states I missed almost everything in Portugal – still do miss the culture and community I found there.

  2. I lived in Portugal in the 80’s, and the only thing I really missed was American underwear. I never got comfortable in a bikini panty. We often traveled by bus, so the car was not a big deal. Coming back to America, though, was rough. I still miss the Portuguese people and culture. I thrived over there, and given the chance I’d go back in a heartbeat. I’ve never really become completely Americanized.

  3. I would likely miss the freedom to roam. If I want to drive to FL from VT, or VA to CA, all I need is the money for gas and the vehicle. All the countries in Europe are small compared to the US, and to travel similar distances I’m pretty sure you would at least need a passport, if not visas, and you’d have to cross a lot of international borders. Growing up on the Great Plains, I love wide open spaces and the freedom to roam!

    • Actually, you can drive through all of Europe without passports and border controls too. We have open borders to crossing them is very much like crossing state borders within the US. Even as a tourist you could do that because there simply isn’t any border control. I believe “old” Europeans, meaning people from the countries that already are in the EU, can travel without passports to countries who are going to join/wish to join. Visas? No visas here hehe
      My friends and family told me that “back in the day” everybody had a passport and needed it and they all find it weird not to have one anymore. Two people I know forgot that theirs were expired, they only travelled Europe and didn’t need it, and they ended up having to cancel their flight to egypt last minute at the airport.
      BUT the Great Plains are something you won’t be able to replace. But then again, travelling through Europe, passing through tiny villages every 5 miles and enjoying the old buildings has something to it as well 😉 I’m guessing you just can’t compare those two to each other, both has pros and cons.

    • In the European Economical Area (the EU + a couple other countries, basically all of mainland Europe and the UK) you can travel freely, move and work freely. The countries encourage open borders for economical reasons. Most Europeans have passports, regardless, just because you will be checked at airports and ferry terminals. If you’re driving, you’re never checked.
      A lot of countries even have the same currency, so you don’t need to fuss with exchanging money everytime you arrive somewhere new.

  4. I can at least explain the credit card thing because here in Spain, everybody has a debit card and not everybody have credit card (in fact I only got one as a security measure to go to Canada and Japan) but even then here in Spain even in the very small city my family lives debit and credit cards are accepted in pretty much everywhere…

    I’d also love that places opened in the weekends and at night here but inthe biggest cities they do and I know in the UK they do practically in any city.

    Here in Spain there are places in the north where there’re plenty non-inhabited land but nothing like the US.

    @Shadowspring: Here if you are from a european union country you don’t need passport or visas to go throw any of the country lines in Europe so if I take my car and I want to go to I don’t know Germany I can without any extra documentation than the one I already have ( for example I didn’t need passport to go to Czech Republic the Christmas before last to stay in a friend’s house). When I went from Canada to New York the border guards were so rude and unpleasant with all the people who travelled in the bus that had to go through customs. It was a pretty bad experience and when I compare it with how it was in Japan or other places I hope it is better for the next time I get to visit (which it’s probably never since I’m not getting another scholarship and I’m broke XPP /joking).

    • German citizens don’t need passports either!

      About Spain, I believe you got more room because the country is A – bigger than Germany and B – less people living there (60 mil? not sure). I would love to visit spain just to enjoy those beautiful emptier places! One of the few countries in Europe where you actually have room to run around screaming and nobody can hear you ^^

      As for credit cards – maybe it’s because there are so many foreign tourists in spain? But then again, there’s lot of tourists here too … I guess it’s a german thing not to use credit cards haha

  5. Well, I guess the problem Germans have with credit cards are 1. the fact that we all have debit cards and they’re excepted just about everywhere (and having some real money on you is always a good idea, shit happens after all) and 2. credit cards are notorious for running up debts.

    The 24/7 shopping is all well and good as long as you don’t have to work the night shift. There are far fewer people who would actually want to work at night than would be needed. Also working 3-shift is unhealthy.

    Also I loved this: “Funny fact: There are no restrictions for bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes and so on. Alcohol may still be sold like every other day of the week.”

    That is so American! *G* I guess it’s based in religion but people here would be astonished. As in “whatever would you need such restriction on the selling of alcohol for.”

    The ‘overpopulation’ can be annoying yes but there are still areas where population is sparce. Come to the Sauerland region we have plenty of that. 😉 Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, too afaik. But yes, mostly the country is rather full of people. It has it’s advantages in an emergency, though.

    • Last sentence is total truth. Living 20+ miles away from the next doctor scares me now that I’m used to having one within a 5 mile radius at all times haha

      • My grandparents in Idaho used to be 80 miles from the nearest doctor.

        And who is that soccer start in South America (I think) who always jokes with his mom about being glad she took him out of the corner? (He looked sickly when he was born, so mom stuck him the corner for about three days. He was still alive so she figured he couldn’t be that sickly and started feeding him. The reason she didn’t attempt to take him to the doctor was that the doctor was a three day walk away.)

  6. I lived in England for 18 years. The things I missed about the USA when I first started living there were different than when at the end of the 18 years.

    The number one thing I missed (I’m from Oregon) was the wide open countryside and incredible forests. It was impossible to take hikes or walks in England without lots of people always being around. In Oregon you could always find trails without people around.

    Number two: No sales taxes in Oregon. In the UK when I left, VAT was 17%.

    Number three: Public toilets (and store restrooms) are everywhere in the US. Not so much in Europe.

    • Plublic toilets are not only hard to find, if you do find one you either have to pay a lot of money (close to 1 Euro now!) or it’ll be so filthy you’ll prefer sneaking into McDonalds or something.

  7. I’m from the Great Plains as well (or Fly-over Country, as I like to call it) and I know I would miss the wide open spaces. I would miss the miles and miles of nothing that I have here. I love that my nearest neighbor is 1/4th of a mile away. Another thing I would miss would be American houses. I have over 2,000 square feet on one level with huge rooms. And closets. I love closets. I’ve heard that homes in Europe are small with small rooms, multiple levels and few closets. I’m not sure I could handle that. As much as I complain about them, I would miss plastic shopping bags at the store. I would simply forget to take my own bags with me and be sunk. And the cars in Europe would be a problem. I’m used to an SUV. My husband and I bought him a passenger car and I find that I have to put my purse in the back seat when I have anyone with me in the car. It makes me nuts. I want my purse and everything I need next to me, not in the back. And parking spaces. I’m used to driving everywhere. I’m not sure how I would react to having to walk because there was no place to park.

    • Oh yes European houses. Quite a story! I used to feel very claustrophobic and overwhelmed by the fact that I live in a 5 story building with 10 apartments, sharing a hallway/staircase type of thing with everybody, you basically walk past every neighbor, the doors aren’t very sound proof so you hear TVs, conversations etc out in the hallway. Plus, everyone puts stuff like shoes and coats in front of their apartment door so you always have to watch out for obstacles. Also, we have something called janitor week, everybody has to clean up the hallway and the front door of the building for one week. And closets, if you mean walk-in closets, there’s none, NONE of that. It’s partically unknown that a house would have sort of an american walk-in closet. Of course people do have walk in closets here too, but they usually use a spare room for that. It’s not meant to be a closet in those cases.
      And parking your car somewhere is the other story. The only places where you can find plenty of free parking options are huge grocery stores – but what I’m calling huge for European standards is actually small to medium size for American grocery store standards. Usually they’re somewhere outside the cities as well. Of course there’s grocery stores inside the cities, but they’re more the size of a gas station and you can’t park ANYWHERE, at least not for free. You have to pay for it ALL THE TIME. And when you do go into the cities for shopping sprees, you’ll have to park your car outside the city center (for 2 Euros an hour I might add) and walk because most cities do not allow driving in the center. So basically, you’ll end up having to walk several miles on shopping sprees – from the place you park your car to where the shops are, and then from shop to shop – most shopping streets are 2-3 miles long at least. But hey, at least it’s a sort of work out. You better wear comfy shoes, though.
      And we do have plastic bags. But you have to pay for them and people look at you like you’re destroying the planet if you don’t bring your own bag or basket. I’ve gotten used to it, it’s just the mentality I guess.

      • You’d be surprised about the plastic bags. The levy is relatively recent in Ireland, and I remember the same arguments being used about how would you ever remember to take bags, and the shops were trying to rip you off with the reusable ones…but a few years on, and everyone just seems to HAVE ONE on them at all times. There’s always at least 3 in the boot/trunk of my car, and they fold up pretty small so you can put one in your handbag. Though paper bags are the biggest nuisance in Ireland: it rains ALL THE TIME, why the hell would you give me a bag that disintegrates in water?!

        • At first, when I came here, I didn’t take any with me and I also wasn’t aware that plastic bags are actually kind of expensive. I mean, of course one isn’t, but buying 2 or three every time you go shopping does start to be a waste of money. It took me a few months (half a year maybe) to learn this and take bags/baskets/whatever with me. Now I always have something in my car too. I think almost everybody here does.
          I have an entire box of plastic bags, at least 50 or so, that I’m keeping cause I payed for them and might reuse them one day. It’s my treasure chest of “learning that plastic bags are too expensive to throw out”.

  8. This is all very familiar…! I lived in Germany for a few years and it used to be so frustrating to never be able to use credit and even be looked at with suspicion if I wanted to use my debit card (was asked to show my ‘Ausweis’ any time I used it, so using cash was just less hassle in the end). Also the panicked Saturday morning shop and general lack of customer service.

    Besides that, I just wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and think you have great spirit and courage to get out of the family situation you grew up in and try to build a new life for yourself in Germany. I also grew up in a very religious, sheltered household without much reality intruding about modern life and Germany was my first experience of living in a secular country. Some of the culture was a real shock – the lack of religion, looser family ties, public nudity etc – but I also found it so liberating to be in a culture where people had learned to put backward ideas like nationalism and fundamentalist religion behind them and move on to a more rational, balanced way of life.

    From reading your blog entries about your future plans, by the way, I would definitely encourage you to study history, as I did, as it is a great foundation for life. German history is especially fascinating. Don’t let your lack of knowledge of Latin hold you back. You could always get a tutor or ask for special conditions from the university as you grew up outside of Germany. Studying history is one of the few things where having had a backward, religious upbringing can give you a real advantage as you don’t need to stretch the way others do to understand what life was like in the past. I specialized in Medieval European History and my religious (Catholic) upbringing was really useful in understanding how people in that time viewed the world.

    By the way, have you seen the film ‘Das weisse Band’ by Michael Haneke? I can highly recommend it – lots of themes that anyone raised in religion can empathize with: guilt, shame, patriarchy, violence, suspicion, corrupt authority figures and so on.

    • Oh that movie looks good! I think somebody recommended it to me before but I didn’t even see the trailer yet.
      I do love history movies. I’m particularly drawn to WW2 movies which don’t depict the war (as in, frontiers and fights) but more of a social aspect. Sophie Scholl – the last days was awesome.

  9. My cat. There’s no way I’m inflicting that wee homicidal beastie on a civilized continent. Other than that, there are probably dozens of things, but I’d be too busy having a blast with the new sights and tastes and sounds to miss them for long.

    (On a side note: I read the entirety of your blog over the weekend, and one of your old posts inspired me to write one, which you’re welcome to read or not as you wish. I just did want to let you know that you’ve taught me quite a lot, and I wish you the absolute best. If you ever find yourself in Seattle, WA, look me up and we’ll adventure!)

  10. I think you know Europe not well enough yet. Even in Germany I know some areas where you can drive for a long time without coming around a village – like in the East (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern comes to mind), but there are even some corners in the South (Schwäbische Alb? Around Gomadingen you can even ride for two or three hours without coming around a street).
    Actually as a German living in England I found England first rather “over crowded” – but only until I came around the Northern areas like Yorkshire and Northumberland.

    And for the Sundays: I’m a journalist and in former times I often worked all week and so it sometimes happened that i’d run out of milk or something else on a Sunday. It was never much of a problem for me because in every big city you just need to drive to the main train station – and there you’ll always get a shop which is open on Sundays.

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