Whenever you’re experiencing a new culture there are things that are going to strike you as strange. It’s natural, but as long as you don’t get into the habit of thinking everything your home country does is right and the new culture is wrong (or vice versa), I think it allows for some fun observations and a few chuckles. Here are a just a few of mine from my excursion in Europe.
- The best place to meet young Australians is anywhere in the world except Australia. Seriously, the culture down under practically insists that they travel for at least a year either before or after college. America is free to adopt that tradition anytime as far as I’m concerned.
- Best thing I learned from an Australian: The influence of American culture is so profound that they sing our Christmas carols even though Christmas for them is in the middle of summer. Gotta believe “Let it Snow” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” sound a bit peculiar when it’s 90 degrees outside.
- Apparently one of the most challenging accomplishments in Europe is effectively getting off of a subway car without falling into the gap between the car and platform. I’m basing this on the fact that every country goes overboard with safety messages and signs about minding the gap. In London they even make t-shirts.
- According to my tour guide in Porto, Portugal, the economy is so bad that their president recently went on television to tell young people if they are looking for work, they should leave the country. I’m guessing he’s not going to be running for re-election.
- 80’s American/English pop music is alive and well in pretty much every country. Restaurants, bars, barbershops…wherever. The careers of Rick Astley and Cyndi Lauper never looked better.
- It would appear that the most popular American show among Europeans under the age of 25 is South Park. Sadly, that’s also their touchstone for what they imagine life is like in America.
- Norwegians will eat raw fish in tomato sauce for breakfast. Berliners have made a delicacy out of bratwurst sliced and drowned in heated ketchup. Popular Spanish Tapas include pig ears and potatoes, ox tail in gravy and thick slices of potato cake. And the late night snack of choice throughout Europe? Turkish Kebabs. All of these foods are better than you might think (pig ear cartilage can be uncomfortably crunchy), but the kebabs are unbelievable. Really need to see this catch on in the States.
- The absolute best travel experience for under 20 Euro? The Business Link bus ride from Tallin, Estonia to Riga, Latvia. Big leather seats, loads of leg room, a full kitchen offering affordable hot food and drinks and a cute, friendly young woman checking on you every few minutes in case you need a blanket, or coffee, or giant bowl of pasta. All for 11 euro. Considering the rest of the public transportation in the Baltic countries this was both bizarre and brilliant.
- You can find people that speak English in pretty much every country, but the country where the English is hardest to understand is The United Kingdom. Not kidding.
- Scandinavia is littered with 7-Elevens. There are 377 in Denmark, Norway and Sweden…eight in Copenhagen Central Station alone. However, they don’t seem to carry Slurpees. I haven’t been that disappointed since Spike TV announced they were going to sponsor games at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park only to find out they were just there to encourage men to get regular check-ups with a physician.
- The less time you have to visit a tourist attraction, the more likely you are to get stuck behind a giant tour group consisting of confused American baby boomers or photo enthusiasts from the other side of the world.
That’s all for now. Have a great week!