April 28, 2015

Monthly Musings with Marc - April

Fitting in Europe

I grew up in a military family and we moved often. This gave me the opportunity to live all over the United States, plus three years in Japan. I have lived in small towns, big cities, on military bases, East Coast, West Coast, and in both warm and cold climates. I have spent time visiting Latin America, working in Canada, and now nearly four years living and traveling throughout Europe.

I lived in Oceanside the longest!
All of these experiences have given me a unique perspective into what is great - and not so great - about living in the USA versus living in Europe.

As the song says, "I'm proud to be an American." However, we do not always do things best. Trust me, this was not easy for me to come to grips with originally. I wanted to live in Europe, but mostly because I wanted to continue my childhood experiences of being exposed to different cultures - not because I didn't want to live in the USA.

Europeans get a lot of things right, but they miss the mark on a few things, too.

Too many people here are trying to win the cancer lottery. I like a good cigar now and then, but never inside, and never when surrounded by people. The evidence of smoking is always apparent as there are cigarette butts everywhere. I miss the desire for clean air and clean streets.

Roundabouts - in the middle of nowhere.
When I drive through the countryside, the most annoying thing is the random mound that I have to slow down for and drive around. At first, these "bumps in the road" are pretty and not something you see often in the States. However, after three or four of these, I was over it. I miss simple highways with off ramps and stoplights. Never thought I would say that!

Personal space is not a thing in Europe. When standing in line or on the metro, be prepared to get to know the people around you, especially their scents. I may or may not have stepped on a few people's feet.... 

Despite these uncomfortable issues, my preferences have changed and it is interesting to look back on the biggest reasons why: transportation and nutrition.

I love riding the train and do not miss driving (refer to Roundabouts section). I like taking the bus more than driving my own car. It is neat that I have mastered the art of driving a manual vehicle, but when given the choice, I'll let the train conductor do the work. That isn't really an option in the States. Want to go to Vegas for the weekend? Long and boring drive or stupid expensive flight. In Europe, and especially in France, that is a smooth train ride on the cheap.

The train is even better when you know the conductor! Bonjour, Jean-Pierre!
In history class, we learn about how big of a deal it was that the East Coast and West Coast were connected by the Trans-Continental Railroad. That was in the 1800's. One line, east to west, and that was it. Nowadays, most trains you see in America are under the Christmas tree or in a museum. Real trains may not be as fast as planes, but they are cheaper and you get to see more.

I love the food and the food loves me. The food here is cleaner, leaner, and, in my opinion, yummier. Big shopping centers are an option, but it is so much cooler to walk around the corner to the local baker, butcher, or market for fresh food.

Grocery stores dominate food choices in America. Steroids and preservatives dominate the food. One of the first things I noticed in Europe was how much smaller the produce and animals were here. Corn is not as long as your arm and the chicken doesn't look like an albatross. Guess what? Still tastes great! If you like eating organic, move to Europe, because most things here are organic and a lot cheaper.

Castles are also one of the coolest things about Europe!

Everywhere has its high and low points and it is important that everyone finds the place that fits them. I believe I can make just about anywhere fit for me, but Europe definitely feels the best at this point in my life.