For years, my grandmother has asked me why I love Europe so much. She’s begged me to stay in America. Now, to be honest – there are some things I love about America which I’ll write on soon. However, these are my general favorite things that cross most cultural and countries in Europe.
- The terrace culture – One of my absolute favorite activities is people watching. I’m doing it even right this second – low key staring out the window of this cafe as I type. It’s too windy for a terrace today but the minute the wind lets out and it’s a reasonable temperature (let’s say around 55 degrees F) the Spanish are out on the terraces. My sister and I sat at a terrace on the day after Christmas in Amsterdam. Obviously – it was a bit colder than in Spain. You can sit there for literally hours – it doesn’t bother the waiters. There are quiet, tucked away patios and ones right near the main sites in a city. The biggest difference typically is just the price. I love terrace time. I know we obviously have terraces and balconies but I think that it isn’t so common to sit there all day in America.
- Drinking wherever you want – When I was 20, I came to Europe for the first time on my own to work on an archaeological dig. We were cheap and young. We often would each buy a bottle of wine and sit in a plaza on the edge of a fountain or find a nice park and help ourselves. I’m not going to lie – that still is such a lovely memory. I would love to do that with my friends again. I really don’t understand why it’s illegal in most parts of the states.
- Cultural acceptance of most types of careers – I have found – not just in Spain but in many parts of Europe that people don’t have a problem proudly sharing that they are a taxi driver or a garbage collector. I find that we put more pressure on getting a “good job” especially when it comes to going to University. Here – I don’t find that people rank jobs so much. A job is a job. Most people don’t really need to have that really good job to feel accomplished.
- Less consumerism generally speaking – I am not saying that it’s completely different. However, there is less saturation of advertising. If you watch television, there are fewer ads. Of course there are ads around public transport but I find it less obvious. I think that (other than with regards to fast fashion), Europeans have less turn over when it comes to the newest or best product. Many students were fascinated that I didn’t have the newest fanciest iPhone. I told them I was happy with the one I had – they assumed because I am American, that I always need the newest and best. However, I find that it’s harder to find the newest gadget or makeup launch. I also have only rarely seen people lining up for products (thanks Black Friday).
- Facility of recycling – In just about every corner of Europe, there are easily accessible recycling containers all over the place. They are pre sorted and it’s pretty easy to figure out. In Spain (and possibly everywhere else – I just am not totally sure) – green is for glass, blue is for paper and yellow is for every other recyclable like plastic and containers. I also feel like just about everything is recyclable. In some countries, the deposit for a plastic bottle is high but the ease of return is also not a problem – often even corner stores have bottle return machines. I mean – there are even recycling instructions in some fast food franchises. It makes it easier to feel like you are doing something good.
- Cheap Flights – Now, there may be drawbacks to many of the popular budget airlines in Europe. However, it is SO EASY to find extremely cheap flights around Europe especially if you can be a little flexible. My last trip to Porto was something like 30 Euros Round Trip. I had to take the bus to Madrid but still – it’s nothing difficult. Some Ryanair and EasyJet hubs are in unexpected cities – maybe a little further away from the largest ones. However, that lets you explore places that you might not have otherwise.
- Trains and other easy public transport – I hate owning a car. I hate having to drive. Taking public transport from trains to buses to trams is easy and in most cities also pretty cheap. My friend Katherine’s husband always is frustrated by the public transport in NYC and to be honest – I didn’t really understand until I started taking public transport consistently in European cities. If there’s even a one minute delay on the subway – I’m pretty surprised. Buses are always timely, even with the possibility of traffic. Trains may be the most variable – sometimes they aren’t completely on time but they are certainly extremely comfortable. Plus, metro/transport cards are easy to buy and keep. Right now, I just keep one for Madrid and Zaragoza since those are the cities I’m in most often but if I’m down in Barcelona, I might invest in a refillable card too since the trips are cheaper that way. Plus – for anyone who is wondering, Intercity buses here are comfortable, often have screens at each seat to watch television and movies, have wifi and power sockets. A step up from the Greyhound stereotype.
- Hostels – So to be honest, I’m getting a little bit old for certain hostels. That being said, I think the hostel culture is one of the best parts of Europe for young travelers. It is easy to find a hostel that fits your travel style. Want something quiet, small with a chill atmosphere – you’ll find it. What about something with a lively bar and fun nightly dinners and games? Done. Want somewhere that has bikes to rent or free walking tours or a rooftop pool – those are all possible with hostels. Plus the bed price is normally under 30 Euros. It makes seeing a lot of Europe accessible for people who may not be able to always splurge on a hotel or even Airbnb. Even though I’m a little old for party hostels, I’m just old enough for some places with quiet rooms and great amenities.
Those are my 8 favorite things. What are some of your favorite things about different countries you visit? Have I left anything off? Let me know in the comments section below!