Lately, I have been giving some thought to all that is wonderful and totally fantastic about living here in Europe. I feel so lucky to have had this chance. What an awesome adventure its been and still is. There are a number of things I have come to really adore about living over here. So, without further ado, here are the main ones:
Cafes. Oh man. At least twice a week, I find myself in cafes, usually with a friend though sometimes on my own with a book or my writing. Cafe + tea + cake = THE BEST. The environment of a great cafe, I just love it. Cozy, inviting, charming and relaxing.
Balconies. It is easy to find an apartment with a lovely private balcony over here. In the US, this is a rarity.
Work-life Balance. The point of a job is that one is working in order to fund the rest of their life. A job funds you with the means to be able to experience your life outside of your work to the fullest degree. In Europe, this is understood, put into practice, valued and respected. Life outside of work (travel, family and friends) is highly valued and not infringed upon. You are not overworked like a dog over here (though I suppose in some cases, it may depend on your career...).
Train travel, in general. Scenic, convenient, romantic, relaxing. LOVE it.
Vacation time. Just, wow. In the US, the standard is 10 days per year. This is NOTHING. Over here, for an entry level job, one gets between 25-30 vacation days!!!!! I know to those who do not receive this, it seems potentially excessive. It isn't. Its roughly one week off every few months. And actually studies show that people who have this type of work life balance are actually happier and more productive when they are at work. We need time and a break outside of work to actually enjoy our lives. I think a lot of Americans forget that.
Food over here tends to be slightly better for you, just by default. It tends to be less chalk full of harmful chemicals, dyes and fats which are commonplace in American foods.
Architecture. This is more of a personal one, but I love so much of the architecture over here. To me, its more unique, eye-catching, ornate, charming, interesting and lovely. And specifically in Germany, the timbered houses, the quaint flower boxes, bell towers, church steeples, rolling hills, cobbled streets, colorful buildings, its just gorgeous and has the charm of living within a living fairy-tale.
Sick time from work. This sort of ties in with vacation time, but over here, when you are genuinely sick, you are essentially safe in terms of calling out of work sick to recover. As long as you have a doctors note, there is no fear in losing your job (in fact, legally, you cannot be fired over this, nor penalized). In the US, I feel like if one calls out sick more then once or twice a year, an illogical fear begins creeping into your mind...will they think I'm a bad worker...? Will they not think I take my job seriously? Might they think I lied and just wanted to lounge at home? Ultimately, all sorts of ridiculous fears begin to formulate. But over here (at least in Germany), one feels none of this type of fears when truly ill. The law protects you.
In addition to the sick time positive aspect...one gets PAID maternity leave over here in Europe. Did you know the USA is one of the few countries that does not have this? Insane.
Street festivals!! They are abundant, lively, fun to witness and wander around, and always LOTS of fun!
Christmas markets, though especially here in Germany (where they are known to have the very best of Christmas markets). As someone who loves Christmas, this is a huge draw for me. These markets are magical, filled with holiday excitement, the smells of sweet dough and spiced wine fill the air, lots of Christmas themed decor and lights, its just an awesome activity and atmosphere. Its like the most charming of Christmas cards or the inside of a wintry snow globe come to life.
Chocolate croissants and Eclairs. Two desserts that are WAY better over here in Europe, period. (One that is not: cheesecake ;-p what a disappointment. I miss American cheesecake so badly).
Fashion. People tend to put more effort into how they dress in Europe, as opposed to Americans, who, as a collective whole, tend to dress more sloppily....more boring...dumpier...dorkier....cheaper...and just generally worse.
How close one is (nearly jumping distance ;-)) to a number of other exciting, wonderful European countries!!!! Just mere hours away (by train) to a handful of places that are totally new with LOADS of fascinating things to see, do and experience. This is SO awesome!
Europe (though especially Germany) is way more environmentally advanced and conscious as opposed to say, the USA, who is still generally pretty clueless and disinterested about this majorly concerning and relevant issue.
(Then there are of course a number of bummers and negatives to living here as well. To list just a few in brief:
-Buying a house over here is WAY tougher and much more expensive
-The education system (at least in Germany) is not good, leading up to college. At least, this is what I have been told, by more then one person. As well as what I have seen. Take a look into this if you have any interest. Its pretty interesting...and kind of nuts.
-Germany is a strict, rule-bound country with loads of rigid regulations.
-Germany is quite racist in some ways (though of course, this exists all over the world).
-There is SO, SO much cigarette smoking over here, its absolutely disgusting. I've noticed a large number of really haggard, horribly wrinkled, just totally wrecked looking middle age people over here (their faces;-p not their fashion-which is often decent), which is a result of the smoking, no question. Plus, the air just smells disgusting much of the time due to all the smokers.
-Over here, its nearly impossible to find a truly good cheeseburger. Same with good Mexican food.
-Almost everything, besides bars, closes by 7pm.
-You have to pay for water, as well as to pee later on. This is incredibly annoying and idiotic.
-Much of the dessert selection over here is fairly bland and not super tasty, which is a pretty sad thing for me especially. Desserts lack the richness and utter deliciousness of what I am used to eating back in the US.
-Also, there are not nearly as many books available written in English, so my reading choices are much, much more limited, as opposed to what they would be in the USA.
-And in terms of their temperament, though of course this is NOT a blanket truth, it is still somewhat rooted in truth, Germans tend to be more closed off, colder, more guarded and less open then say, an American person would be. Therefore making friends here and dating, I have been told, is harder.
Those are just a few of the major drawbacks or downsides to this country/Europe that I have noticed, though there are more, of course. But those are the ones that have especially drawn my attention).