culturalrollercoaster

Cross-cultural insights and questions from home and abroad


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Sorry USA, but can I please go back to Europe?

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I prefer about the United States over other countries… but, living here just isn’t for me. I’ve spent over 4 years abroad and then I decided to come home. I’ve been in the U.S. for 2 months now and I can’t wait to leave again.

My American friends think I’m crazy. They ask me questions like; “Why wouldn’t you want more personal space? What, you don’t like driving?  I should have never left for Europe because it introduced me to a way of living that I feel is more healthy (for me). It’s harder to transition back to the U.S. once you feel you’ve gotten used to European life. In addition to the linguistic diversity and encouragement to learn foreign languages, there are other reasons why I feel better living in a European city.

DRIVING and PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

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I’ve never been big on driving. I realize that many many Europeans do drive on a daily basis, but the cool part is that in decent sized European cities, you do not have to own a car. It is not a necessity, but rather, a luxury. In the US if you didn’t grow up using public transportation, and everyone in your social circle drives, no one can help you figure out public transportation, and in most cases it’s not really safe. In the U.S. it’s convenient to have a car because there is plenty of parking and space on the street. The streets are wide here, and almost never do you see people walking to places to get things done. In Europe, having a car in a lot of cases can be almost a burden. In cities like Paris you have to pay a monthly car rental space, the streets are narrower, and in it can often take longer to get somewhere by can than by metro or train. I’ve never been a good driver, and in the U.S. the streets are full of angry, impatient drivers. In California, like in much of the United States, cities and towns were built for cars, so it is close to impossible to implement a better public transportation system.

LESS PERSONAL SPACE = LESS UNNECESSARY STUFF

And yes, in Europe, homes and apartments are generally smaller. In U.S. we have so much personal space, and I think that this encourages us to consume more. In Europe when shopping, you always ask yourself, do I have enough apace for what I want to buy. Many a times the answer is no, so you stop yourself from purchasing unnecessary goods. As I said there are advantages and disadvantages to both ways of living. I personally, just prefer to live a bit more simply and take public transportation most of the time.

MONEY and DISTANCE

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Another topic that bothers me, is money. Why are Americans so obsessed with talking about money? Everything is centered around money. Every social event involves spending all kinds of money. Every job is about how much you make. But I realize that there is a good reason for this: Living in the U.S. is crazy expensive. Everything has to be about money! It’s not really a free country… you can’t even get to the grocery store for free. The only really free thing you can do is take a walk to the park. If you want to go to the store on foot and you don’t live in a downtown area, GOOD LUCK! It will probably take you over 20 minutes just to get to a convenience store, and don’t buy anything too cold, cause it might be spoiled by the time you get home. In Europe I’d go to the supermarket more than once a week because it was ever so conveniently located, just a 2-5 minute walk from my apartment. And if I forgot something, big deal, I’ll just drop my groceries off at home and go back to the store at no transportation cost.

ADDED STRESS

And gas is not the only thing that Americans have to worry about, maintaining and insuring your vehicle is also not cheap.  I’m not saying we should rule out cars and driving altogether, I’m just saying that wouldn’t it be nice to have a choice – “Today do I want to go to work by car or by public transportation?” Think of it this way, you have less added stress when taking the metro. you are not responsible for anyone’s life. Yeah, maybe you’ll be late for work, but it’s the same story when you hit traffic.

LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY

In Europe you are encouraged to learn and practice foreign languages more than in the U.S. In Europe all the countries are pretty small, so average people are almost force to learn at least one other language. In the U.S. foreign languages are seen as hobbies or a cultural connection. In many countries in Europe, the use foreign languages is often regarded as essential to society’s functioning. Yes, for some it’s a hobby, but for many it’s crucial to know a foreign language. And remember, learning a foreign language can help you be more analytical. You brain thanks you when you succeed in speaking another language. You can see the world from more than one language perspective. This also decreases your chances of getting diseases like Alzheimer’s. In America we are too focused on looking at things from an English language perspective. But there are more ways to see the world. Speaking 2 or multiple languages helps you understand cultural differences and it allows you to be more patient in general.

CONCLUSION

As I mentioned before, these are my personal preferences. I don’t mean to offend anyone who prefers the American lifestyle, it’s just not for me. Nowhere is perfect! You cannot live for free anywhere. If these two different worlds could be fused together, we’d have a pretty awesome society. But for the time being they are separate and unique from each other in many ways.

Europe is cramped and service is slower but it forces you to enjoy the little things in life. America will always be a big part of me, but I want to continue to experience other culture’s realities. America is not the best country in the world. It a great country for many reasons, but it isn’t the only place where you can  live a happy-healthy life.

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Finding Balance at Home and Abroad: 10 Wise Tips

1. Have a few people that you talk to on a regular basis (even if you are kind of a lone wolf):

Communication is super important in order to maintain a healthy mental state. There should at least be 1 person in your life that you can tell anything to without being judged. Talking to another person on a regular basis not only helps keep you updated on each other’s lives, but it also helps you work out any personal issues. When keeping in contact with someone who knows you really well and for a substantial about of time you are able to vent and work out any possible current issues in your life.

2. If someone does something that makes you smile, or makes your day better, tell them:

072       Photo taken in Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain

Even if it’s something as insignificant as a Facebook post or an Instagram photo, tell that person it made you happy. If you let them know they contributed to your state of happiness, it will make them feel happy too. You might even make their day!

3. Eat well (even on vacation):

Its definitely OK to try local dishes and sweets! But you don’t need to have a crepe everyday during your 1-week visit to Paris. You should take advantage of the yummy delights where ever you are but it might be a good idea to put limits on your portions.

4. Exercise/ Just move your body! :

Each person has different limits to how much they can or should exercise so I will not give one solid solution for everyone.  I will say that, what ever you consider exercise for you, whether it be speed walking, running, dancing, yoga, or whatever, do it 3-6 times a week. This will help you sleep better, it will make you feel better (cause it gives you endorphins), and it will motivate you to manage your time wisely. Note for travelers: I’m not telling you to bring your running shoes with you on your 5-day vacation, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do a short workout in your hotel room or take a long walk (without stopping to eat/drink) in the place you are visiting.

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5. Don’t try to be a people-pleaser  (not even when traveling in groups):

It is impossible for one person to manage the moods and feelings of all those around them. We are humans and we all live individual unique lives. Different things inspire, motivate, and even irritate each individual. I know many of us can’t stand to let others down but sometimes things are just out of our control. If we put enough focus on our own physical and mental health, we will have more ease with others in general. Plus, on group trips not everyone in going to agree all the time. Think of alternative activities like spliting up temporarily, or having a precise meeting point and time to regroup!

6. Write things down:

Even if you are a person who rarely forgets things it might be an idea to keep an agenda or write yourself notes. I rarely forget an important date, but even I need to see things written down to give me a friendly reminders.

7. Don’t expect too much from others. Take the initiative:

Rely on yourself. I will explain this one with a personal example- My friend and I both wanted to go to a temporary exhibition in Paris. He wanted to go more than I did and told me at the beginning that it was only going to last 3 more weeks. A week later I asked him when it would be over and he told me 2 more weeks. We both got really busy and caught up with work but often still thought about going to the exhibition. Finally, no one brought it up until the exhibition was over, and of course, my friend was angry at me. He assumed I would tell him a fixed date to go, and I assumed he wasn’t to crazy about going any more. If something means a lot to you, communicate it. Assuming makes an ASS out of U and ME! 

8. If the weather is nice, get the ef outside dude: 

002  Photo taken in Madrid, Spain in front of  El Palacio Real

The weather has a huge influence on our moods. Even if we have HELLA work to do, we can prolly take 15 short minutes to just go outside, close our eyes, and soak up the sun. This is especially important if you live in a climate where the weather is generally depressing. Take advantage of the good weather for once!

9. If you need to cry, cry damnit:

Crying releases toxins. You ever get giggly after crying? I know I do! And some people need to cry more than others. Our bodies all work differently.

10. If you need a hug, ask somebody for one:

Chances are someone is willing to give you a hug! We are social creatures who need physical contact every once in a while. Maybe you don’t notice the affects of a hug right away, but if you hug more often it can have a positive long term affect on your mental health!

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