I love being an American, and I’m happy to be living in America again. However, I can’t help but admit that sometimes, someone (or somewhere) else does things better! That “someone” is Europe, and sometimes Europe beats America at certain things. *shrug*

I’ve been living back in the United States of America for just over a year. It feels like much less and much more at the same time.

After two years of life in Europe, I won’t act like there hasn’t been an adjustment. It’s bittersweet in many ways. When you add in the mess COVID-19 has contributed, it’s been an even more significant adjustment.

The view of Germany during my flight to Chicago in March 2020

I’m happy to be back in the States, with my family and friends, and enjoying the things I missed while I was abroad: Target, Marshall’s, Panera Bread, Amazon Prime 2-day shipping, coupons, English, and dollars, to name a few. I really, really missed Target and Marshall’s.

So, let’s talk about the five top things I miss the most about living in Europe and also how Europe beats America.

1. History

Compared to Europe, or really the rest of the world, America is just a baby country at not even 300 years old. You wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find a building in Europe that is older than America, especially when loads of them have their construction dates on them. 

One of the oldest places I visited was Santorini, a Cyclades Greek island. Santorini was once one big island until a huge volcanic eruption blew it into five pieces in the 16th century BC. Today, a massive tourist destination, the island still possesses some of its ancient history to be explored. You can visit the ruins of ancient Akrotiri and tour the still-active volcano Nea Kameni. It’s hard to fathom how old the island truly is, but the wonder of its age never ceases to amaze me. 

A view from Nea Kamini. The volcano is still active today.

2. Architecture

The intricacy of many of the European buildings is nearly as incredible as their ages. From the moment I stepped into Frankfurt, I felt as though I had stepped back into time. The main square has buildings with the most delicate minute details that scream “old.” The past architects took no shortcuts when designing, whether it be an individual home or a government building.

One of the most incredibly detailed buildings I witnessed abroad (believe me, there were many) was the Rathaus (Town Hall) in Munich, Germany. Not only did each level of the building have the most impressive sculptures, but each was unique! That made it even more special. The sculptures and detail to the face of the building were not the most amazing part. The building also houses a cuckoo clock, called the Glockenspiel-Rathaus, which chimes at 11 am and 12 pm every day. The clock displays two stories from German history with moving parts. It indeed was a sight to see! 

I would be silly not to mention the sheer size of many of the buildings in Europe. Many of the world’s tallest buildings have been located in Europe at one time. The architects overcame some magnificent feats to create such intricate, beautiful buildings we continue to admire today.

Rathaus in Munich. The green area in the center is the Rathus-Glockenspiel.

3. Food

If you know me, you know I’m a serious foodie. My favorite thing to do is eat! Authentic ethnic food was within a stone’s throw overseas. It didn’t matter if I was in the mood for some döner kebabs, goulash, Indian yummies, schnitzel with spaetzle, or some fresh pasta. There were many places to choose from. In America, you can still find some authentic-tasting spots, but they are harder to come by. Also, the portion sizes in America are massive, aka unrealistic for one person. In Europe, the portion sizes are more reasonable and enjoyable. 

An amazinggggg fresh piece of chocolate and hazelnut cake and a cup o’ joe from the famous Cafe Tomaselli in Salzburg, Austria.

4. Language

America does not have an official language. Obviously, most of our communications are presented in English. I missed reading road signs and communicating easily in English while living in Germany and traveling, but it really forced me to broaden my linguistic horizons. I enjoyed reading and listening to different languages regularly. I find it boring to only be hearing and seeing English now!

To keep up with what I’ve learned and continue expanding, I had an almost 200-day Duolingo streak! I’m working on learning Spanish, Italian, French, German, Norwegian, and Irish. Recently, I’ve fallen off the wagon with my education, but I’ll be hopping back on soon! It’s almost as good as really being abroad.

Alpha beer, an authentic Hellenic lager from Greece. I loved how the label was in the original language! It tasted pretty good, too!

5. Recycling Methods

As you may know, Europeans take recycling super seriously! In Germany, each home had three bins for different types of trash, glass recycling centers, plastic and glass bottle refunds, and more. Each home also received yellow trash bags to collect plastic recycling. Can you imagine having four different places to separate your trash and recycling into? 

I’m a huge advocate for recycling and taking care of the environment, so while the separating of trash may have been cumbersome at times, especially during cold winter mornings, it was worth it. I even got used to our compost bin! I became so hooked on having one that I look forward to having one again soon!

I knew there was a difference in Pennsylvania’s (my home state) recycling system, but I figured it just came with the territory. Our neighborhood has a single-stream recycling system for paper and metal products, no household composting method, and unfortunately, no glass recycling. Until recently, glass was recycled. I was seriously distraught to learn glass would go into the regular bin.

In Florida, I lived somewhere with single-stream recycling, but luckily glass is recycled here! However, many of my neighbors find it difficult to follow the rules about what can and cannot be placed in the recycling bins. Europe and Germany, especially, would never tolerate that. 

So, yup, I sure miss recycling abroad!

So what?

There are pros and cons to living in any location. Europe definitely has a leg up on America for some things, but they’ve also had way more time to figure them out! 

The grass truly is always greener on the other side. I greatly romanticized living in Europe, and most of the time, it did seem like a fairytale. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to live there for two years. Now, I’m back to living in my home country with new eyes. 

The one thing Europe could never do better than America is be “Home.”  

Robyn smiles while sitting on an oversized red Adirondack chair with the words "With Love, Philadelphia XOXO" written on the back. The steps to the chair have "#MyPhillyWaterfront" on the second step.
Happy to be home!

I want to hear from YOU!

What’s one difference you noticed in a new place you lived? Did you like it better or worse than what you were used to? Let me know below!

Until my next adventure,

"Robyn" in script font

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