10 Things I Love About Living Abroad

Mix of cultures & language

There are a large number of cultures in a small area in Europe. If I wanted to, I could drive two hours and be in France, drive six and be in Italy, or drive another six in a different direction and be in Switzerland! The chance to immerse myself in so many cultures in a short amount of time has been an amazing experience. Having the opportunity to learn some of the numerous languages has been great, too. It might not be the easiest or best thing about living abroad, but it does open your eyes and expand your worldliness.

Food, food, food

I LOVE to eat! Eating is one of my favorite pastimes (it counts, right?!). The options are plentiful and delicious. I’ve indulged in fresh pasta in Italy, escargot in Paris, stroopwafel in the Netherlands, Bratwurst in Germany, goulash in Prague and more! Don’t get me started on the wine and beer…

I love the freshness of the food, the lower rate of additives and preservatives, and just the genuine authenticity of each of the cuisines. I will truly miss Europe’s food when we jet back home.

Alcohol selection at grocery stores

In my home state you were only able to purchase alcohol at a liquor store or a beer distributor. As I was anticipating my move to Germany, some gas stations and grocery stores began selling alcohol. This was great if you wanted to purchase something but the state store was closed. In Germany, there is an incredible selection of all types of alcohol available in the grocery store. The local shops feature regional wines, domestic and international beers, including craft options, and various types of liquor as well. The options are limitless. The prices of the options are so affordable, too! A liter of wine for 3€ – yes, please!

Ease of travel

America has NOTHING on Europe regarding ease of travel. Public transportation is readily available and (usually) punctual. Recently, I was invited to go to Mannheim for a hockey game. We bought our train tickets that day and the price wouldn’t have been any different if we had purchased them earlier.

The closeness of the countries also makes traveling easy. Some countries in Europe take only a couple hours to drive through, while some American states can take up to seven hours. I’m looking at you, Pennsylvania… Flying is another common form of transportation. Flights are cheap, especially with budget airlines like Ryanair.

The creation of the European Union has made traveling less stressful, as well. One does not need to check into each country and get a passport stamp if they are traveling within the EU. For example, I arrived in Iceland while on my way to Germany. I had my passport stamped in Reykjavik and did not have to worry about passing through Customs once I landed in Frankfurt.

Chance to live like a local

We live in a small village in Western Germany. Our home has all of the essential German home staples: rolladens, no closets, no garbage disposal, a collection of recycling bins, and no air conditioning or central heat. We have Germans as neighbors on all sides, however, some Americans do live in our village. By the way, towns are called “villages” here, which I think is so cute! Going to the grocery store is another way we have been able to live like a local. We are immersed in the German language, common foods, and simply, the culture. Living in a German home is different than living in an American home, and I am grateful for the opportunity to experience it.

Autobahn & autobahn speeds

The German autobahn is known globally as something fun to drive on. Many times, there is no speed limit, but it is actually an unspoken 130 KPH. Not having police officers hiding in random areas of the autobahn, aka highway/freeway, makes driving less stressful. That being said, there are speed cameras that will take photos of you driving if you go above the posted speed limit. While the autobahn is great for getting places quickly, there are many areas of construction which can cause the speed limit to change often. It will be a real adjustment to learn how to drive on the American freeway once we are back in the States.

Roundabouts 

Roundabouts have been commonplace in Europe for some time. They are literally a foreign idea in most of America. Just before I left the States in May, a roundabout was being constructed near my home. I was worried about having to drive through it then, but I have learned to love them. They truly make traveling through intersections so much simple! All you have to do is look to your left (as long as you’re driving on the right side of the road), make sure no cars are coming, then drive. Traffic lights are not needed, which saves loads of time. I hope more intersections in the States begin having roundabouts because they are such a blessing while driving.

Environmentally friendly

Europe is an environmentally friendly continent. It’s hard to ignore how much the environment is cared about: the complexity of trash/recycling system, how it’s illegal to idle your car, using reusable shopping bags, being unable to use pesticides or weed killers in your yard, and honestly, the list goes on. I feel very passionate about taking care of our Earth, and it warms my heart when I see how much effort is put into recycling, reducing waste, and making the environment front and center.

Opportunity to write about travels

Of course, there are a plethora of places to visit in America. The downside to traveling in America is the cost – it can be very expensive! I never wrote about any of the places I had traveled to in the States, but have always been passionate about doing so.

Years ago, during my first adult trip to Europe, my goal was to write about my time in Ireland and England. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. It mustn’t have been the right time. Now, I have the opportunity to take the chance. I have loved writing and sharing the many places I have been and I cannot wait to see where my journeys in writing and traveling take me.

Learning to be independent & growing up

This may be a more personal love about living abroad, but it can also be relatable. My move to Germany was the first move out of my family home in my life. I spent my entire previous 23 years with the same four people. I loved it and do miss the perks of living with my parents occasionally, but nothing can compare to the freedom I have felt since I have begun my life with my husband. Not only have I begun a life away from home, but I have also begun it some 3000 miles from home. I have learned how to “adult” without much aid. Sure, you can call mom for help, but that just isn’t the same! Plus, the experiences that I have from my time in Europe will shape the rest of my life. I will always be grateful for the chance to live abroad, love it and hate it, and grow as a person.

Check out “10 Things I Hate About Living Abroad” here.

Until my next adventure,

Robyn ♥

10 Things I Hate About Living Abroad

Spoiler alert: European life isn’t all croissants and bike rides along the canals…

It had been my dream for years to live and/or study abroad. The child of a European immigrant, I was lucky enough to travel transatlantically as a youngster. I believe that, and my obsession with a ridiculous amount of travel photos, started a fire in me to want to experience life abroad.

As I begin my 10th month in Germany, I’d like to share with you some things that I hate about living here. 

*This list is simply my opinion.*

Closets are not a thing

I never realized how much I appreciated having a closet until I didn’t. Our home in Germany does not have a single closet! This seems to be the norm throughout the country. Wardrobes are the go-to in many areas in Europe.

Air conditioning is also not a thing

Summers in Europe are normally not too hot. At home in the USA, temperatures would occasionally reach upwards of 100ºF (37.7ºC) in the summer. Keeping the rolladens (metal blinds) down is normally enough to keep homes cool and air conditioning is not needed is most areas. The summer of 2018 was incredibly hot in most areas of Europe. We nearly sweat our bodies away in our room without A/C. You know it’s bad when you go to the grocery store just to get some cool air in the car and the shop.

Refrigerators are teeny tiny

I am accustomed to having a massive fridge – room for large juice and milk containers, an abundance of fruits & veggies, and a large freezer, too. Our fridge in Germany is about the size of a college dorm mini-fridge. It holds a fraction of the food that I am used to. While this isn’t the worst thing, it requires extra trips to the grocery store on a weekly basis. It also means not having enough room for a Thanksgiving dinner, not without some maneuvering, anyway.

Constant construction

The Germans are great about fixing the roads – almost too good. For the entire time I have been living in Germany, the roads have been under some sort of repair. It’s great that they work often to repair the infrastructure. This is great, but it does make it difficult to get to places in a short amount of time or via a direct route. Also, the speed of many of the construction areas sometimes falls to 40 KMH (25 MPH) aka S L O W.

English or bust

Being from America basically means only knowing how to speak English. I studied Spanish from middle school to college. I have attempted to learn French, Italian, and German in my personal time. For me, learning German has been a challenge. The language is unlike any that I have learned before. For now, knowing how to order food and choose groceries are enough for me.

Fewer options at the grocery store

Mexican food is a staple in the States. In Germany, it seems like they’re trying to join in on the fiesta but fall short. The size of nacho chip bags are half of what is available at home, and don’t even get me started on the size of salsa jars! Imagine a can of tuna – that’s how small they are; very fitting with their mini nacho bags. Sour cream is also tough to find. I’m convinced it’s a specialty here.

Neighborhood Watch

Chances are that I or my husband stand out in public when we speak English or (probably worse) when we try to speak some broken German. Honestly, I’d probably stare too. The way we are stared at, however, is something I’ve never experienced before. We could be acting totally normal but still get weird stares. No matter where we go on the continent, the same thing happens.

The tax (VAT) rate

When you go shopping or out to eat in Germany, the value-added tax (VAT) rate is 19%. That means if you are buying something for €100, €19 will be added to the cost. The total you will pay for that item is €119. This tax is used towards road work, universal health care, and free education for citizens. This has been an adjustment for me from the 6% sales tax rate I was paying in Pennsylvania.

Metric system

The United States uses the standard measurement system (inches, feet, yards, miles). Everywhere else in the world utilizes the metric system of measurement (centimeters, meters, kilometers). The metric system was always easier for me to understand because of its simplicity, however, I am not able to visualize how long ¼ of a meter is or ⅔ of a kilometer is. This can make driving in some situations difficult.

Unable to pay with hubby’s debit/credit card

At home, I could go to any store and pay with a debit/credit card as long as I knew the PIN or could sign for the person (i.e. my parents). I thought that it would be the same here. Oh boy, was I wrong! The PIN system hasn’t been my friend since my arrival and neither has shopping at the grocery store. I would take my husband’s card from time to time to buy groceries. Never thinking this would be an issue, I naively swiped his card. I knew his pin and was his wife, so what’s the big deal? EVERYTHING! Simply, I’m not him. I’m not allowed to sign for him even though we have the same name. In retrospect, this isn’t a bad thing. Identity theft can be a serious problem. Safe to say I’ve now learned my lesson.

Other than these ten items, I enjoy living abroad. It is an experience every day. I am able to learn about and live in a new culture. I am able to indulge in European specialties daily, attempt to learn a new language, and travel more easily and frequently than in the States. So far, I have traveled to eleven (11) countries and this list will only continue to grow during my time here.

Have you ever lived somewhere and had things you just could not deal with? Let me know in the comments!

Until my next adventure,

Robyn ♥