Spoiler alert: European life isn’t all croissants and bike rides along the canals…
It had been my dream for years to live abroad. As a child of a European immigrant, I was lucky enough to travel transatlantically as a youngster. Those travels combined my obsession with travel photos and started a fire in me to want to experience life abroad. As I begin my 10th month abroad, I’d like to share with you some things that I hate about it. I never thought I would hate anything about living abroad, but it can be hard to adjust from a life one has lived for 20+ years, to which I’m not immune.
Quick disclaimer: some of the things on this list may seem slightly petty to you, but this list is simply my opinion.
With that said, here we go!
1. Closets are not a thing
I never realized how much I appreciated having a closet until I didn’t. My home in Germany does not have a single closet! Unfortunately, this seems to be the norm throughout the country. Wardrobes are the go-to in many areas in Europe. I hate not having a closet to organize my clothes.
2. Air conditioning is also not a thing – serious HATE
Summers in Europe usually are not overly warm. At home in the USA, temperatures would occasionally reach upwards of 100ºF (37.7ºC). Keeping the rolladens (metal blinds) down is usually enough to keep homes cool. Most areas in Europe don’t need air conditioning. However, the summer of 2018 was sweltering in most regions of Europe. I nearly sweat my body away in my room without A/C. You know it’s terrible when you go to the grocery store just to get some cool air in the car and the shop.
3. Refrigerators are teeny tiny
I am used to 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. I hate how it holds a fraction of the food that I am used to. While this isn’t the worst thing, it requires weekly trips to the grocery store. It also means not having enough room for Thanksgiving dinner, not without some maneuvering, anyway.
4. 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 often work to repair the infrastructure. The repairs are excellent, but they do make it challenging to get to places in a short amount of time or by a direct route. Also, the speed of many of the construction areas sometimes falls to 40 KMH (25 MPH) aka SLOW.
5. Not knowing the language
Being from America basically means only knowing how to speak English. I took Spanish courses from middle school to college. I attempted to learn French, Italian, and German during my time here. 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.
6. Fewer options at the grocery store
Mexican food is typical in the States. It seems like they’re trying to join in on the fiesta in Germany but seem to fall short. The size of nacho bags is at least half of what I was used to at home, and don’t even get me started on the size of salsa jars! Imagine a can of tuna – that’s how large they are. Very fitting with their mini nacho bags. Sour cream is also tricky to find. I’m convinced it just isn’t a thing here.
7. Germans (and Europeans in general) stare!
Chances are that I stand out in public when I speak English or (maybe worse) when I try and speak some broken German. Honestly, I’d probably stare too. The way I am stared at, however, is something I’ve never experienced before. I could be acting normal, but I still get weird stares. No matter where I go in the country, the same thing happens.
8. The tax (VAT) rate
When you go shopping or out to eat, the value-added tax (VAT) rate is 19%. That means if you are buying something for €100, €19 will be added to the cost. So the total you will pay for that item is €119. This tax goes towards road work, universal health care, and free education for citizens. The tax has been an adjustment for me and the 6% sales tax rate I was paying in Pennsylvania.
9. 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 more straightforward to me because of its simplicity. However, I cannot visualize how long ¼ of a meter is, or ⅔ of a kilometer is. The confusion makes driving in some situations difficult.
10. Can only pay with personal debit/credit card
I could go to any store and pay with a debit/credit card at home 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! Since my arrival, the PIN system hasn’t been my friend, and neither has shopping at the grocery store. I would take my partner’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 partner, so what’s the big deal? EVERYTHING! I’m not him. I’m not allowed to sign for him. Looking back, this isn’t a terrible idea. Identity theft is a serious problem. Safe to say, I’ve now learned my lesson.
Other than these ten items that I hate about living abroad, I enjoy it. It is an experience every day. I can learn and live in a new culture. I can indulge in European specialties daily, attempt to learn a new language, and travel more easily 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.
I want to hear from YOU!
Have you ever lived abroad and had things you just could not deal with? Let me know in the comments!
Until my next adventure,