Monday Notes: About Europe

Disclaimer: I realize all European countries are not alike. The entire continent is not a monolith. However, I have visited six European countries over my lifetime, and there seem to be a few commonalities.

TEENY-TINY THINGS

Europeans like things small. This ranges from coffee to living spaces. Our Zagreb Airbnb was 400 square feet; that’s the size of two dorm rooms or a garage. Maybe I’m set in my big-ass American ways, but even if I was alone, that wouldn’t be enough space. I’m a little over five-feet tall and around 135 pounds; the showers in both rentals were too small for me to wash my hair or shave my legs. I found this interesting, especially in the Netherlands, where the tallest people in the world live! How does the population function in capsule-like spaces? 

SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS

A Dutch Uber driver found out we were from the States and shouted, “Yay, Trump! Yee-haw!” in a facetious way. In our Rotterdam Airbnb, the owner asked us to use the heat sparingly, because “it’s not that cold outside, because of you know…climate change.” We met a thirty-year-old biracial woman from the UK who wants to visit the US, but is afraid because she “doesn’t want to get shot in the street, minding her own business.” And a Croatian Uber driver began a conversation with me about the “race” and “gun problem” we have. According to him, he wouldn’t even know how to obtain a gun in his country. He would have to “find someone in the underground, like the mafia, and even then, know exactly who to speak to to get a gun.” 

FRESH BREAD AND MEAT

If you like bread, then go to the Netherlands. The bread is freshly made, and it is evident. One time, we bought a loaf of bread on a Monday and by Wednesday or so, it was moldy. When we’re home, bread stays “good” foreva…and that’s probably not a good sign. If you like meat, then go to Croatia. That’s all we found in the grocery store: red meat and chicken. I had fish when we went to Hvar, which is off the coast; otherwise, meat is what’s for dinner there. But be careful of fillers. We bought some ground beef, and you could literally see and taste the filler. Well, that’s what we think it was.

SALADS

Both countries offer salad, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The Dutch seem to really enjoy arugula, in particular. I don’t mean a spring mix with arugula, I mean…that’s the salad—arugula. In Croatia, the salads are a mix of shredded varieties, like iceberg, romaine, and arugula. Croatians also have a fresh, light vinegar and oil dressing. However, if you want something other than salad, then you will probably have to buy it at the grocery store or market, and even then, especially in Croatia, it is hard to find other types of green veggies. 

HANGING CLOTHES ON THE LINE

I know I’ve spoken ad nauseum about this, but hear me out one more time. Hanging clothes on the line seems to be cultural. When we were in the Netherlands, everyone in the apartment hung their clothes out. They even had special contraptions that allowed the clothes to hang out further and be brought back into the house. When we toured ruins and other places, I noticed surrounding areas where residents hung their clothes on the line. And when we got to Croatia, that again, was the expectation. If any of my European friends want to enlighten me about this, then please feel free in the comments. The only place I saw a dryer was at the laundromat.

WASHING WITHOUT A WASHCLOTH

Years ago, when I visited Spain and England, I learned that washcloths weren’t a thing. But I totally forgot about this on our trip. The owner of the Holland Airbnb had hand towels, but they were really too big to use as washcloths. When we visited Belgium, it was the same; there were hand towels but no washcloths. By the time we flew to Croatia, I was prepared and had purchased some smaller towels (but they weren’t washcloths). I looked this up to find out why some people, not necessarily Europeans, don’t use washcloths, and the answer is because it’s seen as unsanitary to repeatedly use a washcloth due to bacteria buildup. Who knew?

SMOKING

The Dutch and Croatians smoke…a lot. I legit thought I was going to get an illness from second-hand smoke. Whether it was when we were at home, relaxing or out and about, eating, cigarette smoke wafted through the air and into our nostrils. Europeans smoked so much I thought maybe no one had told them that it was bad, until I saw an empty pack on a table that said, “Smoking kills.

UNITED STATES IS A MICROCOSM OF EUROPE

If you’re familiar with any United States’ history, then this should be a no-brainer, but sometimes you have to see something to fully understand. When I visited parts of London, Manhattan’s setup made sense. New Orleans reminds me of parts of Spain. On this trip, I learned more about where specific cities, ideas, and people originated. For example, do these cities sound familiar: Breuckelen, Haarlem? Yeah. They originated in the Netherlands, so did the stock exchange. Neckties came from Zagreb, Croatia (as well as Nikola Tesla), and lace was invented in Bruges. Finally the Belgian waffle, which we (or I) love so much, is not Belgian due to its shape; it is Belgian because of the ingredients, which by the way, is not pancake flour.


Overall, this trip has broadened my perspective of the world and myself. I think it’s important to see how other people live, and traveling, whether it’s for a short or extended period of time, provides that. I’m grateful we were able to take this trip, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

75 thoughts on “Monday Notes: About Europe

  1. Oh yeah, the coffee size thing is so true. I was with a group and the group leader kindly offered to buy everyone a coffee. I graciously accepted, and then when I saw my coffee, I wanted to ask, umm, any chance I could get a second coffee? The volume just seemed so small! Another thing – I was in a European country recently too and I was also surprised by the presentation of salad. Like I ordered a mushroom salad, picturing a green salad with lots of mushrooms, and maybe some tomato and cheese or something…and what I received was just like a plate of mushrooms. No greens. It was fine, but not what I expected. I also felt like to-go containers for leftovers were less of a thing than they are in the USA.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The coffee size was so annoying. I legit wanted to order three at a time lol

      The salad thing is definitely unexpected. Hmmm…I’m not sure. We ordered Uber Eats and Bolt a few times and they seemed have leftover container type things.

      Like

    1. Girl. I always forget when I go to Europe how small everything is, and then I feel like a glutton because I need like 3 more “cups” of coffee lol

      The kitchen was ridiculous!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You are surprised after encountering the diverse cultural differences of the European continent, which is similar in size to the USA.
    You are being introduced to the result of more than ten thousand years of tribal movements, invasions, the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires, and diverse religious influences.
    The result is a compressed melange of the world all over.
    In comparison, the new world, the Americas and Australia might have once been inhabited with a similar cultural diversity of tribes and kingdoms as Europa was, up to the beginning of the violent colonial takeover.
    What has been left behind is watered-down cultural versions of those conquering nations, a mere five hundred years old in America and even less in Australia.
    As the invaders left their tribal differences behind, they had to find a new identity, disconnected from the traditions and land of their ancestors. In contrast, those traditions continued to ferment and preserved their diversity back home.
    So why are those new world-lers so overly progressive, with their enthusiastically can-do mentality, often perceived as somewhat naïve by the old world-lers?
    They do not wear the heavy burden of traditions, of frugality, after having endured endless warfare and strife, famine and pestilence.
    There is a reason why they do not have cloth driers and why their bread is not overloaded with preservatives!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re definitely experiencing “watered-down cultural versions” due to colonialism, and yes to everything everything else you’ve mentioned. An historical view puts all of this into perspective.

      What’s a world-ler?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi KE,
    There is so much good information here.
    Since I only drink half a cup of coffee, I love finding places that have tiny cups.
    I definitely need to go to the Netherlands – I adore bread, and the only salad I can have is arugula.
    In Brazil nowadays a lot people have a washing machine, or some version of it, but it is very rare for someone to have a dryer. In Brazil I understand, it is always so hot, but in Europe it would seem driers would be a necessity.
    A washcloth is definitely an American thing. In Brazil we use loofahs. They are easy to find and very cheap since they grow everywhere. I often use on my dry body before the shower to helps eliminate toxins.
    Blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ana! I don’t know why, but I was hoping you would. Maybe it’s because you’re from South America. Anywho, you’d love the Netherlands, then, because I think they pour about 4 oz of coffee, depending on where you are (sometimes, it’s 8). The bread and arugula is plentiful!

      In Brazil I also thought it would be a social class issue, too?

      I used to use loofahs, but then I stopped using liquid soap. Loofahs definitely feel better on your body.

      Like

  4. Having worked and lived both places (mostly France/Belgium in Europe – mostly SE in USA), I am on the fence sometimes. I think the EU likes to profit from negative versions of the USA as in ‘we may need to improve but at least we’re not these guys’ and the USA as well, which I think does not further understanding and can lead to some pretty weird situations (I have an American accent and get some pretty blatantly rude questions and lectures, but from a minority of people I think.) I always say, the USA and Europe are big places. Everything you say about them is probably true somewhere, fortunately or unfortunately. The washcloth thing I also found weird – you are the first to explain it to me, so thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s a great point. I was reading something about how Canada likes to act is if they don’t have a race problem, but of course they do. What you’ve said reminds me of that…it’s kinda like, but at least we’re not like the US :-/ (even though they are).

      I can imagine. People think your’e an insider, I guess, so you get to hear all of the shenanigans.

      My husband recently said something similar about “probably true somewhere.” For example, if someone suggested Americans smoke a lot of weed because you can smell it everywhere (parking lots, houses, malls, etc.), then I would totally understand that opinion and possibly agree, even though I don’t personally smoke weed.

      The washcloth thing was definitely a thing, and I haven’t decided how I feel about it. It’s funny how Americans probably think it’s unsanitary to NOT use a washcloth, and someone somewhere thinks the opposite.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I always think it goes back to the stories we tell ourselves. When I had to study psychology for marketing, I got really interested in the fact that when we scan brains to see where people make decisions, it’s in the emotional part of the brain. But when you talk to people, they rationalise the decision as if it comes from the prefrontal cortex. This supports, for me, the idea that our brains tend to decide things based on experience and snap judgements and then we sell ourselves (or someone else or some other people) sell us the story that gives us a framework to explain the decision. I think that national stories are a big part of that, and dichotomies and comparisons play into that self story. One of the frameworks I had to look at recently (multimodal literacy, I think it was called) said that studies indicated that there is more variation within a ‘box’ than between ‘boxes’ when we categorise people, but that makes it hard to form firm identities to build policies or marketing, so we try to construct a story that solidifies the idea of the ‘box’ you belong to as a shorthand rather than say, ‘hey, you’re a varied and complex individual making more decisions from your gut for evolutionary reasons and we’d like to reframe some narratives so that we can have a more equal and socially responsible as we define it public policy. Can you give us several hours to discuss?”

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I love to travel too, because it does broaden our perspective! Sometimes it shows me there’s a better way, and other times it makes me appreciate what I have at home. And I don’t think it’s possible to truly understand a country (or area) until you’ve spent some time there. I was also amazed at all the people who air-dried their clothes when we were in Europe, especially France. We’d see gorgeous old buildings, all with beautiful balconies decorated with colorful flowers and……drying clothes. It just struck me as odd!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Lol, about the disclaimer! 😀 Each of your observations would make for fascinating conversations. But as you’ve alluded to, travelling is the best education. We get to learn about different cultures or ways of living. But also about how the world view us; more often than not as our countries of origin and political events instead of individuals. For instance (and regarding Europeans being socially conscious) as soon as people learn that I’m originally from South Africa, I end up fielding questions about apartheid. So, I suspect your former president will come up a lot in conversations, even with strangers. Nonetheless, I hope you do visit Europe again, there’s so much to see. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You know I had to have the disclaimer, so I don’t get a bunch of “We don’t do that” comments lol Anywho, Trump has really changed the worldview of the United States, like more than I really thought! I never thought I’d have to explain that I did not vote for him lol

      I can’t even imagine having to always explain what you do/do not know about apartheid LOL

      We WILL be back, and you know who’s first on the list to see 😉 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hm, I do not recognize myself (being Dutch) a lot in your experiences, lol
    I do have a dryer (and use the line sometimes too, if the weather allows it and I have time), in my inner circle most people do not smoke, I don’t like rucola (arugola) and all the houses I have lived in so far had a big shower-cabin… How much of The Netherlands have you visited, I wonder?
    Glad you made it back home safely! XxX

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for commenting, Patty! You know I don’t want to stereotype, so I’m glad to hear another perspective. I was wondering about all of these things, especially the smoking part!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a 450 sq/ft condo as a second home where almost all neighbors are on a short term rental program at the condo hotel. It really is comfortable for 1 person. With 2 people it isn’t bad unless my husband is working and needs a private space for phone calls, we do have a balcony. Storage is a problem and my neighbor rents a place for seasonal items as she lives there full time. Harder for me is the high density of the lodge which may be more common in Europe. While weekends are usually sold out weekdays are more relaxing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That second part was a lot of the issue: hubby was working, and I was working, and he has a lot of virtual meetings (e.g., today I asked do you have a lot of meetings and he said, ‘no, only 5’), so sometimes, there was a lot of talking and only me and my noise-cancelling headphones lol

      Storage was definitely a problem in our second one…we didn’t even unpack all of our stuff, because there was no place to put it.

      It’s funny, but even though both places seemed to have a lot of people living there, we rarely saw anyone, unless it was a holiday.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My neighbor introduced me to this term: “A pied-à-terre (French pronunciation: ​[pjetaˈtɛʁ], plural: pieds-à-terre; French for “foot on the ground”) is a small living unit, e.g., apartment or condominium, often located in a large city and not used as an individual’s primary residence. The term implies use of the property as a temporary second residence, but not a vacation home, either for part of the year or part of the work week, usually by a reasonably wealthy person.”

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Most suburban households in Australia and New Zealand have an outdoor clothes line for drying laundry. It is a tradition but of course in apartment buildings most would use an electric dryer inside. The Hills Hoist is an icon of Australian culture. See the link at the end for an explanation. I think many of us just love the smell of clean dry laundry as we collect it after being sterilised by the sun light. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-04/hills-hoist-australian-backyard-icon-ownership-change/8161430

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m going to check out this link; thanks for sending it! I thought maybe it was a climate change thing (the dryer). The suburban vs urban difference makes sense, too. I’m off to read the article 😉

      Like

  10. I LOVE hearing these details! And I always long for a seemingly simpler way of life like hanging the clothes out to dry and eating fresh bread every day. I think that’s why I’m fascinated by Amish culture as well. Despite all of your anxieties, I think you’re making a nice case for the Netherlands. And with all the literal hell that’s happening in the US right now it would be amazing to be in a place that is horrified by racism and guns. Thank your for transporting me for a few minutes 💖💖💖

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ❤ the Netherlands is definitely a nice place to be. I support anyone's decision to travel there 😉

      And you're welcome! It's surreal that we came back during all this bullshit.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, this post was so interesting, Katherin. I really learned a lot of things I had no idea about. I was telling my son (who is 6’5″) that the shower was tight for you and you’re 5″ – That is crazy!
    I do want to travel more someday and it seems that what I’ve learned from reading your posts will be very applicable!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I loved your post and agree with your concluding words – it is so important to travel and broaden perspectives. After moving to the US from India 2 decades ago, I had grown accustomed to feeling like an Indian in another country and noticing the different perceptions about back home. Your post made me aware how much US feels like a home to me now, and appreciated you sharing the different comments from locals of these countries about US from their perspective.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I laughed at your trump reference. In 2017, I was in Amsterdam and Belgium. One day at lunch, the couple sitting at the next table knew we were from the US. We quickly made it apparent that we were NOT supporters. One of them asked why we hadn’t just kept Obama in office. I explained term limits and without skipping a beat they asked, “Aren’t there times to make an exception?”
    If only.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Like as soon as that driver said, “yee haw,” I was like here we go lol It’s funny how we have to find ways to distance ourselves from specific presidents, almost like to prove our identity.

      I would not want to change the term limit thing, though…cause guess who’d probably never, ever leave!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Such an interesting post! I’ve never been to Europe, but a friend lived in London and she was surprised by the small sizes and the no dryer situation. Another thing I have heard about is that housing is all up and down, small size with multiple floors — 3 or 4 floors for each living space, and thus lots of stairs.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for affirming this, Janet! There are a lot of homes like that in the Netherlands, too. The Anne Frank museum is the actual house where they hid, and you have to climb up tiny, narrow stairs :-/

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I dunno Rob. The biracial lady and her Black bf were really afraid, as if it was the Wild, Wild, West over here.

      And I didn’t knoooowww that! You’re Italian?

      Like

      1. Yeah, I think that they watch CNN too much. 🙂 Yes! My parents were immigrants, but didn’t know each other in Italy. They met here in the US, then got married and went back to Italy for their honeymoon.

        Liked by 1 person

Comments are welcomed

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s