When you travel from North America to Europe there isn’t a huge amount of culture shock. It’s certainly nothing like landing in Ho Chi Minh city where you are blasted by the sound of horns honking, scooters are everywhere and you find yourself having no idea how to safely cross the street. However, there are definitely some things that stand out to me as different from home as I travel through Europe. Some are funny, some are smart, and some downright infuriate me.
Paying for toilets
This is pretty standard across Europe. Public toilets require payment. There are pros and cons to this. The pros are that the bathrooms are usually up kept pretty well. They are stocked with soap, toilet paper and are clean. However, it can really be a pain in the a** if you don’t have change on you. Plus, when I’ve already paid for an attraction or food, I feel I deserve a free pee. I find myself questioning if it’s worth the 50 cents to go or if I should risk a bladder infection. I mean, when you have as small a bladder as I do, it can really add up!
Paying for water
Similarly, most restaurants charge for water. I was used to paying for water in Asia because the water isn’t safe to drink but where it’s safe?! C’mon, just give me tap water. In North America, if you ask for water at a restaurant it’s automatically tap water and it’s free unless you request some special bottled water and then you are given the side eye like you’re too good to drink tap water.
In Europe, you always pay unless you request tap water and even then it’s not always allowed or free. Sometimes they will give you free tap water only if you order another drink. I’ve even had places refuse to fill up my water bottle even after I’ve ordered a drink. They say I need to buy a bottle of water. This really grinds my gears. Why waste more plastic when we have perfectly good tap water?
Heated towel racks
This one might be regional but since we’ve been staying in a lot of AirBnB apartments, one thing I’ve noticed heated towel racks in bathrooms are common. It’s a nice feature, getting out of the shower to a warm towel but it’s also a wholly unnecessary appliance. Most of the time, I forget to turn it on or plug it in before my shower anyways. And it’s so awkwardly shaped that it’s hard to get your towel on anyways. It’s a waste of space and energy use.
On the topic of appliances, where are the dryers? Every apartment has a washer but no dryer. It’s back to the old school hanging your clothes out on a line. I mean sure it looks romantic along the old streets to see laundry blowing in the wind but this isn’t the dark ages, there is an appliance for that. Get rid of your towel warmers and make room for a dryer. I swear Europeans it will change your life!
I guess because North American culture is all about work, we no longer see stores closing on Sunday or early on Saturday. Or even weirder, closed in the middle of the day for siesta. But this is still very much the norm in Europe. Grocery stores are closed on Sundays. How are you supposed to meal prep for the week?
No screens on windows
Okay Europe, I can give you a pass on a lot of things but not this one. You have bugs – you have flies and wasps and mosquitoes yet when I open the window in my apartment, it’s wide open to the elements. There is an invention to stop those bugs from getting in, it’s a screen! Why oh why don’t you have screens on your windows?
This is one I actually really like about Europe. The safety regulations seem a lot more lax. I often think North America goes way overboard with safety. We helicopter everything when it’s not necessary. Tom and I often find ourselves walking around and saying this would never fly in Canada.
Like in Brno, where the above ground tram goes right through the main square. There are no guard rails, it just flows through where people walk. It’s assumed you’re smart enough to see a tram coming and move out of the way. This would never fly in Canada. Construction zones are also not near as blocked off. It seems okay to walk through an open pit of construction where a hoe is actively working. This would not fly in Canada.
Speed limits are also pretty relaxed. Many places it’s not even posted, its up to you to drive to the conditions. Which to Europeans means very, very fast along tiny windy roads!
Has the message not been received that smoking kills in Europe? Because it seems everyone is still doing it. It’s bizarre to me to be blasted with cigarette smoke when sitting at a cafe. Gross! And worse I see young teenagers smoking too. It seems to be no big deal.