Weird Things I Found in Europe as a Sheltered American

As an American who has never left the United States, much less traveled anywhere by myself, up and leaving my little town in Kentucky was no easy task. Being in a foreign land where I don’t speak the language is about as easy as it sounds. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way because it has exposed me to new experiences and taught me to be more resilient, and I am only one month in!

Therefore, with all of my new experiences and cultures that I have been exposed to, I decided to write a little bit about weird (or better yet, different) things in Europe that I didn’t expect as a sheltered American

The floors of multi floor places start at “0.”

This sounds so trivial, but it was the first “weird” thing that I was exposed to because I lived on the 4th floor of my apartment…. Or, in American terms, I would live on the 5th. Basically, the first floor is considered the “ground floor” so I suppose it makes sense that the first floor is floor “0”, but as you go downstairs, the floors go “-1, -2,…” and I just found that completely strange! Yes? No?

People drive on the same side of the road.

Alright, so this was just me being an ignorant American. I just expected Americans only drove on the right side of the road (like we don’t use the metric system or military time). But, my assumption was wrong, we are not unique, and I was surprised for about .2 seconds. Only the UK and all British colonies drive on the left side!

Sometimes, companies leave the credit card number on the receipt.

Now, this should be weird to everyone. What happens if I left my receipt on the table on accident? What if it got in the hands of the wrong person? Luckily I caught it and was able to dispose of the receipt correctly, but here is my advice to keep an eye on your receipts because you never know!

You have to sign a piece of paper after credit card transaction.

I think this is due to the fact that America is more digitized than Europe (not in all cases though!) but anytime I bought anything, even a €2 bottle of water, I would have to sign a piece of paper instead of a monitor. Most of Europe is pretty economically friendly, so I saw this as a surprise because it is such a waste of paper.

People drink alcohol on the trains and in the streets.

Now, unlike New Orleans, Wisconsin, and Europe, most of the United States has open container laws in place, so it was strange to see people walking around the streets with an open bottle of beer. Although I am living in France, I have asked my friends from all kinds of countries (Finland, Germany, UK), and this is the case in so many European countries!

Europeans don’t have air conditioning in living quarters.

Honestly, I was told about this before I got to Europe and I thought it was a joke. How can such big cities that get so hot seriously not have air conditioning?! Do we live in the 1800’s?! Well, apparently so because it isn’t a joke. There. Is. Not. Air. Conditioning.

The showers are those handheld showers.

 Honestly, this was the biggest shock and annoyance to me. As I have learned, as in America you see mostly mounted shower heads and hardly any handheld showers, it’s the exact opposite in Europe. How am I supposed to scrub my shampoo and hold a shower head at the same time? I’m a month into my adventures in Europe and I still don’t know how.

The chargers charge faster.

This is just science. The voltage of the chargers here are 220 voltage, and in America, they are 110 voltage. So naturally, it would charge faster. Much less, something I did not expect. Don’t fact check me on that 😉

Europeans don’t refrigerate their eggs or milk.

When I went to the grocery store for the first time and saw a section of shelves with eggs and milk that WEREN’T in a refrigerator, I was stopped in my tracks. Granted, eggs are laid and aren’t refrigerated, so that wasn’t as strange to me, but cereal with warm milk just does not sound appealing. At all.

They don’t put ice in their water (or their drinks!)

In the month span that I have been in Europe, I have yet to see a block of ice. Restaurants just give you a glass bottle of lukewarm water. Even for mixed drinks at the bars, I haven’t had ice! Maybe I have just been to weird restaurants/bars. I’m now counting down the days until I get an ice cold glass of water.

Everything is closed on Sundays.

Europeans don’t joke about “keeping holy the Sabbath day.” Grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes are closed on Sundays (and if they aren’t, they close super early). On top of that, stores open later and close earlier during the week. So my “fast-paced America” mentality gets time to cool down on Sundays.

All in all, I have had a great time since moving to France. Although this list has portrayed weird things I have found it Europe, it’s what makes my trip here so unique. It makes me more resilient, open, and curious to learn more about European cultures and trends.  

Au revior!