If you’ve never been to Europe, there’s a few things you should know before you go. Stuff I wish I had known anyway. I will do this in proper INTERNET fashion and make it into a list:
10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT EUROPE
1. It’s mostly empty. Aside from the big cities, Europe is mostly farmland and mountains. I don’t know about you but I always imagined it swarming with people from edge to edge, which is maybe why some of them got onto boats to come over here (that and the potato famine I guess…). But seriously, as you drive around it feels mostly empty. Probably due to the complete lack of suburban sprawl. There are, however, an awful lot of:
2. SHEEP. Sheep, sheep, sheep. Everywhere. Eating everything green in sight, pooping little dots all over the place, churning out sweaters.
NOTE – If you go down far enough (e.g, Crete) all of the sheep are swapped out for goats, and sometimes they rip all of the skin off of the goats and trade them with each other in the back of their pickup trucks next to your car where you’ve left your kids so that you can go in to a small convince store to find cat food to feed the feral cats you’ve adopted at your AirBnb.
KEY LIFE SKILL – Don’t let your kids see animals without their skin.
3. Europeans have a special relationship with water. They love drinking it out of plastic bottles, having it spray out of their faucets with an unnecessary level of pressure, and getting (mostly) naked in it (baths, pools, beaches).
Also sometimes all the way naked.
4. Most of Europe is pretty culturally predictable from north to south, like a sliding volume knob on a vintage stereo: Slide the dial up and everything gets colder, more organized, and less policed. Slide it down and it gets hotter, becomes more chaotic, and there are armed guards everywhere for everything. Have you ever gone grocery shopping in Greece and had an armed guard follow you around at a distance? Disturbing. But in as much as they’re into guarding food and paintings, there is:
5. Almost ZERO highway patrolling. They do have photo cameras here and there but I didn’t see a SINGLE PERSON get pulled over for anything the entire time, in nine months, nor ANY cop cars on the road with us. By contrast, I’m sure a European driving in the United States would come away with the impression that we are at war with local law enforcement.
6. Martin Luther is kind of like the George Washington of Germany. Modern German as a language was helpfully codified by Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible. They love him and even have Playmobile toys of him.
7. Europeans love fresh Orange Juice. They have machines on counters with metal cages of oranges on top (like BINGO balls in a spinner) that can just CRUSH OJ out at a massive rate. They charge like 4 Euros for these things but they LOVE them. They also generally seem to love Citrus fruits as a flavor. There is Citrus everything. Hence Fanta soda is a big deal, as well as various knockoffs. They even have several brands of soda that is this weird mix of Cola and Orange flavoring. We tried it.
It’s not good.
8. The other thing they really like is chocolate.
YOU: “I like chocolate!”
ME: “Shut it, no you don’t. Not like this.”
They have it in EVERYTHING. Take breakfast cereal for example: It was often HARD TO FIND a breakfast cereal that didn’t have ACTUAL pieces of chocolate in it. Some of them boasted THREE different kinds of chocolate, white, milk, & dark. Chocolate everywhere, in everything.
European catnip? Chocolate + Citrus Fruit
9. As a North American, after three months in mainland Europe going to the UK was a huge psychological relief. Sure, they drive on the wrong side of the road and spell things funny (tyres??) but after France, Italy, Greece, Germany, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, England was a breath of fresh English air. It felt like visiting family, but not your immediately family. More like your weird Uncle who has an accent and struggles to express his emotions. My favorite British quote moments:
Very Old Lady at the counter trying to find change for my coffee – “Oh dear, I haven’t any silver!”
Rotund man waiting behind me at another counter for teatime, as we’re both told that they’re out of teapots, he looks at me – “Well, you know the world’s about to end when they’ve run out of teapots!”
The British are very serious about teatime.
10. Finally, the toilets. I feel like I need a sub-list just for this one category:
a. Good luck getting access to one. They are super hard to find. It felt like I was courting a low-grade bladder infection for weeks at at time.
b. If you do find one, you’re probably going to have to pay to use it. Sometimes that means entering a coin-operated trash compactor looking thing (which usually means a wasted coin, you don’t feel like going in after you see inside) or paying some lady how has left a tupperware cup out for you to drop a some coins into. These toilets are at least clean, but don’t take credit cards. So if you don’t have coins, then you’re looking for an ATM, and THEN a store to buy a bottle of water from to break the 20 Euro bill you got out of the ATM, just to hope to get some coins, to THEN go and pay the lady to use the toilet.
c. Finally you’re inside, but only to learn that the toilets lack toilet seats. (This is most common in rural France, where you get the sense that you’re seeing the evolution of the toilet make its first leap from ‘hole in the ground’ to ‘porcelain fixture’.) Your choices then are to work on your squat muscles, or origami yourself a toilet seat out of toilet paper.
Both options are time-consuming and dangerous.
d. The grand exception to both of the above situations is Germany. They have bathrooms in spades, and though they use turnstiles that still only take coins, they’re usually located in gas stations and convenience stores and the clerk is always good for change. However the downside to German bathrooms is:
e. The German Bathroom Lady. Europe is pretty free about things like wearing clothes or gender split bathrooms. Assuming that you’ve even managed to find a men-only bathroom, there will still be a German woman who is constantly mopping the floor and will probably mop right between your feet as you’re standing at the urinal.
And as bad as that might sound, it can get so much worse…
YOU: “What? What?”
ME: “I’m saving that for another time”
YOU: “FFFFAAAAARGH!! You always do this!”
Probably I will write about Europe again in the future (as implied above). And if the word ‘future’ in the previous sentence is a different color, then probably you’re ‘in the future’ right now and you can click on that to see said post, because by now its been written. If it is not yet a different color, know that some day it will be. There are ‘Easter eggs’ like that all throughout the Dungeon, allowing for weird theme-based travel through the posts.