I think the biggest surprise for me on the trip was how many different cities we actually visited while we were there. Looking at it on paper, it seemed like we had a decently busy schedule, visiting a lot of countries and cities in such a short time. But actually being there, I was pleasantly surprised how many different places we went. It seemed like most days we stopped in 2 or 3 different places. Having never been to Europe before, I really appreciated this. While we never stayed in any one place for a particularly long time, we were able to get a good overall picture of the different countries we went to, because we got a little taste of everything in each place. Even on our designated travel days, we would stop in one city for lunch and at least one or two others before reaching our hotel for the night.
The other big surprise was how much free time we actually had. I also really enjoyed this because this gave us the opportunity to do and see what we wanted to, so we all got what we wanted out of the trip and out of the cities we were in.
– Jonathan Filippini
One of the questions asks what are some simple things from home we miss while traveling in Europe, and a few came to mind right away. The first, and the most important for me, is water. Back in the US, water comes pretty much standard with every meal for free, and you can have as much of it as you want. Here, however, drinks are almost never included, and if you order water you have to pay for it and you can’t get a refill. This is one of the biggest adjustments. Their drinking glasses at meals, especially breakfast, are about a quarter of the size of what we are used to back in the United States.
Another simple thing from home that I miss is free bathrooms. In the USA, public bathrooms are common and free. Here, it seems like you have to look all over to be able to find a bathroom, and once you finally find one they charge you to use it, Along with lack of many public restrooms, there are also few to no common seating areas in malls or buildings. In the States, every mall has tons of benches and seating areas you can relax at, but here it doesn’t seem to exist. There were several occasions where we sat at what we thought were public seating areas and we were asked to leave by shop owners because we were not customers.
Finally, I miss using more paper money. That sounds stupid, but coins are worth more here and I seem to have an ever growing supply of coins. They’re heavy and annoying to carry around, and a $1 bill seems to make much more sense and is much easier to find than a 1 or 2 Euro coin. It also seems like all shops and stores here close extremely early at night, and on some days don’t open at all, which can be frustrating when I try to explore cities at night and almost everything is closed.
One of the things I have enjoyed here is that most things seem to be within walking distance, or there is cheap and easy public transportation in cities to get you where you want to go.
– Jonathan Filippini
Even after just a few short days, I have noticed a couple cultural differences between the United States and Europe, specifically the Netherlands. First off, there are a staggering number of people who either walk or bike everywhere. Never in my life have I seen so much foot traffic and so many bikes chained up along the streets and outside of shops. The bikers seem to do whatever they like – going anywhere they want no matter who or what is in the way. Because of the staggering amount of people that walk or bike, the population seems to be generally fitter or skinnier than in the US.
Another big difference I’ve found is the serving size of food and drinks. In the US, drinks are are extra large, along with the food. But here, even the water glasses are small, and free refills with drinks don’t seem to be very common. People also seem to drink mainly beer or wine – pop and water are much less common. Pop and water are also much more expensive here than what we are used to.
The third difference is that everyone here seems to know multiple languages. While almost all of us students on the trip only know English, most of the people we have talked to can speak two or three languages, and they can speak it pretty well. It makes me realize that we are not quite as well prepared to deal with the rest of the world as we should be.