Two Things That Terrify Europeans


Europeans are terrified of being cold.

I landed in Madrid on a nice, hot, sunny +29C day, jeans, sweater and NorthFace down jacket firmly wrapped around my hips. What was I thinking? Europeans, and especially Spaniards are terrified of being cold.

And I suddenly remembered, in October, all air conditioners are shut down en masse across Europe.There was no way in hell the airport would be air conditioned simply because it was October. And it wasn’t. It was sweltering.

Certainly my hotel room, in a world-wide hotel chain, at an international airport with world traveler passing through, would be air-conditioned. Wrong. Big nope. My room was +27.5C and the lowest you could set it was +21C! The lowest! A quick call down to the front desk realized my greatest fear. “I’m sorry, the aircon is now shut down for the season.”

I was dying. The only option left was to get into my car rental and run the AC, I just had to cool off somehow. My thick Canadian blood was boiling in more way than one.

Europeans loathe air conditioning and refuse to turn it on, that is if they have it, until late May and only if it’s over +30C. It’s shocking how many malls and stores you walk into and the temperature is clearly indicating at least +26, if not warmer, as if they are bragging how much they are keeping you nice and toasty warm. In July.

They even advertise here in the summer not to turn your air conditioners on lower than +26C to save on electrical costs. Not the temperature outside at +26, the setting on your air conditioner is not to be lower than +26C. What the hell is the point, then?

But in the winter, the stores blast the heat as if money was no object. (They frequently complain about how much it costs to run an air conditioner.) Malls proudly display a +27C indoor heat comfort. I just about die from heat exhaustion.

In December, if someone walks past quickly, creating a momentary breeze, the patio heaters are on and blankets passed around like free cigarettes, even if it’s a sunny +20C outside.

They don’t wear scarves to be stylish, it’s because they are imagining they will be soon freezing to death.

Yes, Europeans, especially southern Europeans, are terrified of being cold.

The second terror in a European’s life is running out of sugar. Especially sugar in your coffee.

The looks I get when I say I don’t need sugar in my coffee range anywhere from horrified to perplexed. It usually goes like this:

Uno cafe con leche, por favor.


Sin azucar.

No azucar?

No azucar.

No azucar?


Uno azucar?

Vally, uno azucar.



[Throws out sugar packet.]

Uno vino tinto, por favor…….

How do you start over? You start over.

It takes two people to make a relationship work and only one person to end it.

And I wasn’t the one who ended it. It’s been a rocky two years – maybe more roller coaster than rocky but it certainly hasn’t been my best two years. It wasn’t my choice to start my life over at age 50 and my life decisions lately reflect that I am still not happy about the position I was forced into.

But that’s about to change. I’m choosing to starting over.

Starting over my life, starting over how I’m handling my divorce, starting over with some of the choices I made. Besides, who ever said you have to drag your choices around like a big bag of rocks? ‘Let ‘er go, you never know!’ is much more than just something you shout at a hockey game.

How do you start over? You start over.

When I get off that airplane in Valencia next week, it will be TA-DA! – Single Shanta. Audios, Mrs. Ostafichuk. Hola, Ms. Meeder. I will no longer refer to myself or consider myself still legally married or separated. I will no longer attach the word wife or ex-wife to my name. I will be Just Shanta and if anyone asks about my status, it’s single. I don’t need a signed piece of paper to have peace of mind.

Single Shanta – I like it.

For the first time in my adult life, I’m first on the list, schedule, and care.

I’m going to make mistakes but if I want to forget them, I shall. Is the fear of failing or the fear of the witness reminding us of our mistakes (over and over and over and over…) that petrifies us?

My bad decisions are going to be much more worthwhile. And memorable. And fun.

And ‘NO’ will be my go-to word.

I think I’m off to a great start.


Unintended Lessons


When embarking on a new lifestyle, there are always things that come up that you never considered. And how could you?

Some things are only experienced fully when you jump in the deep end or learned the difficult way. After the excitement wears down, the reality revs up. And it’s been waiting a long time for you to hear their side of the story. A real long time. So, without further ado, here are the surprising unintended lessons I have learned from my first move to Europe in 2009.

  • I don’t miss stuff. At all. Ditto cleaning said stuff. I can live with very little. A shocking revelation after collecting and piling up goods for 27 years. Two suitcases, a backpack full of electronics, and my dog is all I need for six months of traveling.

  • I don’t miss my 3800 sq ft home and actually prefer my little one bedroom apartment right on the Med Sea. Takes me less than one hour to scrub it, top to bottom vs. the four-plus hours it took to clean my house.

  • I’ve slooooowed dooooown. I sit to have a coffee and loathe drive-through food. I enjoy two hour lunches and dinners that last into the wee hours of the morning.

  • I now enjoy walking everywhere and find driving/parking cumbersome.

  • I realize how expensive it is to live in Canada, especially mobile phones, electricity, food, car insurance, travel and booze.

  • After having driven across the European continent many times by myself, I’m not afraid of much anymore. That might not be a good thing.

  • I’ve lost all respect for name brands. Brands and trends are local for the most part. A Coach purse means nothing in Spain. And Levi’s are €120 ($150) in Spain and $39.99 back home at Sears. It’s all hype and good marketing.

  • Health care in Europe is amazing and not free. They pay monthly in Spain and Holland. (The only two I accessed, so the only two I can comment on.) Don’t believe the propaganda, they have functioning private and public side by side; no one is denied and no one goes without. Oh, and emergency wait times are less than 30 minutes and appointments with specialists happen within weeks, not months.

  • Canadian is a language. I missed speaking Canadian. Sure, I had friends that spoke English (Brits, Americans and Dutch) but they didn’t speak Canadian.

  • I am no longer offended when someone asks me if I’m American. Especially once I found out they aren’t asking if I’m from the USA, they are referring to North American continent. No different when we group all of them as Europeans or Asians. No wonder they look perplexed when you answer, “No! I’m Canadian!” It’s embarrassing, so stop it. [Yes, I’m American from Canada is the correct response.]

  • We have it pretty good in Canada. We can buy a car in the morning, have it insured, licensed and driven off the lot within hours. Not so much in Europe. It can sometimes take up to six weeks between purchase and your garage. I won’t even start on business licenses or other types of registrations.

  • I miss hockey. A lot. And I refuse to call it ice hockey. It’s hockey, period.

  • At 21% VAT (equivalent to our GST) I will never, ever, ever, ever complain about our 5% GST ever again. Even if it went back up to 7%.

  • That being said, I like that European prices are all inclusive. If it says 10 euros on the sticker, that’s the price you pay at the cash register. There’s no additional taxes/fees added on – finally our air industry in Canada has started this practice, if it would only expand to everything. Just tell me what I owe with no surprises at the till, thanks.

  • Tipping is ridiculous. The expected 15-20-25% in North America is out of control. It took me a lot of restraint to only leave 10%, then finally just a round up or one euro. The guilt was overwhelming leaving such pittance, but it really wasn’t that long ago we only added 10% in Canada. Just exactly when did tipping become so extreme?

I wonder which unintended lessons I will be observing this go-round? Even though I’m going back as a seasoned traveling pro, I’m also going back single with fresh eyes, outlook, and agenda. What unintended lessons did you learn when you travelled outside of Canada? [Other than, of course, how far your body can repel cheap tequila?]

T minus 10 days

Only ten short days and I’ll be headed back to Europe, specifically Spain – back to Calpe where my first European adventure began in December 2009. Oh, how my life has changed since then, let me count the ways:

1. I am returning as a single. The original adventure started out as a renewal of our marriage, a new beginning, a new chapter. It was also the last chapter of our marriage.

2. It is my choice, and my choice alone where I live. No obligations to work schedules or airport access.

3. It certainly won’t be as lush as the first time I moved to Europe. I’m on my own in more ways than one.

4. I’m going with Estée, the first time we moved over we brought Paxil.

5. I have friends there now. The first time I went I didn’t know a soul.

6. I am well aware of the ways of Spain and Europe. In December of 2009, I didn’t have a clue what I was up against.

7. I’m not bringing my vehicle from Canada. Expensive lesson learned the first time.

8. I know enough of the language to get by day to day. The first time I went with Mexican Holiday language skills for Spanish.

9. I know where to shop, where to get my hair cut, how to book a doctor appointment and so on, the learning curve is now only a blip.

10. My children are not in Europe, they are back in Canada vs. the first time I moved over. I specifically moved to Europe in 2009 because they were both in school in Holland. Will this make a difference? I don’t know.

11. One thing has remained the same – I’m so looking forward to this new adventure, this new chapter, this new beginning. But this time it’s going to be better. Way better.

Come on, hold my hand and join me. Let’s share this amazing journey called life. I encourage you to comment, share your thoughts and share my Slog with your friends; I don’t want this to be a one way conversation otherwise I would simply chat with Estée.

I’m just as interested in what’s happening in your life and back home. Feel free to post photos, meme’s or your words. Let’s make this our own private FaceBook. Just you and me and all my friends.

Beach in Calpe

Beach in Calpe

Everybody lies

Everybody lies. Everybody has secrets. Even you, even me. It’s a wonder we trust anyone at all.

It’s always amazing to me how much a person can lie to you to keep you around but once they are finished with you, they suddenly become agents of truth.

Lie: I love you.

Truth: I hate you.

Lie: I can’t ever live without you.

Truth: I can’t wait to be far away from you.

Lie: You are so beautiful.

Truth: I am no longer attractive to you.

This blog started out as our adventures when we moved to Europe in December 2009 and has now been up-cycled to be the mutterings of a suddenly single 50-something, sometimes jaded, sometimes drunk, sometimes happy, sometimes content, sometimes reflective but all the times human being trying to deal with what life has handed her.

Sometimes this will be brutal honesty, sometimes you will cry, sometimes you will smile, sometimes you’ll laugh out loud. But I’m done with the lies and liars, so I promise you this – it will always come from a place of sincere, heartfelt truth.

In a divorce there are three truths; his truth, her truth and the truth.

I am not going to rehash what happened, what is or what will happen. That doesn’t help anything or anyone, so please don’t ask. If I feel there is some news that is important for you to know, I will be sure to share it with you. Besides, it’s only my truth and you would only be getting 1/3 of the truth, hardly enough to form a complete picture.

And with that, on with the show. Come on, hold my hand and join me on this fabulous adventure.

Glad you are here, and that’s the truth. 🙂