Unintended Lessons

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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?]

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