Husband is wondering when, if ever, I’ll write about some of the cultural differences we noted between our homelands and the European countries we travelled about earlier this month. Every time I think about doing so, I think back to the trip and our daily musings: “Why are the cars parked on the sidewalks?” “Why can I not get a normal-size coffee anywhere?” “Why can’t Toronto’s transit be as great as this?”
So, sweetie, this is for you. Thanks for making memories with me.
Now, I can’t say all of the noted differences hold true throughout all of Europe, so I’ll only speak for the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary. And, I won’t really speak for them, because my Czech, German and Hungarian are poor. I think I only managed “Hi,” “Bye” and “Thank you” in each language. Sad, I know. Also, this is not a comprehensive list. I suspect some notes flitted right out of my mind. Probably during the miles upon miles upon miles of walking we did.
Anyway, if you’re reading this and you’re European, I’d love to hear from you.
22 Random Notes on Eastern Europe by an American (with Input from a Canadian)
- There are no washcloths.
- Bathrooms are water closets. Not restrooms. Not washrooms. And, sometimes you have to pay to use them. Like when you’re out in public, which is all the time when you’re traveling. And problematic when you rarely carry coins in any currency.
- There are many, many diesel vehicles. Parked everywhere and in every which way.
- The vehicles are small. Smaller than small. Very un-American. Interestingly, Eastern Europeans (Czechs and Hungarians, especially) are not particularly short. Perhaps they are bendier.
- Water is not served with meals in restaurants.
- Water is not free.
- Water in any bottle smaller than one litre comes in a glass bottle. Logically, I can deduce that Europeans are dehydrated or tote about heavy handbags.
- There are no clocks or alarm clocks in European hotel rooms.
- No coffee drink is more than 6 oz. in size. Long coffee? Six ounces. Cappuccino? Six ounces. Mocha latte? Six ounces.
- It is not common (although becoming more so) to see people carrying coffee with them. Small cups only.
- Cold cuts, cheese and olives are breakfast staples. This makes me think Europeans are missing out on pancakes.
- Interconnected transit systems are way better than American and Canadian systems (in my experience). They are quick. They are efficient. They are cheap. Dirt cheap. You can purchase a pass that allows you to use all forms of public transit as many times as you like for as long as the pass is good (1, 3, 7 days, etc.).
- Beer is more common than water. Also, it is cheaper. The Czech Republic, in particular, is quite proud of its beer-making history. Pilsner, anyone?
- Smoking is as common as breathing. It, like beer, is everywhere. Everyone does it. Even the uncool people.
- Roundabouts are everywhere. Also a model of efficiency.
- Czechs, Austrians and Hungarians can make a mean strudel. Those in Hungary are particularly delicious and inexpensive.
- The Hungarian language is confusing at best and sounds like nothing you’ve ever before heard.
- Eastern European countries are chock-full of history. So much so that they make Canada look infantile. We wondered why people would visit Toronto. Anyone?
- The royal families lived like, uh, royalty. Schönbrunn Palace, located in Vienna, is the former summer residence of the Habsburg dynasty. It has 1,141 rooms. Summer home, indeed.
- Austrians LOVE statues, monuments and memorials. Come to think of it, so do Czechs and Hungarians.
- “5,000 Hungarian forint” sounds like you’re carrying a lot of money, not $26.
- There are no bathroom fans.
Thanks for reading. If you get the opportunity to visit the Czech Republic, Austria or Hungary, go. Go quickly!