Steve and I have just completed our sixth month of living in Europe. We have visited seven countries so far, although, to be fair, we were only in Bosnia-Herzegovina for about 10 minutes. I thought it might be fun to mark this milestone with a few lighthearted and superficial observations about everyday life as a wandering American expat in Europe.

  • Some stuff in America is too big. Cars, refrigerators and restaurant portion sizes come to mind.
  • Some stuff in Europe is too small. Bathrooms, ice-making capacity and the number of days you can stay without a visa, to name a few.
  • I miss Target occasionally. One day, we needed disinfecting wipes for our phones, deodorant and a couple of small fans for our non-airconditioned apartment, plus some Nutella and crackers for The Weez and some socks. Over here, that means you go to five different stores and hope it’s not a bank holiday, because one or more of them will be closed.
  • I sorta like not having a clothes dryer; hanging the laundry out to dry is weirdly relaxing and therapeutic.
  • In Dublin, there is a statue of Molly Malone and her market wagon. Molly is the subject of a famous song that all school children learn. According to folklore, she was very beautiful, but poor, so she sold cockles and mussels by day and herself by night. Her statue is referred to as “The Tart with the Cart.” In Belfast, there is a big modern sculpture of a woman holding aloft a large ring. It is made of metal and looks sort of like the wire frame of a huge Christmas tree angel holding up a hula hoop. They call her “The Doll with the Ball.” For some reason, this totally cracks me up.
  • I didn’t think I was missing American food, although one day in Belfast we walked into a little shop that sold old-school American junk food and we went nuts. They had stuff that is not only rare over here, but that I haven’t even seen in America recently. Ding Dongs, Pink Snowballs, Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, Hawaiian Punch, Pixie Stix – you name it. I am not proud of this, but we stocked up on Pop-Tarts, Dr. Pepper and Fritos with more joie de vivre than Ted Cruz voting down veterans’ benefits.
  • European apartments do not typically have electrical outlets or storage space in the bathrooms, and built-in closets are not a thing; however, the windows usually open wide in every room.
  • Europe treats fiber supplements like Schedule III drugs. If you want some Citrucel, you have to go to the pharmacy, where they keep it behind the counter and you can only buy 10 “doses” at a time.
  • This week Ireland celebrated the annual “August Bank Holiday.” It’s not like it was Veteran’s Day or Juneteenth; they just take a Monday off in August because … well, why not?
  • Iced tea is as unheard of over here as it was in Boston in the 1990s.** Tea should be served at lunch (along with wine, of course!) in a big glass full of ice, with a lemon slice. How does everyone in Europe not know this?
  • While grocery stores here don’t sell much in the way of toiletries, office supplies, flowers, lightbulbs or Kleenex, they do sell booze.
  • There are two TV channels here in Dublin that play Friends episodes back-to-back all day every day. There is literally nothing else on either channel.
  • Car rental is very deceptive tricky here. If the agent at the rental car desk tells you that you have unlimited mileage, don’t believe it and expect a bill. If you get a tiny little scratch on your rental car, they will demand 400 euro, refuse to show you the car and not even use the money to fix the alleged scratch. If your rental car has a diesel engine, it will also probably have an AdBlue indicator light. AdBlue is a fluid you put in the car to reduce emissions, and if you run out, your car won’t start. No one tells you this at the rental agency.
  • Health care. This one is not trivial. The American healthcare system could learn a few things from our European friends. When Steve got sideswiped on the slopes during our ski trip in the Dolomites and hit his head so hard that his nose started bleeding, we went to the local hospital in the Italian Alps to get him checked out. We both got covid tests, he got x-rays and a CT scan and saw an internist and an orthopedic specialist. Thanks goodness, he was fine. The whole visit took less than two hours and the bill was less than 300 euro.

** I will never forget my law school friend, Jon from New England, coming back to campus after interviewing with a firm in Atlanta and telling me how surprised he was that everyone at his recruiting lunch ordered iced tea. His surprise turned to outright shock when the server kept refilling it. For free. Bless his heart!