What Living In Europe Teaches You As An Australian

I’ve been kicking about in Europe for a year now, and apart from a heightened appreciation for Vegemite (you only know what you’ve got once it’s gone), this is what I’ve learned.

Bare feet in the supermarket

I used to get away with a pair of thongs stashed under the driver’s seat of the car (for formal occasions), and would hit up Coles and Woolies barefoot – sometimes *shock horror* with sandy feet. However this draws more than weird looks in Europe. The first time I visited Carrefour (a French supermarket) sans footwear, I was escorted from the premises (no joke) by security.

Coffee

I missed coffee before my family. I’m more an addict than connoisseur, but I know Australia has the best in the world (the Italians would have something to say about that – Ed). Although (for some reason) Europeans characterise Australians as “the sort of dirty bastards who happily go to the supermarket barefoot”, despite all their assertions of historical and cultural “superiority”, they still can’t make a decent coffee. If you aren’t in a metropolitan city and want something beyond a short black, you’ll be met by a blank stare, or an espresso with cold milk.

French lifeguards

These guys are more “Border Security” than “Bondi Rescue”. Don’t surf between the flags. If you can’t help but hit that last section, taking you into the swimming zone, you’ll end up with four sexually frustrated, muscular dudes ripping your board off you and demanding you pay a €50 fine to get it back.  

We suck at languages

In europe everyone you meet will speak at least four languages. This may inspire you to learn a bit of la lengua, or it might just get you depressed because every time you try and practice your French/Spanish/whatever they reply in perfect English.

How to read body language

If you move someplace where you don’t speak the lingo, the first few months will be a massive test of your non-verbal communication skills. A few salsa lessons normally do the trick (even if you don’t learn how to “talk with your hips” you might pick up a chica/chico who can give you some after class lessons).

Food

The Mediterranean Diet involves a lot of olive oil (and is incredible). Take Spain for example – tostada con aceite (toast with oil) for breakfast, salmorejo (chilled tomato soup with garlic, olive oil and bread) for lunch, and carrillada (beef with onion, carrot, gravy and potato) for dinner. Lunch takes precedence over work, school, television, natural disasters etc and occurs at 3pm everyday, con la familia. Because they have a main meal at lunch, dinner doesn’t happen until about 10pm.

Drink

Dinner is accompanied by una caña (a little beer) or vino tinto (red wine). After this, if you’re lucky, you’ll head out for a pelotazo, which literally means “hit with a ball” but in this context means “an after dinner drink”, like a Gin-Tonic (which makes sense when you stand up to go to the bathroom after finishing your free poured Mojito). Europeans drink less and more than Aussies. They drink everyday, but know how to handle it. We wait ’til the weekend and get totally fucked up (so if you move here you’ll find yourself not just getting smashed on the weekend, but drinking mid-week as well).  

What have been your culture shocks as a foreigner abroad? Light up the comments section with your stories of being an international fish out of water..