What I’ll Miss About Living in Europe:
At home in Des Moines, I drive almost everywhere I go. In Iowa City, I walk more, but maybe only a few miles each day. While living in Prague, I walk around 7 miles every day, and always more when I travel on the weekends. My record in one day is sixteen miles in Paris! My feet do feel pretty destroyed after four months of this lifestyle, but the constant movement and exercise is so refreshing (and helps shed off some of that weekly gelato).
Dogs All Around
Europeans love their dogs! Nine out of ten times that I walk out of my apartment building, I’m greeted by a dog trotting by with its tongue hanging out. They’re always free of leashes and far ahead of their owners, but stop every once in a while to make sure they’re still in sight of them. Oddly, there’s an abundance of bulldogs, pugs, and wiener dogs in Europe. They always make me smile.
The buildings all across Europe have been around for thousands of years. Their beauty and history just can’t be beaten.
One of my favorite pastimes is sitting in coffee shops reading, writing, or studying with a mug in front of me. There’s a never-ending supply of cafes to try in Prague, and they’re all unique – not chains like Starbucks or Caribou – but little locally-owned places with bookshelves and funky couches. Also, the presentation of coffee in Europe is much more elaborate than at home – usually it will come out on a tray with a glass of water, a pitcher of milk, and sometimes a little cookie.
The vibe in Europe is so much more relaxed than in America. People lay in parks and stroll through the streets like they have all the time in the world. I will miss this quiet contentedness when I’m back in fast-paced, intense America.
What I’ve Missed About Living in America:
My Loved Ones
Obviously, living in Europe means that I’m thousands of miles away from the people (and dog) who mean the most to me, which hasn’t been easy. I can’t wait to give them all a big squeeze when I return home.
If you study abroad, say goodbye to water at restaurants. They don’t give it to you for free in Europe, and when you do order it, it will never have ice in it. This seemed absurd to me when I first got here, but I guess that’s why Americans are seen as wasteful!
The laid-back European lifestyle is wonderful in most ways, but can also be a little irritating when you’re used to such efficiency in America. The waiters in Europe will never bring you your bill unless you ask for it. And often, they don’t check in on you, so asking them for the bill can prove to be difficult. They assume that you have hours to sit and relax, so they don’t bother turning tables quickly. I’m so excited to have fast service again in America, but this has also taught me to slow down and enjoy meals more.
Although I love hearing different languages and will really miss this, I’ve also missed having the ability to make conversation with strangers. Most often, the people around me don’t speak English, so sometimes it feels like I’m alone in a sea of Czechs. All I can say to the lady in the grocery checkout line is “dobry den” (hello). I can’t wait to ask “how are you?” to everyone I encounter.
Big Grocery Stores
I never knew how much I loved Hy-Vee until I came to Prague. The grocery stores here are tiny and just don’t have a great selection. I may shed a few tears of joy when I can walk through wide aisles with a cart and fill it with every food that my heart desires.
Claire Harmeyer is a journalism major pursuing a certificate in writing at the University of Iowa. A native of Des Moines, IA, she is studying in Prague, Czech Republic, at the Anglo American University.