This isn’t going to be some sappy narrative about how I miss friends and family. That’s what postcards are for. No, this is about the conveniences, customs, and other little things I took for granted back in the US that I don’t have here in Europe.
Europe is a lot cooler than my hellmouth of a hometown, so you can sleep at night with the windows open and be fine, but as soon as the sun starts coming out, it becomes hard to stay asleep without becoming a puddle of sweat. Public transportation and public places are also sometimes very hot and have no cooling mechanism other than an open window. As intolerable as Miami summers are, I miss going to stores, offices, and homes that are temperature controlled.
I’ve gotten used to the fact that if have a headache, a stomach virus, or flu symptoms in the US, I can go down to my local CVS and get extra-strength everything to self-medicate myself into better health. I don’t know what that says about America, but it’s a luxury I’m accustomed to. In Europe, when you need medication, you have to seek out a big green cross where you can’t browse medications yourself, because everything is behind a counter closely guarded by foreign pharmacists. This may be where the phrase “over the counter” came from. You’ll explain what you are looking for and they will tell you in broken English that you need a prescription for what you need, but they can give you vitamins, instead. My stash of migraine pills is dwindling and I’m starting to get scared that when I get a headache in Europe, I’m going to have to wait it out.
When I left the US, I left with a brand new pack of birth control pills. But now that I’ve gone through it, I have no way to refill my prescription. Prescriptions here are usually required to be given by local doctors. And my insurance certainly won’t cover any of that. I considered having it filled back home and asking someone to mail it to me, but apparently that’s illegal. So I’m off birth control for the first time in my entire adult life and I either adjust or figure out how to get health insurance.
I lost my trusty step counter early on in my adventure in Berlin. It’s probably somewhere along the Berlin Wall Memorial, where I last remember having it on. I’ve had a Fitbit for at least two years and it was pretty distressing to lose it. My wrist felt naked without it the first few days. I considered getting another one but after spending time in Poland, I realized that the cost of a Fitbit is about a month’s worth of food there and I decided it wasn’t worth it; perspective is everything.
The sun is always out in this hemisphere at this time of year. By 4 am, it’s starting to become light out and it’s after 10 pm before it sets completely. I need more nighttime or at least blackout curtains or I’m never going to get more than 6 hours of sleep.
Knowing what people are saying
It’s something we probably all take for granted, that when you’re out in a public place you can understand the conversations around you. Or if someone speaks to you, it is in your native tongue. But when you’re in another country, you are no longer fully tuned into your surroundings. You’re surrounded by voices but can’t make out anything being said; It’s like a form of deafness. It’s not something that bothers me so much in passing, since I’m the kind of person that’s usually engrossed in my own private conversation or have headphones on, but when someone is speaking to you in a foreign language and you have no idea what they’re trying to say, it can be disorienting. You just have to cross your fingers and hope that they’re booking you the right train or that you’re not allergic to whatever comes in that sandwich.
Just like they don’t believe in artificially cooling spaces, Europeans don’t believe in artificially drying clothes. So when you do laundry, you have to find a space to hang everything up to dry. The downside to that is that you definitely can’t put off laundry because you have to account for air drying time. And If you have unexpected company, all your underwear might be on display in the middle of the living room. But most of all, I miss the feeling of clothes that are fresh out of the dryer. I might need to get a cat to make up for not having that.
Knowing what day it is
Since I don’t have a standard workweek like I used to, I find myself floating around without a good sense of time or what day of the week it is. On second thought… I don’t miss this that much.