There seems to be so many similarities to Canada and Europe that it would almost make sense that things should not be too unfamiliar while travelling. Right? Wrong. Right. Sort of.
There have been so many times over the past three weeks that it has felt like I have stepped into some sort of Bizarro world that is just slightly not quite “right” to what I am used to. It’s not far enough off of my norms to be completely different but just enough that I’ve been tossed a bit off balance so to speak.
- Wall light switches. They operate the same as ours – almost. The same but opposite. Which means I have been trying to turn them off when I leave a room by turning them on.
- Food packaging. Looking for yogurt and after much searching, I have it pointed it out to me by a very helpful person only to realize that it does not come in the containers that I have been looking for it to be in. Nope. What would be a milk carton container to me is a yogurt container here. Lesson learned.
- Flushing a toilet. No handle on the side of the tank exists here. Nope. Either a couple of push buttons (one large , one small, that is easy enough to figure out), or a single push button on the top of the tank will get the job done. Not hard to understand, just slightly different enough to make me stop the first time and wonder how to flush.
- Bathrooms, part one. I could seriously write an entire post just about public bathrooms (they were the reason for my first jet-lag emotional melt down – in public – tears over how to pee.). Starting with bathrooms in restaurants: You find the bathroom ( the word “toilette” is close enough to the english “toilet” that it is all good – yay! I can read a sign 🙂 and you open the door only to be faced with the smallest room you have ever seen with only a sink in in! You are too stunned and confused to notice (the first time) that there is, indeed, another door in the room. THAT is the door which will lead you to another, equally small room, that has the actual toilet in it. Voila, problem solved. It’s actually a rather ingenious system but it sure throws a person off the first time.
- Bathrooms, part two. If you are out and not lucky enough to be a in a restaurant and you need to use the facilities, so to speak, I wish you all the luck that the universe can provide. Public bathrooms are few and far between, and – as far as I ever saw – pay per use only. The rates range from $0.60 to $0.80 usually but there are the pricier ones out there and trust me, you will get to the point where $2.00 euros for a pee is not only acceptable but welcomed. Personally I think the bathroom guys are giving the bottled water street vendors a cut but I can’t prove it….
- Coffee. A subject near and dear to my heart. In line with the overall European vibe of not being crazy rushed and actually enjoying life…a request of a coffee “to-go” is looked at like my head just tipped off. Coffee is meant to be sat with, sipped, and enjoyed -always with a teeny biscuit cookie provided gratis. Not at all a bad concept and one that I aim to bring back with me.
- Hot Chocolate. I know, I know, another drink. But really, this one is worth mentioning. Hot chocolate when ordered with whipped cream comes with the whipped cream served on the side, on a little plate with its own little spoon. Again, another spectacular idea and I don’t know why Canada doesn’t do this! It keeps the whipped cream application and ingestion totally in the consumers control. No messy melted whipped cream topping, just perfect whipped cream heavenly goodness.
- Egg storage. This is something that I knew but still, seeing it in action was one of those “huh?” moments. Eggs that have not been washed (usually what happens in commercial egg production and delivery) do not need to be refrigerated. So they aren’t. Eggs on a shelf or an open area nowhere near being kept chilled is just the way it is. Generally in Europe, eggs are not washed and therefore, don’t need to be refrigerated.
- Vehicle travel. Oh, the differences! It was a few days before I figured out what was so different with all the vehicles on the road. Size. I have yet to see anything resembling an F series pick-up or similar type vehicle. Even SUV’s are rare and stick out like a sore thumb here. Vehicles are simply smaller. Hatchbacks and small four doors dominate the tight roadways. Special mention here to traffic lights: Smaller in size and shape and so many of them! Still green for go and red for stop but just different enough to make me look twice.
- Door locks. Maybe it’s just the doors in the building that we are staying but wow – I have never had such a hard time unlocking or locking a door as I have had here :). To be honest, I still can’t explain how to unlock the door because every time I do it’s just blind luck that whatever I was trying worked. Locking it is simple now though: close door, yank the handle “up” and it locks. Boom, done. easy.
*Honourable mention to bikes which are beyond description here in The Netherlands!
I have loved having the chance to live in a world where things are “different” – mostly because it reminds me that all of these things aren’t actually “different”
They just are to me because of where I’m from and what my “normal” is for all of these experiences. All of my usual things would be just as different to someone from somewhere else experiencing them for the first time.
I realize that a couple of European countries for three weeks is still so “close to home” as far as what I live with normally but it does open the eyes to what else is out there – and stokes the fires for wanting to see more “different”.