What’s so Great about Europe anyway?

I’ve recently toyed with the idea of moving outside of the USA, and I’ve had brief tastes of what it would be like. I’ve spent a month in China, Singapore, and most recently, Europe. However, one month does not an expat make. In each of those locales, I made it a point to immerse myself as a local, especially in Europe. Staying in Go with Oh apartments and hanging out with locals certainly helped in that regard.

In a couple of weeks I’ll return to Europe, and it got me thinking about some of the things I’ve missed since my return to Texas, the first being the terminology. Sometimes I forget that the United States did not invent English that, in fact, it was England who gave us the language. Despite that arrogant statement, some terminology from British English has actually stuck with me.

CuppaCredit

I will no longer go on vacation. Instead, I will forever be on holiday. Standing in line is a thing of the past as well. From now on it is referred to as queuing. My food is now for take away and not to go. I no longer look for an inexpensive car rental, but rather cheap car hire. I don’t like something, now I fancy it. I am also working on the transition from parking lot to car park. I think car park seems like it would be a more pleasant place for my car to reside. And let’s face it, the happier my car is, the less likely I am to have trouble with it. As much as I like British English, you’ll never catch me referring to my trunk as a boot. That’s just weird for this Texan. Boots belong on your feet.

Along with my custom-made marionette from Prague, Louis Vuitton from Paris, and the new vocabulary words I brought home, I wish that I could take with me the ease of getting around. Europe is filled with great walking cities, something that is rare in the land of bigger is better. One doesn’t really walk places in Texas, which probably adds to our high obesity rate. If we want to go somewhere in Texas then it’s in our own cars.

Umbria Italy

Then there’s the subway and trains in Europe. They must have the best system in the world, even with the pushy gypsies that want to “help” with your luggage. I love riding a train; I do some of my best thinking on a train. I also adore driving, but quite frankly, sometimes I get tired of it. How nice would it be to have taxis readily available? I certainly miss the ease of stepping outside of my door and hailing a cab.

I think being in a new places with different cultures forces us to pay attention to our surroundings. Really, what’s the use in traveling if only to stay in one’s comfort zone? I think we become desensitized with our normal surroundings and thus take so many things for granted.

I’m reminded of this every time I visit the Galleria in Houston. Thousands of people walk around with their mouths agape, neck craned, and eyes wide. Meanwhile, I’m frustrated because I can’t get to J. Crew fast enough. I imagine that is how I look to the locals in Europe, but I find newness around every corner. Something as simple as a visit to a market is a glimpse into the local culture. That is a very important part of travel for me.

Piazza del Republica

I was again reminded of this when a European friend came to visit me in Houston and we took a road trip to New Orleans over Christmas. Her eyes were opened to a world of things she’d never encountered, stuff that is simply old hat to me. In fact, I made of list of everything new she tried and/or noticed. From breakfast kolaches to boudin to chicken fried steak to mint juleps to crawfish to giant bottles of ketchup, she reminded me that Europe doesn’t have the monopoly on totally awesome things.

Piazza del Republica

I’ve said it before, but I need to become a tourist in my own city; it’s the fourth largest in the nation, for crying out loud. As great as Europe and Asia and South America or wherever may be, there are still countless things that I have not experienced in my neck-of-the-woods just because they might not be deemed “exotic” or “exciting” enough. I can’t always be somewhere else, so I should take advantage of what’s right in front of me.

In reference to living in the now, Jerry Spinelli wrote, “You’re cheating yourself out of today. Today is calling to you, trying to get your attention, but you’re stuck on tomorrow, and today trickles away like water down a drain. You wake up the next morning and that today you wasted is gone forever. It’s now yesterday. Some of those moments may have had wonderful things in store for you, but now you’ll never know.”

There could be the things that I love about Europe in my own backyard. Maybe there are markets where I can find fabulous treasures. Perhaps I can learn to navigate the Light Rail in Houston. Certainly I can take advantage of the countless multicultural experiences that the city offers. Although, I’ll have to drive there, find a car park, and stand in a queue.

Hey, when in Rome,er, I mean, Houston.

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36 Comments
  • Yishyeeene
    February 22, 2013

    Welcome to Europe Leah! I wanted to say.. I love your blog header.. made me laugh.. it’s well funny! 😉

    xx

    • Leah Walker
      February 24, 2013

      Haha…Thank you! I’m glad it made you laugh. It’s supposed to be fun.

  • Anita Mac
    February 22, 2013

    As a Canadian who lived in Australia for nearly a decade and then came back to Canada, I am confused…isn’t queuing the natural way to talk about lines? and I usually hire a car on vacation…maybe that is why people look at me funny! Glad to hear you embracing the lingo…should I find myself in your neck of the Texan woods, I would love to go for a cuppa!

    Seriously though, have a great time on your upcoming European trip. I am excited to hear more about it in light of your life changes! Meanwhile…I am considering a NOLA getaway…may be checking in with you for your tips!

    Happy travels.

    • Leah Walker
      February 24, 2013

      Thank you, Anita. Let me just say, if you’re ever in Texas i’m gonna teach you some Texan terms. They will seep into your lingo like red wine on a white dress. You’ll never be rid of it. 😉

  • lola dimarco
    February 23, 2013

    it’s NO SECRET i’d trade my American ways for Europe. i’m in love with the good & the bad at the moment.

    • Craig Zabransky
      February 23, 2013

      Lola, just not England, ok… please. Stay Continental, Craig

      • Leah Walker
        February 24, 2013

        Come now, EasyJet goes both ways.

    • Leah Walker
      February 24, 2013

      Yet another reason why we’re such great friends. Let me know if you pack up and move. I’m coming with!

  • Craig Zabransky
    February 23, 2013

    Leah, I couldn’t agree more with Trains… one of the true joys of NYC is not owning a car, it really makes you part of the local culture because of all the interactions you have on the bus, subway, train, walking, etc… I tend to think those are so much of the joys of Europe too… I just wish NYC (or the States) had more squares and plazas…

    stay adventurous, Craig

    • lola
      February 24, 2013

      ugh. you are so on the money, Stay Adventurous. you’ll be happy to know, if the day comes to trade in my US residence for a European one, it would most definitely be on the continent 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      February 24, 2013

      Great point about the squares and plazas. You get plenty of town squares in small towns, especially in the South. It’s the cornerstone of the community.

  • @mrsoaroundworld
    February 24, 2013

    I love going to the USA and finding that people don’t have a clue what I am saying – so they I change the accent a little bit. So I can get “wader”.
    Travelling opens our minds so so so much – and I love seeing new things, or after repeat visits, make some local things part of my life. I did make you laugh in NOLA – everything was “bloody enormous”!

    • Leah Walker
      February 24, 2013

      Just thinking about the look on your face, especially walking down Bourbon Street at 5:00 pm still makes me laugh. I loved seeing Texas and Louisiana through your eyes.

  • Erik
    February 24, 2013

    I’m getting ready to head back to Europe for the first time in almost 10 years in April. I’m excited to see how my memories will mesh with my impressions this time.

    I lived in Houston for 2 years back in the mid-90s, and never quite took advantage of the sightseeing possibilities there (to be fair, as a cold-blooded Northerner, I was sequestered in A/C for much of the year… )

    • Leah Walker
      February 24, 2013

      Ohhh…Europe, Erik, that’s so exciting. Where are you headed? And yes, I know what you mean about the A/C. Summer in Houston is the tale of two temperatures. Bleh…

  • Fiona
    February 25, 2013

    Love this post – have never given much thought to how cute some phrases in UK English sound e.g. car park v parking lot , funny actually! 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      February 26, 2013

      It’s funny that we speak the same language but call so many things by different names. Don’t get me started on the slang and figures of speech.

  • D.J. - The World of Deej
    February 25, 2013

    Cool post Leah…I constantly struggle with the “Grass is Greener” effect, living in a small town with seemingly nothing to offer. At the start of the New Year though I made a resolution to try something new every single day. I haven’t exactly kept up with it as diligently as I’d have liked, but I’ve made a conscious effort to see or do things that I’ve always said “you know, I should go there sometime.” Unfortunately, living abroad isn’t exactly in my card, but it is nice to be a tourist at home:)

    • Leah Walker
      February 26, 2013

      That’s a great resolution, Deej, and much more fun to keep than exercising or something silly like that. 😉

  • Britany (@britseeingstars)
    February 25, 2013

    I’ve actually picked up holiday from being around backpackers in South America because I think EVERYONE who speaks English (other than Americans) calls its a holiday rather than vacation. Going on holiday sounds way more fun. 🙂

    • Leah Walker
      February 26, 2013

      I think it’s that Commonwealth thing that unites the language in such a way.

  • Kieu ~ GQ trippin
    February 26, 2013

    What Lauren said.. 🙂 And, I”ve grown to love “queueing’..

    • Leah Walker
      February 26, 2013

      That one has been the hardest for me to adjust to. I always think of a pool cue.

  • Tawny of Captain and Clark
    February 26, 2013

    Great minds! We just did a little American English- British English translation on our latest post as well. I fancy a good queu as well 😉

    • Leah Walker
      February 26, 2013

      Oh! I’m going to have to check that out. Is there video? Tell me there’s video!

  • Love it! I think this is going to be my go to read whenever I have that terrific/terrible urge to hit the road but only have time to stay local! I’m sharing this, too!

    • Leah Walker
      February 26, 2013

      Thank you so much for sharing. We are lucky to live in Texas and have such great things at our fingertips. Let’s take advantage and spread the word about the greatness of the Lone Star state.

  • the lazy travelers
    February 26, 2013

    as one former expat living in ireland and one future expat headed to france, we could not agree more.

    • Leah Walker
      February 26, 2013

      Don’t come back to the states with a fake French accent. I’m not sure if I could take it.

  • Traveling Ted
    February 26, 2013

    Traveling is a mindset not an activity. I enjoy my weekend trips to Wisconsin as much as I do being in a jungle in Guyana. Good for you to focus on your hometown. I have never been to Houston, but I am sure there are some cool things to do.

  • Pola (Jetting Around)
    February 28, 2013

    Leah, I dare you to speak with posh British accent next time i see you!! For realz. 😉

    • Leah Walker
      March 5, 2013

      Haha…no…I can’t even attempt that. I’m terrible at all accents except one: Texan.

  • Loz in Transit
    March 7, 2013

    I definitely think ‘Novelty’ is one the keys to happiness. I had a Brazilian friend tell me that “When you travel you see the world through the eyes of a child”. I added that it was the reason why we enjoy the company of travelers and kids, we can see the world through them again. We love dangling keys in front of kids cuz its an easy laugh. As you mentioned with @mrsoaroundworld, outsiders would be mesmerised by what we see as “old hat” at home.

    That said, as aware as I am of this its still a struggle. Just human nature really. I think the other aspect of enjoying “common” things in faraway lands is just that feeling of Adventure. You need to find that also. The feeling of a long journey or a short stay is unfortunately a crucial ingredient.

    • Leah Walker
      March 8, 2013

      You hit the nail on the head. I really do like showing people my home. It makes me appreciate where I live and what I’ve started taking for granted. Welcoming a guest to your hometown is the next best thing to actually traveling.

  • Keryn @ walking on travels
    December 28, 2013

    I’d move to Europe in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose. However, like you, I need to remember what is in my own backyard, although in a broader sense. As much as we have traveled internationally, we have done very little domestic explorations. If you thought Mrs. O was funny in Houston you should have seen me in Fort Worth, my first trip to Texas. I mean seriously, cows (I mean steer) are everywhere! My Texas friend kept laughing because I just had to sit on a steer in the stockyards. Even in our own country there are things that are “foreign” to us. Course you won’t see me skipping my trips abroad anytime soon, but there is still room in our year to head to a few new states for sure!

    • Leah Walker
      January 17, 2014

      I love your Ft. Worth story! I probably looked like that with the monkeys in Malaysia. Couldn’t help myself though.

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