While in Lauterbrunnen recently (aka the most beautiful little village in the world – more on that later), Brian and I met some travelers from the U.S. who were on a 3-week tour of Europe. When they learned we were living in Germany, one of them asked me: “Do you miss anything about the U.S.?”
It got me thinking about all of the things I miss (and those I don’t), so I thought I’d write a list.
What I Miss
1. My Friends and Family
Yes, this is a clichéd answer, but it’s 1,000% true. We have Skype and FaceTime, of course, but with the 6-hour difference (and that’s if who I’m talking to is on the East Coast), it can be really tough to find a time that works with everyone. It bums me out sometimes when I want to send someone a message but it’s only 10 a.m. here, so I know I won’t get a response for AT LEAST another 2 hours (and that’s only if they’re early risers). Plus, I have some family members who haven’t joined the Skype or FaceTime masses, so I don’t ever get to talk to them unless we email (cough grandparents cough). I miss you all!
2. Free Bathrooms
I swear I get all giddy when I find a public bathroom I don’t have to pay to use. It may only be 50 cents or 1€, but it starts to add up when you have a bladder as tiny as mine. Brian and I have scoped out all of the free bathrooms in Freiburg, so if you have to pee here, we’ve got you covered. 😉
3. Tap Water in Restaurants
It’s not so much that I miss TAP water, it’s that I miss FREE water. It’s ridiculous that if I want a glass of water with dinner, I have to pay at least a few Euros for a bottle. Some places will tolerate it if I ask for sink water, but others give me a look as if I’d just asked if I could eat dinner naked.
4. Kroger, Publix, Ellwood Thompson’s
These are all big-chain grocery stores (except for ET – that’s an amazing, local store in Richmond that has THE BEST juice bar ever). Here in Germany, we have great markets like Aldi and Edeka (and yes, we have Rewe, which is more like an American grocery store, but it’s ridiculously expensive), but they just don’t meet the same standards as the big three. The food options are very limited here, and they close early. Aldi closes at 8 on weeknights, and Edeka at 9. AND, they’re not open at all on Sundays! This can become very frustrating if we’ve run out of Apfelsaftschorle.
5. Microbrews and Craft Beer
The beer here is delicious, don’t get me wrong. But the problem is that they all start to taste exactly the same. I miss the variety of beer that the U.S. has. I miss Blue Moon, especially. I can’t wait to get my hands on one when I get home!
Gah – I feel all mushy around my midsection because I eat too many Bratwursts, drink too much beer, and don’t do enough pull ups. I miss the motivation and family feeling of my CF gym!
They are just plain bad here. Trying to find a burger that’s worth the price tag (usually upwards of 9-12€) is basically impossible. Every place we’ve been cooks them to the point that they taste like shoe leather. AND the ketchup here is just not on par with Heinz. It’s just not.
8. People Aware of Their Surroundings
It doesn’t seem to matter what time of day it is (or even what day it is), the center of most European cities is just overrun by people. 11 a.m. on a Monday morning? Crowded. 2 p.m. on a Wednesday? Super crowded. Noon on a Saturday? Forgetaboutit. I don’t mind that there are tons of people around because it generally means it’s an exciting area or there’s a super cool festival or something comparable going on. But so few of them tend to realize that they are not the only ones walking around. Maybe it’s because I’m so much shorter than the average European (I know this is not the reason), but I feel like people cut me off while I’m walking, walk in front of me while I’m biking, or just simply bump into me without apologizing all. of. the. time. I just don’t understand it!
What I Don’t Miss
1. Expensive and Non-Existent Public Transportation
Let’s be honest here; nobody is shocked to hear that the U.S. doesn’t have a great public transportation system. Bigger cities tend to have their ducks in a row, but it’s all internal. To get from one big city to another, the only way to get there is to drive or to fly. Here in Europe, hopping on a train makes life so much easier and less stressful (especially for nervous flyers like me). It may not be the cheapest option, but at least there is an alternative option. And the connectivity throughout Europe is outstanding. You really can get anywhere!
2. Driving and Traffic
This goes along with the above, but I really don’t miss driving. Like, at all. I appreciate that with a car, I can go wherever I want, whenever I want, but I have a bike now, and I can essentially get anywhere I want to go in Freiburg with it. Or, I can simply walk there. I know that’s tough to accomplish in the U.S., especially in the bigger cities where biking is unsafe and walking just isn’t practical, but I really love that I can do it here.
3. Being Hyperaware of My Surrounding When I Walk Alone
This is NOT to say I am not always alert when I walk – please, parents, don’t take this to mean that! All I’m saying is that I feel safe 99.9% of the time here, even when I’m walking alone at night. In fact, just recently, we met a friend at 11:15 p.m. at night to pick up something on our way home from Switzerland, and she (yes, she) was running with headphones in. This is so commonplace here!
Freiburg especially is a notoriously safe city, and having lived in places like New Carrollton, Maryland before, I feel much more relaxed here. When I lived in New Carrollton (that’s the end of the orange line for you DC folks who may not know actually where this city is… yes, the end of the orange line where most people don’t go if they don’t have to), I felt like I had to hold my keys in a Wolverine fashion just walking from my car to the house door.
4. Bud Light, Coors Light, Natty Light
Do I really need to explain why?
5. Modern Buildings, Everywhere
Everywhere you go in Freiburg, and especially in Europe, there are beautiful buildings and architectural structures. Whenever you see cobblestone on the floor, you know you’re in the “Old City,” and you’re bound to see a gorgeous cathedral or monument somewhere nearby. I don’t really miss strip malls or concrete jungles. I know it’s unfair to hold the U.S. to the same standards of Europe given that it’s so much younger, but you just don’t get that old, charming feel and “wow” factor when you walk around the metropolitan areas.
Do you live abroad and have a list like this? What do you (not) miss from your home country?
9 thoughts on “Things I Miss (and Don’t) About the U.S.”
…Well, when I was studying abroad, I didn’t really miss that much in the U.S., except a few things: 1) My Mom (and other assorted relatives); sweet Jif peanut butter; and Taco Bell!!…
I miss American style washing machines and dryers!
Ohmygosh YES!!! Mostly the dryer… we have a WM and it’s pretty awesome, but the drying rack = crunchy jeans haha.
Crunchy underwear is my favorite. Or when folding clothes is like folding sheets of cardboard. The washing machines we’ve had have been fine, but the wash cycle is still at least 2 hours long. I miss laundry night, you know, when you get physically start and finish ALL your laundry in a single night.
I moved here (southern Germany) in Sept. 2012, and I can honestly say I don’t miss much. I don’t like tap water anymore, I’ve gotten used to a load of laundry taking 5-ish hours from dirty to dry, and the fact that – as you wrote – I can get to any city or town I want to visit by train or bus overshadows just about any little thing I might miss. My husband and I are flying back later this summer for one week, and honestly, that’s long enough for me. I love being here! I’m already bracing myself for the icy cold of air conditioned houses, buildings, stores, businesses, and cars. It can be 90°F and I still need to bring a sweatshirt if I plan to go anywhere inside.
I enjoy reading such blog posts, though – what other expats miss and don’t miss. I just found your blog today, and I’m looking forward to reading more.
Hi, Beth! I definitely agree that I’ve gotten used to most of the things mentioned, but I think German tap water is somehow better tasting than American tap water, so I wish I could just drink that during dinner. 🙂 I also enjoy seeing these lists, and figuring out where I fall in the spectrum of homesick to hardcore expat. I think I’m still somewhere in the middle, after only about 10 months abroad. I’m sure the longer I stay, the less I’d miss certain things. Where are you living in southern Germany?
We live near Horb am Neckar. Next time I get to Freiburg, I’ll look for your husband’s walking tour! It sounds fabulous, and just my sort of thing.
This is all true when we talk about Germany, when it comes to other European cities, it can be really different! Especially the safe aspect 🙂
I’m also an expat in Germany, coming from Italy, I lived in US long time ago. I hope you don’t mind me commenting, as I’m not American (:
Can I ask you why your decision of coming here? I mean US seems to me great and I wouldn’t image living abroad.
Hi Maria! It’s so true that there are many European cities that are so different from each other, so I think we just got really lucky with Freiburg. 🙂 Where in the U.S. did you live? And where are you now in Germany? You’ve lived in many places – that’s so great! The U.S. is truly amazing, and we do plan to go back. This adventure of ours brought us to Germany because we really loved the country when we did a backpacking tour of Europe in 2009, and we knew one day we wanted to come back and live here for a period of time.