In Essays

How I View Europe As An American After Six Years

Ah, Europe… A continent of rich cultures connected by train, full of people with honest-to-God vacation days they can use to enjoy it all.

At least, that’s what I thought when I moved here from the United States over six years ago.

So is any of that true or was I just hallucinating from a massive dose of “the grass is greener” complex?

Inspired by a video from Eva Zu Beck on how she sees the US as a European after six months in the country, I thought I could share how I see Europe as an American after six years of living in Germany.

Why I wanted to move to Europe

Let’s start with why I wanted to move to Europe, which gets to what I expected. I wanted to move to Europe because I simply thought I’d enjoy living there more than in the US.  Mainly, I thought there would be trains and I’m not a fan of American car culture. I wanted to live someplace where it wasn’t weird not only to not own a car but to simply not want one.

And yeah, I know I’m in some ways describing New York City. But are you going to pay my rent? Besides, New York wouldn’t be able to offer me my second expectation of Europe––better vacation, or as they call it here, holiday. “Oh, I’m going on holiday.” “Sorry, can’t take that meeting. I’ll be on holiday.” 

Though technically I guess it’s “im Urlaub” here, but you get the idea.

So that’s the gist of what I expected of living in Europe, the ability to walk places, take trains, and enjoy more vacations.

And so we’ve reached the moment of truth… Has reality met my expectations?

Life in Europe

Well… Yeah. In fact, it’s actually been better than I expected. And that’s because of something I didn’t necessarily think about before moving here.

In general, I’m less stressed living here. For example, workers’ rights are stronger, so I can’t just be fired on a whim. And if I do lose my job, I can collect unemployment. 

Of course, we have unemployment in the US. But there’s this aura of shame attached to losing your job and collecting unemployment.

But here, they’ll tell you that it’s your money you deposited into the system and you’re simply taking your money out. No big deal.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Although I don’t necessarily understand the intricacies of the healthcare system, I’m generally not worried about getting sick. 

Overall, I’m much more confident here. I can walk around, knowing that the laws generally favor pedestrians and that penalties against reckless drivers are stronger here. I can stick up for myself and not worry that someone might be packing a gun.

But is life easy in Europe?

None of this is to say that life is easy in Europe. And it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway because this is the internet where nobody gets the benefit of the doubt) that I’m speaking exclusively to my own experience flavored by some anecdotes from my fellow Americans who also live in Europe.

And for me, life is eas-ier than it was in the US. 

Oh, and the extra vacation thing is definitely true. Honestly, two weeks a year is inhumane. Who can go back to that? It’s like tasting sushi in Tokyo and then going back to the stuff wrapped in plastic at a convenience store. No, thank you.

Have your thoughts on living in the US or Europe as a foreigner changed? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Now I have plenty of other thoughts on what I love about living in Europe. And maybe I’ll get to those in another video. In the meantime, go check out why Germany is the best place to move to in Europe.

The answer may surprise you!

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