Written By Madison Krigbaum / Originally posted on Brokewildandtraveling.com
Being back in the midwest and neck-deep in 18 credits, it’s easy to remember all the wonderful things I miss about my semester in Europe. There are many wonderful parts of living in the United States, don’t get me wrong. The two that I missed the most had to be supermarkets and leggings-as-pants (and oh my God did I miss my dryer). However, in these categories, Europe definitely takes the cake.
Take note of the top eight perks you should definitely take advantage of in Europe before heading back to the land of stars and stripes!
1. The Drinking Culture (and Age)
It’s no secret that my friends and I took full advantage of the lowered drinking age in Europe. Even without the added excitement of newly legal drinking, the drinking culture in Europhttp://bit.ly/2XjYN8Fe is completely different than the United States. In general, it is looked upon more as an experience that is stretched out and enjoyed, compared to how it is sometimes usually done in the states.
First of all, American nightclubs are no match for European nightclubs. Not even close. We did a pub crawl in almost every city we visited and, even after spending a summer in New York City, I’ve never seen anything like that in the U.S. These nightclubs were enormous, had incredible DJ’s, often strobe lights and were always packed to the ceiling with dancing college kids. One of the biggest differences was the way people dressed. In the U.S., it’s very common to go to the bars, or even the clubs, dressed very casually. In European clubs, everyone was always dressed impeccably, and if you weren’t, you might not get in.
Secondly, let’s be honest, open-container laws are awesome. Funny enough, it was very uncommon to see locals drinking on the streets (and in a few countries it is illegal). Out of the places, we visited it seemed to be most popular in Berlin. Our pub crawl tour guide actually told us that, in Berlin, it is considered rude to throw away your beer bottles in public trash cans. Instead, you’re supposed to set them down directly on the street for people to collect and exchange for money. In Paris, we observed locals and tourists alike sipping champagne underneath the Eiffel Tower.
2. Minimal tipping at restaurants
There’s nothing a broke, hungry girl can appreciate more than not having to add an additional 20% onto your already hella-expensive dinner bill. European servers don’t depend almost entirely on tips like American servers do. Although it’s still appreciated to leave a gratuity, a much smaller percentage is completely acceptable.
3. Cheap Travel Within Europe
Cheap flights and transportation are definitely up there on the list of things I miss most! It’s so much easier to travel from country-to-country in Europe than it is to travel between states in the U.S. Ryanair and Vueling had the cheapest fares and ended up being our go-to airlines, but even the fancier airlines, like Alitalia, sold much more affordable flights than the airlines in the U.S.
We also booked a lot of our transportation and travel through Bus2alps. They let us know of flight alerts and then had guides and detailed itineraries for us once we are in our destinations. It was really easy and affordable. Don’t like flying? They also take buses to a majority of their destinations, so no worries.
Don’t even get me started on European food. I’m still daydreaming about the meals I ate months ago. While at a wine tasting in Tuscany, we were served delicious pecorino cheese drizzled with fresh honey, and my taste buds still can’t get over it. Europeans definitely know their cheese and I definitely ate my fill of it.
BThere was nothing better than walking past a restaurant in Paris or Rome and getting hit in the face by the smell of freshly baked bread.
I would specifically take one route to school every day just so I could walk past this restaurant whose bread smelled like Heaven opened a sandwich shop.
5. The Museums
I promise I did more in Europe than just drink all the time. While I was abroad, I visited some of the world’s most famous museums. We have some very cool museums back in the States as well, but they’re just not quite on the same level.
My favorites included the Vatican Museums in Vatican City, the Louvre in Paris, Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, the Holocaust Museum in Berlin and the Gucci Museum in Florence.
6. Hostel Culture
Some of my favorite nights in Europe were spent in hostels. They’re the best way to meet fellow travelers and usually cost very little! At first, I was a little freaked out at the idea of staying in a dorm-style room with strangers. But after staying in at least ten different hostels abroad, I became very comfortable with it. Europe has much more of a hostel culture than the U.S. does (I doubt I would ever stay in a hostel in the States), so definitely take advantage of the cheap and fun lodging while you can!
A few tips for hostel living: make sure to bring your own padlock and your own towel if you can. Most hostels come with some sort of locker system, but most don’t come with the locks. Although most of the people staying with you are harmless travelers, you can never be too safe so make sure to lock up your passport, electronics, cash, and any other valuables! Additionally, I purchased a microfiber towel before I left for Europe and took it on every trip I went on. Hostels will usually charge a fee for towels because most travelers can’t fit them in their luggage. The microfiber towels take up barely any space in your suitcase and spare you the towel fees.
Wherever Europeans go, they go in style. Especially living in Italy, everyone was always beautifully dressed from head-to-toe. Although I did sometimes miss being able to casually throw on my lulus before going to class, overall I really enjoyed the care Europeans put into their appearances. It was fun to keep up with the Italian trends and I ended up buying some staples in Rome to wear back in the States!
8. Public Transportation
When I arrived in Rome, I had absolutely no experience using public transportation. Besides buses, we don’t have much of it in Madison, WI, and most of my life I’ve had a car to get me from place-to-place. Traveling through Europe forced me to get good at it, and fast. At the beginning, I couldn’t figure out how to get on a bus to the Colosseum (a 20 minute walk from my apartment). But by the end I could navigate my way through Rome with my eyes closed.
In addition to being easy and useful, public transportation in Europe is very affordable. A month pass for full use of buses, trams and metro in Rome will only cost you €35, something I thought was expensive until I moved to New York and the same pass was $121.
Make sure to take full advantage of these nine European perks before returning to the U.S. of A! I know I did, and I had the trip of a lifetime.