It’s amazing how different Europeans are from their (North) American counterparts. From culture and history to food, fashion and mannerisms – distinctness is apparent and actually, is one of my favorite things about living abroad. Seeing this diversity first hand is both refreshing and humbling. I’ve learned a lot about myself because of it and it has helped me realize what’s most important in life. Reflecting further, I’ve become conscious of the fact that many Canadians and Americans take too much for granted and tend to lose sight of what is most important to them.
Time moves slowly in Europe. From afternoon siestas to coffee breaks every 15 minutes, time isn’t of the essence. It’s more important to grab a mid-afternoon drink with a friend than to be constantly on the go completing a thousand different tasks at once. Europeans like to sit down and enjoy meals, investing time with each course. Americans grab everything on the go because we can’t spare a moment to sit down and enjoy our food.
As cliché as it sounds, time is money. Why is it that when I have a free moment I subconsciously feel as though I’m not working hard enough? Americans are so used to being busy during the workweek that it can be hard to find time to grab a bite or even take a bathroom break. Every time I return to Europe I’m continually amazed by how many people I see wandering the streets, relaxing at cafes, chatting at coffee bars or reading by the water. Do these people not have jobs? Most do, but Europeans don’t seem to be pre-occupied with the notion that life revolves around money and power. Instead, relationships are of high importance. They’re what matter most and fulfill something money can’t.
Money of course is a necessity in life and changes the way people live their lives. Because I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world and live in different countries, I’ve found it easy to see how much more materialistic Americans are than Europeans. As a whole we seem to feel the need to own the iPhone, carry a Louis Vuitton purse, show off our platinum engagement rings or drive the biggest SUVs. We’re so concerned with what others think of us – that it affects how we present ourselves. Europe is different in that respect. Most cars here are compact and environmentally friendly. Wedding rings are simple gold bands and you seldom see women toting oversized brand name purses. This isn’t to say that Europeans don’t wear brand name clothing or flashy accessories - of course they do, but Americans tend to think too much about what others think of them, rather than being comfortable as themselves.
From fashion to conversation, it’s interesting to see the difference in mannerisms from country to country. Americans tend to sugarcoat criticisms or try to soften blunt remarks. Many don’t speak their mind and make indirect comments. Americans tend to sugarcoat criticisms or try to soften blunt remarks.. Many don’t speak their mind and prefer to make indirect comments. Yet reducing the blow of a comment can lead to confusion and further questions. In my European experiences I’ve found that people are very direct and forward in their comments, to the point of being rude. However, I think a lot of this is due to the language being lost in translation. Example: I was eating lunch at the gym one day and was pretty tired and run down from the previous week. This must have been reflected in my face and/or body language, as the marketing director for CAB walked up to me and asked me what was wrong with my face. Excuse me? At first I thought I must have had a huge zit or food left on my chin. Nope, it was nothing like that. He was just telling me I looked like crap and wasn’t afraid to say so. At first I used to get offended by these very blunt, direct remarks. But as I spend more and more time in Europe, I continue to understand that it’s just the way people communicate over here. They’re going to tell you exactly what’s on their mind whether you like it or not. My skin is tougher now and a comment like “Breanne, you’re playing like s**t, get it together!” doesn’t bother me anymore. It’s definitely an adjustment, but it’s also refreshing in some respect. Bluntness lets you know exactly what the problem is and how to fix it. I thought I was blunt, but I’m a puppy compared to some of the comments made on this side of the Atlantic!
I could continue to write for days about the differences between Americans and Europeans, but I don’t want to bore you. Therefore, I’ll finish with my thoughts on sexuality. Nakedness in Europe is expected. Showing skin is almost a requirement. I’ve never seen so many bare bellies, low cut shirts and excessively tight pants. As someone who is somewhat of a conservative dresser, I get a kick out of shopping for clothes away from home. Finding pants/shorts/dresses long enough are few and far between and some of the shirts are so tiny I might as well walk around public in just a bra. This is not to say I’m a prude, but I think some things are better left to the imagination, rather than being on display for everyone to see. From bikini thongs to old men in speedos – anything goes. It’s quite different than home. I remember after college games we would shower in separate curtained off showered areas. No one was about to let anyone else see their bare butt, whereas here, the locker room is one massive skin show. Everyone is naked. Whether conversing about current events, the weather or what is happening later that night no clothing is necessary. There is no shyness or self-consciousness like in America. It’s normal; it’s comfortable. During my first season I was completely paranoid and nervous to be butt naked with a group of people I barely knew. You’d find me hiding behind my towel or cowering in the corner until everyone else was done. How things have changed! It’s a part of the routine and is something I’ve learned to become comfortable with. Men do it all the time, but American women have this stigma about being judged and are way too self-conscious for their own good. It’s a part of life and is a new experience I’m now embracing.
Basketball Update: This weekend was a free weekend. It was much needed to rest our tired, aching bodies. My achilles feel pretty good, so we’ll see tonight in practice how beneficial these couple of days off were. Our men’s team played Benfica on Sunday and unfortunately didn’t get the result they had hoped for. It was a clash of the league titans as 2nd place CAB faced the league leaders. They played a great first half, down 2 at the break but were unable to keep up the momentum in the second. The gym was packed and the crowd loud and even though we lost, it was a fun atmosphere to be a part of. This weekend we play our last regular season game on the Azores Islands. We face Boa Viagem, a team we lost to earlier in the season. A win is a must, as I’d like to celebrate a victory on my 24th birthday!