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Study Abroad Tips: Navigating the Differences Between the United States and Europe

History is always present in the architecture in European cities – Photo by Caroline Longoria

On my flight to Amsterdam last week, I tried to dream up how different Europe would be from the United States. I was surprised to find its VERY different. From the landscape, the houses, the people, the mannerisms, even the way they travel, the differences are everywhere. When my advisors said “watch out for culture shock,” I never have anticipated that I would be that one student who is shocked wherever she goes. Some differences in culture:

  1. There is no Air Conditioning in Europe, maybe you’ll find a hotel or hostel with it, but there is none in academic buildings and none in my room.

This is already different from the States, wherever you go there is always some sort of air, or a way to get the “stuffy” out. If a room were too hot, immediately you would hear complaining about the heat and how it’s hard to concentrate. Nobody seems to mind here, it’s the usual life.

  1. There is a language barrier, but not as big as you’d think! Everyone in the Netherlands speaks English! (Praise) Even when we were in Barcelona this past weekend many could understand us and almost everything was translated.

My mom had told me before I came, “You know Caroline, in the Netherlands the people have their children watch American TV, just so they can learn English and understand it as well as we speak it.” I wasn’t sure if she was right or not, but the Dutch sure do know their English.

  1. When walking to class, or to the City Center in Maastricht, nobody is walking while looking at their phones. Everyone is very in the moment, spending time with friends at a table for hours without being connected to social media.

While sitting in a coffee shop right now, everyone is talking and making conversation. There are a couple of computers on but the shop is filled with chatter and laughter.

  1. Europeans are in no rush. Everything they do is very calm and collected. While everything in the U.S. is “go, go, go,” everything in Europe is “enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.”

In the States, I put my head down and just walk as fast as I can to my next destination. In Europe, wherever you are, people are constantly enjoying the sights as well as taking one step at a time.

  1. Don’t be fooled if a dress is €15. This might seem cheap to us Americans, but that translates to about 18-20 US dollars.

Currency is a strange thing, in Prague they use Crowns, in the U.K. they use Pounds, and in Europe they use Euros. All currency is different and has a different exchange rate to U.S. Dollars.

Despite these differences in culture, I love the simplicity. This is the major difference in my experience. In the U.S., it’s easy to get caught up in what the next style is, or when your next assignment is due. However, here you really can take time to “stop and smell the roses.”

No matter what, however, I can honestly say that the time I have spent in Maastricht, has challenged me in all sorts of ways.

 


About Caroline Longoria

Hello! My name is Caroline Longoria, I’m from Lake Forest, IL, just outside of Chicago! I am majoring in Speech Pathology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas! This summer I will be embarking on the greatest trip of my life! I’m so excited to be able to share my experiences and adventures I learn along the way! 

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