So I have very recently come back from a 7-month sojourn in Europe, namely Maastricht and Paris (as documented in my travel blog). And after spending a fairly long time in two cities of drastically varying sized but equally cramped and short housing units, it was obviously a bit vertigo-inducing to arrive back in (relatively) spacious Vancouver. Here are the major things that have been difficult for me to adjust to in the past month:
1. Hello/How are you?/Thank you/Have a nice day.
Is this self-explanatory? Dutch “customer service” does not exist. Not that the employees are rude. They just let you do your own thing. And likewise, when running into an acquaintance on the street, starting with some bullshit line like “How are you?” was greeted with a concerned look, not to mention it just felt wrong.
Luckily, I managed to adjust just in time. I walked into my bank for my first customer service interaction – in Tsawwassen, no less – and the lady behind the desk and I stared at each other for a good 15-20 seconds after she said “Hello” before I realized that I was supposed to ask “How are you?”. Bullet dodged. I’ve remembered since then. But it’s hard.
I really hate buses. Give me a functional metro system, or a bike, or nothing at all (i.e. my car). Because buses are awful. Why are they so awful?
In Maastricht, where I attended university, the uni buildings are scattered all over the city, so instead of having to trek out to the westernmost point of the city (on a bus) from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., you could go home between classes. Actually, you usually had one (max 2) classes a day so you could just… go home and sleep. Within 10-15 minutes. Sigh.
And in Paris, well… you can’t compare the Sorbonne to UBC. Sorry, you just can’t. The end.
4.Nothing has changed
I mentioned this to a friend of mine who is also about to return from her study abroad trip. It feels like nothing happened while we were gone. I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly, but the readjustment was not actually as difficult as I had anticipated because everything stayed surprisingly… the same.
The only difference is I now call up my friends who were also in Europe for the past 8 months and invite them to whine about how much we miss it together, instead of calling up Vancouver friends and inviting them to whine about the weather. All in good time, I suppose.