I must admit, when I found out I was going to London and Paris I was not too worried about the differences in culture and society, and I probably should have looked into a bit before leaving. I believed that my vast knowledge of history on the areas and my one semester of French for Reading would suffice, but perchance I should have looked into the modern practices just a tad more.
The first that I noticed was that we walked or subwayed EVERYWHERE. Prior to this trip, I had visited New York City once and got a feel for the while I was there, but that was only for three days in 2013. I consider myself a fairly fit person: I practice numerous styles of yoga, I do cardio, and even kickboxing. My legs were NOT prepared for the amount of walking that we did in these cities. With that being said though, I got to indulge in some of the best food ever because I was not worried about how many calories I was consuming. I knew I was just going to walk off whatever I ate anyways.
Another difference: hotels in Europe are much more about being a place to sleep and put clothes and that is it. Because myself and my roommates were the one group of three, we lucked out and got a room with a big enough bathroom to have a tub in it- I heard from others that there bathrooms were smaller than closets. This experience makes me ponder about our own indulgence. Hotels really are just a place to sleep and re-coop- do we need large, luxury suites to do that here in America?
Another cultural thing I encountered was the lack of service and urgency when going out to eat. Servers in the restaurants are not tipped well or at all, their salary comes from the restaurant, not me. Prior to this trip, after spent 5 years as a server and bartender, I was all about abolishing the tipping system. Not anymore. I realize that the customer’s tip is what makes the service we receive in America so expedited. Eating out in London and Paris was a multi-hour event, and while most nights it was great to relish in the food, drinks, atmosphere; one night my cohorts and I were almost late to an event because the waiter took over 30 minutes to bring us our check and had to be asked three times.
This last one is a bit, odd, but bear with me. So in Paris, there are very few public bathrooms. In America, we are spoiled. Most of the time we can just walk into a store or restaurant and expect there to be a bathroom. In Paris, most stores do not have bathrooms. I actually had to find one of the few “public” toilets that exists and had to pay 2 euros just to use it.
I say all of this not with a “negative” tone, but in more of a surprise tone. I was amazed that visiting countries that I believed to be so similar to ours to have such small differences make an impact. I will definitely think more about these experiences as I go places and out to dinner in America.
While I still stand beside the number of free public restrooms here in America, are there more places that I can utilize public transportation and walking too? Can I be more mindful about enjoying meals out?