Monday, January 21, 2013

2 years of European livin'

2 years ago this week, I left Canada for the great unknown which is European life.  Looking back, it seems kind of like a lifetime ago.  In 2 years of living on this continent, I've had more adventure than the past 5 years of living in Vancouver.

In 2 years, I've had 2 jobs, lived in 2 countries, had 2 surgeries, kept German lawsuits at bay, made great friends, and have been to some pretty cool places!

I left Vancouver because I wanted a challenge.  I'd been with the same company for 7 years, lived in the same apartment for over 5 years and though I thought for a flash of time that my life was headed toward settling down and having kids, it wasn't.  So, when the golden opportunity presented itself for me to shake my ass on over across the ocean, I jumped at it.

A lot of people thought I was crazy.  Vancouver is constantly voted one of the world's most livable cities and I had a pretty comfortable and flexible job which  awarded me twice yearly business class travel, flexi days and a 38 hour work week.

But an idle mind is a dangerous thing and idle I was.  So I gave up security, a support network, cheap healthcare and an apartment in the center of one of the world's most livable cities for life in a small Bavarian town. 

When small town Bavarian living didn't work out so well, I packed up my things (no I didn't, Romanian movers did, but details...) and moved south of the Alps to Switaly.

European living isn't for the faint of heart.  I used to pride myself on being an open minded and easy going Canadian that was adaptable to most circumstances, and though that's still (mostly) true, it's been put to the test a lot. For the most part, we North Americans think that Europeans are so much more cosmopolitan than us North American hicks, but I've learned that that's not always the case.  You see, Europeans may be a whole lot more liberal when it comes to nudity, but when it comes to multiculturalism, not so much.  No matter how much I look like a local and try to blend in, I'll always be a foreigner.  Auslander, Stranieri, whatever you want to call it! 

Being a foreigner aside, I'll never figure out all the rules.  I really wish when you moved to a new country, there would be someone to welcome you with a handbook of the unspoken rules of your newly adopted country.  Because there's a lot of rules here.  And some of them are just down right weird.  Like in Bavaria, washing your car on Sundays was "verbotten".   Or that J-walking was akin to capital murder.  Or in Switzerland, I get a washing "day".  Designated day, once a week, where I'm "allowed" to do my laundry. 

Sure, there are lots of weird things to put up with, but at the same time, a lot of it is oddly....liberating.   For instance, I don't feel like a leper because I don't own my own postage size condo that I paid 15 years salary for.  Or that I'm not on my way to 2.2 kids and a townhouse in the suburbs.  It IS normal to spend a weekend skiing with friends or enjoying a bottle of wine at the beach with friends (where in Canada, the beach patrol would ticket you)

I've learned in the past 2 years that there is no perfect country or perfect place to live.  I do miss Canadian affordable healthcare, multiculturalism and wilderness.   However, there's a lot about European living that I'm not in a hurry to give up anytime soon.  Something about 5 weeks vacation and the fact that a 3 hour flight can take me to easily 2 dozen countries is pretty sexy.   Even though there seems to be a lot of rules here, things seem to be, well, less regulated.  My favorite bar in the summer is on a floating dock with 2 inch gaps between the slats of wood on the dock.  In North America, that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen and so it wouldn't exist.  Or that in Germany, I can drive 200 km/h on the autobahn.  Or that I can walk thru a village that's over 10 times older than the country I was born in. Or that I can take Lucy on any train, bus and most restaurants.   It could be partially due to the fact I don't fully understand the language or fully know the rules, but I've found great comfort in European life, at least for now!

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