10 first world problems I’ve discovered after spending six weeks in Europe. Are they actually problems, or are we just spoiled?!
The last six weeks have revealed to me lots of new things – new people, new food, new sights, sounds and smells. I’ve experienced things I liked and things I didn’t, things I loved and things I hated, things I would like to bring home with me and things from home I’ve missed. Here’s a list of 10 “first world problems” that are probably better categorized as “inconveniences,” but I’ve recognized more than ever over the last several weeks:
OK, so this isn’t an actual “problem” but a small act of courtesy from people in the U.S. While we try to wait until we find a private space to embrace our significant others, Europeans think differently. There is no hesitating to make out on the metro or kiss on an escalator. Weird? Yes. Uncomfortable? For sure. Could it be worse? Definitely.
2. FAST FOOD
There is no such thing as fast food in Hungary. The fast-paced lifestyles seem to be put on pause as soon as Hungarians step foot inside a restaurant. Normally, I’d be passed on the escalator in the Metro because I wasn’t moving fast enough. But, in a restaurant, time seems to stand still, and then you have to flag your waiter down for the check. Two hours
is considered short for a meal, so don’t make plans for after dinner. Enjoy Cafe Intenzo and Trattoria Mamma – they’re only available for six weeks while Chick-fil-A and Chipotle will be waiting when you get back.
3. FREE BATHROOMS
We’ve all been there … we’re on vacation with our family, walking around a new-to-us city, and all of a sudden, someone says, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” You immediately begin searching for a restaurant or store that has a bathroom open to the public. Eventually you find one, and the problem is solved. It’s not as easy in Europe. Not only do you have to search for a bathroom, but you’ll also find yourself paying 1-2 euros to use it. But maybe, if we had to pay for a trip to the bathroom in the U.S., we’d take better care of the facilities we have … just a thought.
Nope, nothing’s on fire. There’s just a cigarette between the fingers of every other person you pass on the street. It seems smoking has a bigger presence here than it does back home, and there isn’t any public shaming to persuade people to stop. Just imagine this – while you’re enjoying a meal at an outdoor cafe, the couple behind you takes a drag on their cigarette and blows the smoke in your direction. Talk about losing your appetite.
6. BODY ODOR
If there’s anything I WON’T miss from my trip to Europe, it’s smelly people. Maybe we’re just overly concerned about personal hygiene, but I’m also not complaining. The summers here can get pretty warm – upper 80s and into the 90s. Imagine cramming into a tram with 50 other people. Everyone is sweating and just ready to be home for the afternoon. The older gentleman in front of you raises his arm to grab the bar above his head and you get a whiff of something less than desirable … let’s just say deodorant isn’t expensive and is available at a DM store nearest you.
5. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
If there’s anything I miss more everything else, it’s the convenience of having a car sitting in the driveway. What would normally be a 10-minute drive from our apartment to the Parliament building is actually a 25-minute journey consisting of a short walk and two tram rides. Oh, and don’t forget the added time waiting for the tram to arrive. Yes, public transportation allows anyone and everyone to get from place to place, but it definitely requires planning, patience and probably a few more minutes than anticipated.
7. RUDE PEOPLE
Maybe we’re overly sensitive, but I don’t see how hard it is to smile at someone as you pass them on the street. Europeans as a whole don’t seem too concerned about being nice or friendly to others. While I wouldn’t think twice about waving or politely acknowledging an unfamiliar face as I wait for a tram, they aren’t going to go out of their way to reciprocate the simple gesture. The only exception is when there’s a cute pup – every rule is broken, and they seem to forget they’re supposed to be unfriendly.
8. SHOWER CURTAINS/DOORS
This one may be specific to my apartment in Budapest, but I cannot wait to shower withoutgetting water all over the floor. Our bathroom has a sink and a tub but is missing one thing – a shower curtain. Every time I shower, I struggle to wash off all of the soap off while trying not to flood the bathroom. Additionally, the absence of one definitely takes away a little bit of privacy in the bathroom. I guess curtains are simple pleasures, things we never realized we take for granted.
9. FREE WATER
While it may seem like I’m taking advantage of a free drink, I really do prefer to get water when we go out to dinner … and it helps it’s free. In Europe, however, free water is a delicacy. First, it’s necessary to clarify what kind of water you want: still or bubbly. Second, there’s a difference between “tap water” and “still water.” While one is free, the other one comes in a bottle and with a small price tag. Third, there probably won’t be any ice included. Next time I go to Chuy’s for happy hour chips and queso, I will definitely count free water as a blessing.
10. SPEAKING OF CHIPS AND QUESO, I MISS IT.
There’s something about a comfort of home that really is comforting. Chuy’s, Torchy’s and Fuego are home to one of my favorite foods, and one of those three will be my first meal back in the U.S. While I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to try new things like fruit soup and goulash, I am excited to welcome myself back home with salty chips and queso con carne.
OK, I lied – I couldn’t just choose 10, so here’s one more first world problem I felt was important enough to include.
11. CELL SERVICE
I never realized how much I used my phone until service wasn’t available. While in Europe, I was limited to an international plan. I had just enough minutes and texts to get me through the six weeks I’d be abroad, but that means my data allowance would be majorly reduced. While sitting on the tram, walking to class or dropping into a coffee shop, I would normally scroll through Facebook or Instagram to catch up. But, without constant data coverage, that wasn’t possible. I had to wait until I was back in my apartment or able to connect to Wi-Fi before I could watch a Snapchat or see the video someone tagged me in on Facebook. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for sharing our data and not getting mad when I go over our limit.
While it may sound like I’m a little homesick (which is true) or like I’m complaining (which I’m trying not to do), the last six weeks have been irreplaceable. Getting to basically move to another country is a privilege not enough people get to experience, and I consider it a blessing to have been able to be here.
Yes, cigarette smoke and rude people haven’t been the best, but they’re realities of both cultures, and coming to a new county has allowed me to see that more clearly.
My hope is that I will take these 11 “first world problems” and laugh about them – laugh about the fact they are big enough for a story, but also laugh that as much as I complained about them, I survived.