Sometimes living abroad tricks us with a routine that warms us with a familiarity. Step by step, we adjust and adapt to everyday life living in a new world. But just when we think we’re getting comfortable, how quickly we’re reminded we’re American.
Opening your wallet and silencing the clashing coins while the cashier is waiting patiently for you to count out your bill can be an unfamiliar overwhelming sensation that Americans rarely experience when they quickly pass over their credit card. When abroad, you’re frequently traveling to new countries where the currency changes. From Pounds and Sterling, to Euros, to Kroners, to holding onto the American dollar and every other different currency that is so easily confused, it’s almost impossible to keep up. It seems that every time I open my wallet, I have to try to sort through all of the varying change before I can even begin to count. Let’s just say that when it comes to putting down the trusty safety net of a bankcard and going old-fashioned paying with cash, it becomes quite an ordeal.
When life becomes a little too much and you just need to relax by swiping your card, your bank accounts eat up all the charges faster than you can swipe. While these unknown pos fees are only cents each time, your statement is filled with lines upon lines with international pos fees. Yes, it is as excessive as it sounds.
While saving change is found to be a pastime, it is usually discarded as invaluable and wasted weight and people who value their coins are few and far between. Coming to Europe, not only is each paper bill a different size (making it easier to differentiate the value), but coins are valued at a higher cost. The €1 and €2 coins are actually game changers. Buying my €2.30 coffee just feels like pocket change... because it literally is.
…And an inconceivable amount of different accents. While they speak English in Ireland, that’s not to say I don’t overhear varying languages at every street corner. I could not tell you the difference between Gaelic or French or really anything other than English, but I could tell you that you hear it all when you step out of America. Especially when traveling to non-English speaking countries, trying to figure exactly what language people are speaking is next to impossible. Luckily, you can usually find everything to have an English translation.
Okay, maybe it’s just Ireland. One day I go from being drenched during a sun shower to seeing my breath in my ice-cold apartment. The weather patterns have no rhyme or reason and it is just one never-ending storm that will have you freezing when you wake up to sweating at the time you go to bed– there is no consistency.
Having the ability to cheaply travel every weekend is an experience I may never have again. However, instead of spending the weekends driving maybe 10 minutes to a friend’s house to spend the night, weekends usually consist of 3 hours on a bus to the airport, another 2-3 hours in the airport on top of however long your flight is. You become a little too familiar to your home airport and find comfort in sitting back down on the bus back to your temporary home.
In case any of these things have become too familiar and you forget you are definitely a foreigner, any new person you meet will immediately remind you. As soon as you speak. One word. It all comes pouring out, all of the questions– politics, college, your home town, Trump, New York– you name it, they ask it. It’s inescapable.