I’ve lived in Europe for about eighteen months now, and it never ceases to amaze me. Often I’d just look at Paul, thinking ‘you’re European‘. I stare at old people, perhaps sometimes beyond the politeness limit, wondering about what kinds of stories they could tell.
However, I still don’t feel European. I admire them, but I still feel like a visitor. There’s still some things that I just don’t get about them.
For example, take football. I’m still trying really, really hard to like the world game, but I can’t stop my incessant questioning. Like, what is the point of the Europa League? So, the winner is the best of a bunch of teams that aren’t quite the best? And, why is it that in some countries, you don’t need to be the country’s champion to qualify for the Champions’ League? I JUST DON’T GET IT.
Not into football? Okay, then let’s look at shopping. I thought the Netherlands was one of the world’s most liberal countries, yet shops are closed on Sundays. Even grocery stores. Streets are deserted on Sundays everywhere from Barcelona to Cologne.
In the Netherlands, this is the case every Sunday except for sixteen ‘Shopping Sundays’, which everyone plans to attend weeks in advance. Oh, and my favourite part is that in the large cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht) shopping on Sundays is hunky dory. All good. I JUST DON’T GET IT.
Why is it that toilets in northern Europe have a viewing platform, but those in southern Europe don’t? What really is the point of a bidet when there’s a shower thirty centimetres away? If I run away after using a public toilet, will the coin-collecting lady run after me? And why must I have to pull a string attached to the roof to turn on a bathroom light? I JUST DON’T GET IT.
Why do the Dutch name their main vegetable as their meal, as in ‘I’m having broccoli for dinner.’ What about the sausages on your plate? Why can’t the checkout chick weigh my fruit? Why is the mullet still popular in Germany? And do kids actually still want the wooden toys displayed in shop windows? I JUST DON’T GET IT.
How come the Germans like massive beers and the Dutch like tiny ones, even though they’re next-door neighbours? Why is it OK to show full-frontal nudity on the six o’clock news? What’s the deal with ordering milk in restaurants? And why do the Poms not call themselves European? YOU SEE, I JUST DON’T GET THESE THINGS.
Until I have been enlightened and begin to understand such anomalies, I fear I will never really understand these people.
But hey, I suppose that’s half the fun.