How different is Living in the USA Compared to Living in Europe?

Good question! πŸ™‚

First of all imagining what its like overseas is quite hard for most Americans. There is very little exposure to this on our television networks unless you watch the National Geography Channel or go to the movies to see international flicks. It can be mysterious unless you know where you would like to visit and you have research it in the library or the internet. However, I think that isn’t enough!

All countries outside of North America think they know us inside-out because of Television. That media gives them more exposure than we have of most of them. When I first became introduced to life outside of the USA was as a senior in high school. Luckily, I visited a country where I had studied through language classes. If I didn’t it would be a BIG shocker. I found out France was hardly what I imagined. Through basketball I saw the other side of French people and culture. But a few years later when I played on an all-star summer team in the Big East we went to Austria, Czech Republic. I had NO clue what those places looked like or the people that lived there.

So I will try to give you the best advice of what to expect when you visit a country overseas if you haven’t had a lot of exposure to them.

1. Everyone is different

In life, everybody is different and that is the best part of it and uniqueness makes us special. Never forget that. People are shaped by their culture and their actions are demonstrations of it. Just like a dog. I hate to compare a dog but all dog breeds have a different character/personality or demeanor about themselves that is mostly shaped by their roots. For example, you have the pit bull that is furious at nature and then compare that to a Irish Setter who is pretty laid back for the most part. Well whatever type of training that you do both dogs will still have deep inside and won’t go away. That’s how they are made and its how we are made.

Basically try to remember that when you meet everyone. Through my experience from all of the countries I have been to, here is my summary about them. These are not bad, however, it is what I feel make them. These are in order of my first visits to now.

1. France – Friendly, Strangers (Rude), Very Stylish
2. Great Britain – Happy, Great Humor, Very Neat
3. Austria – Not Enough Time but a one word summary >> Culture
4. Slovaka – Not much memory
5. Czech Republic – Exciting, Fun,
6. Finland – Intelligent, Shy, Honest >> (Thirsty :))
7. Sweden – Bilingual, Friendly, Invisionary
8. Spain – Very Outgoing & Happy, Beautiful, Stubborn
9. Greece – Very Friendly, SUPER Beautiful, FUN, Happy

Here is one picture of a gym in Finland

2. Forget Your living environment for a minute

I’ve to have an open mind if you want to relate to people worldwide. Being an American I realized a lot the first time that I went to France and stayed in a 4-Star Hotel and the room was the size of two walk-in closets. There was no AC and the beds were actually smaller than a twin size bed. If you can imagine that. I can admit because of playing AAU basketball we stayed in many motels and hotels which were a lot bigger than that.

Adjusting to overseas living standards could be hard for most Americans who are use to everything being BIG. Most Europeans make jokes that “EVERYTHING IS BIG IN AMERICA”. I almost wish I could defend myself but its true. The cars in France during my first trip looked like hot rod toy cars my brother had at the time πŸ™‚ I’m not making fun but it is a fact. I could give endless examples. Now playing on a team that provides housing which most should in your particular contract when you sign.

Depending on your contract you might have an apartment alone or shared. If you have a shared apartment your apartment will be fully furnished and most beds are at LEAST full size/queen as a minimum. In Europe, you will see most people living in an apartment as opposed to the USA where there are more people with a home in none metro areas. I personally had no problems with any of my living arrangements other than heat as I got a little cold in Spain at one time.

However that is very small potatoes if you think about it. Through my experience from all of countries I have been to, here is my summary about them. The factors here are weather, home life, city life.

1. France – Moderate Temperature, Decent Nature
2. Great Britain – Moderate Temperatures & Wet, Clean,
3. Austria – Not Enough Time but a one word summary >> Small,
4. Slovakia – Poor, Dirty, Sad (at that time 1997)
5. Czech Republic – Great Architecture
6. Finland – Mostly Cold, Beautiful Nature, Quiet
7. Sweden – Cold, Beautiful Nature, Mostly Quiet
8. Spain – Warm Climate, Many Mountain’s, LOVELY
9. Greece – Very Warm Climate, Green, Historic


3. Not all things are created EQUAL

Yes, it is true and probably better that way in the long run! When you go overseas you will see some dramatic prices if you try to compare it to the USA. Dramatic, meaning HIGHER. But let me set the picture before you are afraid. πŸ™‚

First, all countries have a particular currency and it sets them apart depending on their economy and other factors. YOU have to remember that.

Second, most countries import A LOT of products that are manufactured in the USA or Asia and those products are taxed and in the end makes the value higher.

Third, hmm I can’t think of any right now πŸ™‚ But there should be a third right? Might want to check back later. America is so big and we have access to things because its in our home so everything is cheaper than you would see it in Europe.

Well, once again from my first trip to France I already knew that the Franc was expensive. I was so young that I didn’t pay attention but I remember it wasn’t that cheap. Now that most countries in Europe have adopted the Euro it can easily compared to the dollar, although the dollar is extremely weak and has been for the last 2 years unfortunately. So when you visit any country just try to think of yourself shopping at a hotel mall πŸ™‚ Those are the prices you should expect. Buying food in some countries you might be paying $6 for a Value Meal at McDonalds (Mickey D’s).

I’m just warning you so that you won’t be shocked. Through my experience from all of the countries I have been to, here is my summary about them.

1. France – Food Great But Expensive, Clothes Expensive
2. Great Britain – Moderate Food Prices, Clothes Moderately Priced
3. Austria – Not much memory
4. Slovaka – Not much memory
5. Czech Republic – Not much memory
6. Finland – Food Expensive, Clothes Expensive
7. Sweden – Food Moderate, Expensive Clothes
8. Spain – Cheap Food, Moderate Price Clothes
9. Greece – Reasonable Priced Food, NO Time to Shop For Clothes πŸ™


4. Its Time To Chow Down

Well, I love food. I can pretty much eat anything from anywhere. This section could be boring because I cannot say I have a complaint about food overseas. If you like all food you won’t have a problem adjusting overseas. However, shopping for food could be an ISSUE. Lets face it, you won’t be going to Safeway, Peapod or Walmart to go shopping for groceries, so remember that. You will be lucky if you see your favorite cereal like Honeycombs or whatever. All countries make their own goods so they won’t have to pay to import them which is very understandable. My first year in Finland I bought my favorite candies πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ and mac&cheese and other things that my agent suggested. I was lucky because my agent played there previously and had an idea of some things I might miss not being that grocery store.

Pack your goodies but not too much because someone can always send things you might want. Searching for things and testing could be hard at first but you will get use to it. I did and its kinda fun and frustrating at the same time.

Through my experience food hasn’t been an issue and probably never will be anymore. Just keep in mind the prices are not the same as in the USA. But here is my summary of my taste buds in those countries and my favorite dish :).

Through my experience food hasn’t been an issue and probably never will be anymore. Just keep in mind the prices are not the same as in the USA. But here is my summary of my taste buds in those countries and my favorite dish

1. France – Delicate Well Cooked Food – Extremely Authentic
2. Great Britain – Love Fish & Chips
3. Austria – Not much memory
4. Slovakia – Not much memory
5. Czech Republic – Not much memory
6. Finland – Best Salmon & Fish – Cooked Thousands of Ways My Favorite Fish
7. Sweden – Typical taste of Scandinavian Foods
8. Spain – Probably My Favorite Country to EAT (From Wine to Olives) – EVERYTHING
9. Greece – Best Kabob, All Wines Are Great


5. The Days Go By – Day and Night Life Explained

Probably the biggest concern and question for most folk. What to Do and Where to Go? I would answer its all up to YOU. I am personally not an extra outgoing person but if I am bored I will definitely do something about it. Maybe it’s my restless personality and some could complain :). But you can do most of the same things that you do in the USA that you do in America. Just on a much smaller scale. Remember, the states is a BIG COUNTRY. My suggestion for someone with an open mind is to suck in as much culture as you can. Life definitely can take you to places you never imagined you would ever live or go.

That being said, depending on what city you live in and visit, there will always be places to shop, movie theaters, movie rental stores, museums, libraries and nightclubs/bars. It is what you do with the things that surround you. Also the people that you interact with inside a basketball team and outside of the team.

I remember the Big East Summer Trip when we went to Europe and went out to experience the Czech Republic nightlife. It was great and my first real taste of European nightlife as a young adult without supervisors as in high school. The people were very fun and a lot more open minded than most American bars and clubs. I think that is a plus in Europe. You can really be you and have fun in most bars without a lot of reaction. Whatever that may be.

It is not all about the nightlife either. During the day is the key point where you might have the most free time. When I first went to play overseas my most favorite European housemate & I wanted to learn and get around by learning the language. We started by trying to learn a word a day. It died off but we tried to learn as much as possible and went to the library often to send emails or read books in English. Most libraries in Europe always has a small section that are in English. You will be grateful to see it too πŸ™‚ However with the internet you have more access to more things than back in the day. Not that far away but for most who have played without that luxury.

I am all about the library because there are endless free resources that you can get pretty easy. From music, books, internet & magazines from the USA. But staying active will make time go by really fast. Also, find one teammate that you are comfortable with and visit their home. Ask them to show you around and explain their country and people. I guarantee that you will be happy that you know about the culture because understanding is the first step to being comfortable where you live.

In summary, get out and do something. Don’t sit and rot πŸ™ Complaining about everything actually makes things worse, but adapting will make time go by faster than you can imagine. This is the last piece of this story and I hope you enjoyed.
The summary is below:

The Low Down On All of This

NO matter where YOU go. WHO YOU meet. OR when YOU go. Always have an open mind and be understanding to other peoples differences and culture. If you do, you will learn a lot about yourself and that country. Time will go by faster and being homesick won’t be an issue too often other than during the Holidays πŸ™‚
Be positive.

Learn a language and surprise yourself. I have and you can do it. Even if you think you have trouble in your language classes now, living in that culture will change how you learn things forever. That is the truth πŸ™‚

Thanks again for listening! πŸ™‚