• Saira D.

What It's Like to Live in Europe, ft. "Emily in Paris"!

Netflix Original Series Emily in Paris came out late 2020, and is about an American woman that moves to, well, Paris! And although this show is riddled with drama, humour, and interesting characters, what struck me the most about this series was the accurate representation of what it is like for a North American to move to Europe! The good, the bad, the annoying, the amazing, and most of all the oldness, are all factors showcased in this show that I can confirm, without a doubt, are real life struggles in Europe. Based off my own comparisons of living in London and travelling various European countries, my blog and I are here to delve into “life in Europe”, with the help of Emily in Paris!

First things first, lets talk about European life versus North American life – quite literally, Old World versus New World! This can be felt down to a tee, because really Europe is far much older than North America and in being so, means most of its institutions, infrastructure, and ideologies are well, outdated. This is a system where bureaucracy still outweighs efficiency, “the plumbing is 500 years old. Literally”, and ideas or point of views on what is acceptable to wear, to act, in general, or in the workplace, vary drastically to the point of views we have in North America – as they're all what we consider “old”, “outdated”, or “not so progressive”. But, before we get into the thick of it all, I would first like the share the common truths of Europe both exposed via Emily in Paris, and from my time there! First and foremost, everyone is stylish, always. That’s right, no one walks around in “cute” sweatpant sets, or wears leggings as pants unless they're doing some form of physical activity. Basically 9/10 people that you will eventually meet and know smoke cigarettes or vape in an attempt to stop smoking cigarettes. And what's more, everyone also smokes inside their house – everything related to smoking in Europe is 100% considered “old” or “outdated” in North America, right?! Right. If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many “patios” in Europe, it’s because literally everyone smokes. Greetings and farewells for strangers, colleagues, bosses, friends, families, significant others, or basically anyone you come to know is done via the “double kiss” – a kiss on both cheeks. That’s right, there are no hugs and hardly any handshakes. Wine and beer are sometimes cheaper than water depending on the European country you are in, but even if you're in a country where water is still free, the standard drink of choice is always wine or beer. And if it isn't either of those at a specific time, its espresso or sparkling water. Drinking outside, in public, is legal. Yes! It is a trait I miss dearly about Europe (and the fact that alcohol is sold everywhere and for ridiculously cheap). That said, it is easy to see why the laid back “good life” still exists in Europe and not at all in North America, where we “live to work” rather than “work to live” as is done in Europe – an eye-opening insight I’ve experienced myself speaking with an Italian colleague when I was still living in London, and one you can experience yourself in a specific episode of Emily in Paris. What's more (on the topic of drinking that is), is that you can get drunk outside in iconic places like the London Eye or Covent Garden for London, or the Eiffel Tower, the Pantheon Paris or outside the Moulin Rouge, for Paris! What you might have thought was “iconic” like Las Vegas or New York, honestly doesn’t even compare. Regarding more “cultural” perks, you have world-class galleries and museums littered all around you, and in the United Kingdom they all have free admission! So if you ever find me being picky about paying $30 to enter the Royal Museum of Ontario, its because I’ve been to the British Museum five different times – each to cover one floor at a time, its that big of a museum – and I did it all, for free. The last general perk? You’ll meet and make friends from all over the world!

Now its time to delve into my real world and life examples of traveling Europe and living in the UK, and the experiences of Emily in Emily in Paris… starting with all things, good and amazing! The first upside to living in Europe is, the beauty of it all. Ancient architecture, glorious and not at all modern, which is exactly why its beautiful! Modernity in North America has led to glass boxes – and that’s it. But in Europe, you could be going for morning runs like Emily, along the Seine or through Jardin du Luxembourg, taking phone calls outside the Pantheon Paris, walking across iconic bridges like the Pont Alexandre III, meeting friends for drinks at Jardin du Palais Royale, or publicly drinking at the Eiffel Tower because like I said, drinking outdoors is legal in Europe and these iconic landmarks are exactly where you also are! Then of course, you simply have amazing views to look out the window of your taxi or Uber such as the Arc de Triomphe, or visiting your local gallery, The Lourve – you know, just casual everyday things. And although I sadly have not visited France yet to have seen any of these breathtaking buildings or creations myself, I can say Emily and I share in the ability to revel in the extraordinary, while going about our day to day lives! Whether it was going for walks during lunch breaks around Buckingham Palace, Southbank or across Southwark Bridge, walking along the River Thames or over Tower Bridge (what most North American’s think is “London Bridge” which, actually is a completely different bridge and far less extravagant than Tower Bridge), meeting friends for coffee or even just as a meeting point outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, finding some quiet space amongst the vastness of Hyde Park and stepping in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, ending cute date nights at Trafalgar Square, public drinking at Covent Garden, checking what time it is on Big Ben instead of your phone or watch, or shopping and eating at Piccadilly Circus, these crazy instances become common place because well, they’re just a part of your reality now! So move over CN tower or Stanley Park, I have much more ancient and beautiful things around my neighbourhood now.

And although it seems like Europe is the perfect place to relocate to, its now time for the hard truths. Like I said earlier, Europe versus North America is Old World versus New World and let me tell you, both Emily and I feel that struggle and it is not sweet, at all. As Emily mentions, “up is down” and I can concur with that sentiment 100%. Probably the worst thing about the “Old World” way of life or living is that a lot of things are still outdated by continuing to be bureaucratic rather than efficient. The first thing I struggled with was opening a bank account in London – the most difficult process ever and actually the hardest thing about my entire moving abroad experience. Now in North America that sounds ridiculous because here it is so easy to do that! So remember that stark contrast, because what seems easy to do here isn't always easy to do there, and its incredibly frustrating. Many of the buildings are quite literally ancient, so there are no elevators in most buildings, especially residential buildings unless they are brand-new developments. That said, be prepared to walk up endless, super old and not so safe staircases… and with all your luggage! And because these buildings are so old, the plumbing system is also incredibly old. But now you might be wondering, “what exactly does that entail?”, well Emily and I can shed some light on that! First, you will run out of hot water, very fast – and in Emily’s case, your shower might run out of water altogether. What does that mean? It means you need to finish washing your hair in the sink. Besides hot water, you’ll also find that parts constantly break, because they are old, so you will without a doubt find yourself having some issue with your water or gas tank, boiler, or bathroom appliances. Plumbing and age also means dishwashers are as scarce as non-smokers, there are no electric outlets in the washroom, your washing machine is in the kitchen, and you most likely won't have a dryer. But, plumbing isn't the only downside you will come across... If you expect to receive any international post (i.e. letters or parcels) they will take ages to arrive, and that’s if they even end up arriving. You might come to realize that you talk much louder than anyone else because in North America we’re taught to be brave, bold, assertive, confident, and all these traits usually come with clear, concise, and loud speech so that everyone can hear you clearly and concisely. Well in Europe, people will most likely ask you “why are you shouting?” – an awkward experience, I’m sure. And lastly for any women reading this blog piece, there are two specific things to remember: 1) European guys are very flirty and forward, and that’s just the norm. So while you might feel uncomfortable and reject their proposal, the guy will most likely react in a manner like “what? I don’t see what the issue is, so clearly you're the one with the issue and I’ve done nothing wrong.” 2) As these are very old cities, you’ll find cobblestone roads and sidewalks everywhere. Why is that a bad thing when it looks so rustic and pretty? Because it makes it impossible to wear any kind of heels that aren’t low, block heel ankle boots. That’s right, don’t even bother bringing or buying any stilettos, wedges, or even high heels that have block heel! And if you see the characters in Emily in Paris walking around “normally” in stilettos just remember, they don’t film most scenes in one take, so they might have already tripped and fallen and, pay attention to how wobbly and unstable their ankles look while walking in such scenes. So unless you’re planning to only wear heels to get in and out of cars and will for the most part, be wearing your heels indoors, I strongly suggest not wearing heels in Europe (a sad truth, but one your limbs will thank you for).

Hoping that both Emily in Paris and I have provided some fantastic insight into what it is like for a North American to live in Europe, or for those who have already experienced this that it brought forth memorable (in either good or bad ways) experiences in Europe, I can't wait for us all to be able to travel again once the Covid-19 pandemic finally reaches its end! Until then, if you’ve never watched Emily in Paris because you might have thought it was a “chick-flick” type of show, you now know its far more than that because it lets you live in Paris from the comfort of your own home! And for someone like me who used to live in Europe and misses all its upsides dearly, it helps us seasoned travellers remember the experience and feeling of it all! Hooray!!!

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