Things You Really Appreciate About America After Studying Abroad

Brussels, Belgium

(Actual Trip Date: October 1, 2010)

My cousin came to visit me in Maastricht before leaving for the states. Because he wanted to see Belgium and I didn’t mind getting some more Belgium waffles and chocolate, I decided to accompany him on his last trip as my two friends tagged along.

Visiting Belgium gave me a reminder of how beautiful Brussels really was and how initially impressed I was of Europe’s beauty. It also gave me a taste of the feelings that would run through my body if I were to ever visit any place in Europe again. The feelings are a mixture of comfort and a passive level of excitement tinged with a more peering eye. I’ve seen all these landmarks before, and now I can come back and appreciate and look for details I overlooked in the rapid haze of trying to see everything.

I have to admit, however, that my last time in Brussels included no experience of actually tasting a Belgium waffle. I ate Liege waffles from the godly waffle truck on the streets.

The difference?

A liege waffle has cut corners and sometimes looks like its drizzled in melted syrup while the inside contains crystals of sugar. An actual Belgium waffle is more soft, formed into a rectangular shape, and rather plain, but made delicious with powdered sugar and any other desire topping (fruit, whipped cream, nuts, etc.)

I’m not sure which one I prefer.

While sitting in a waffle shop, we started to discuss our appreciation of America. Being away from home three months straight really leaves you time to think about what you had back in the states and how we usually take it for granted.

As anyone who knows me will know, I am a huge fan of lists. I make them all the day, almost every week, of anything really. I have a small book for them back at home. My biggest list is the list of books I want to read. I am going to be compiling so many lists as my Europe travel blogs wind down. Here is the first:

Things we Really Appreciate About America Now (in no particular order)

  1. Free refills – You can’t find any of that in Europe. Pay for each drink! It especially teaches you moderation!
  2. Free bathrooms – I guess I was shocked to find bathrooms weren’t always free. I never imagined in my life having to pay to go. Luckily, this wasn’t the case for every country. I only paid a total of two things on this trip so far.
  3. Free water – It kind of sucks having to pay for water all the time.
  4. Being able to split the check – Everything in Europe comes as one check for the whole table. It was a hard concept to grasp at first when being in a large group and trying to split the money and the change equally, but eventually we fell into a rapid speed of dealing with it. Nonetheless, we were still quite grateful when a restaurant or hostel allowed us to split up the payment.
  5. Short duration of time to receive the check – Seriously. Here, I feel like dinner takes twice as long as it should take because obtaining the check takes forever. It’s not a practice to immediately ask for the check when done eating. The worst situation was in Spain. We would literally stare down the waiter and we still wouldn’t be able to pay.
  6. Abundance of water – This is for any travel or being away from home. Not just Europe. I just miss the filtered water at my house. I’m sick of drinking out of water bottles.
  7. Microwaves – Not having this in a dorm was a pain. Can’t warm up food or anything.
  8. The Dollar – This is not something I’m super thankful for. I’m more thankful for the exchange rate. Everything here in Europe is so expensive (especially in London), and it will feel quite peculiar to be back in the states and not have to convert anything in your head anymore. The conversation process from Euros to Dollars when I’m shopping in Europe is almost automatic now.
  9. Abundance of meat – I feel like that is so hard to find in meals in Europe. Finding a good hunk of chicken meat is like a quest. We just get little pieces of ham or salami.
  10. Regular Nestea – Every Nestea drink I buy here just happens to be carbonated. Yuck.
  11. Stability – I used to think being at home and sleeping in the same place and waking up to everything the same was so boring. But after three months of hopping beds, locations, too heavy backpacks and bags, and a combination of plane, ferry, car, and train traveling, I’m all too ready for stability.
  12. Free bread before a meal – In Spain and Portugal, we had to pay for anything that was placed in front of us.
  13. Clean, fresh air – Too many people smoke here. I feel like my chances of getting lung cancer has increased being here.
  14. Grocery Bagging – You do it by yourself in Europe. It’s nice having someone do it here for you even though that continues to show me how lazy we are.
  15. Internet – Without the internet, I would feel so disconnected from home.
  16. Asian food – I realized I can’t be deprived of it for too long. It’s part of my culture and soul.
  17. Family and friends – Absence makes the heart grow fonder

What are you thankful for?


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