We’ve been in Europe four months now. We’ve been in two southern European countries and one Balkan country. I’m glad we’ve taken the time to immerse our selves in the culture some at each stop. While a lot of things are the same as living in the US, there are some, shall I say “interesting”, things we’ve run across.
First on the list are public restrooms, water closets, toilets… what ever you want to call them. I usually make a mental note of good ones, but I did that back in the US too. A few times in Lisbon we found these weird little bidets in the bathroom. I’m used to the hands free Japanese bidets where you press a button and water squirts up, hopefully not leaving a wet stripe up your back. The bidets in Lisbon are more like butt sinks, you fill it up with water, squat over it & wash your butt. The crappier the bakery, bar or coffee shop was, the more likely it was too have one of these bidets. One afternoon we popped into a place like this to have a coffee and get out of the rain. In the restroom there was no toilet paper, soap, or paper towels, but they had a bidet. I pictured the older man, probably the owner, who was making sandwiches behind the counter. Had he washed his butt recently? How did he dry it off?
Unisex restrooms are more common in all the countries we’ve visited, as well as different types of western toilets, but I was not prepared for what Howard found here in Belgrade. We stopped in a little bar for a drink on our way to dinner and a concert. Howard rushed back from the restroom and told me I have to go check it out because it had a hole. That’s right, a hole. Neither of us were expecting to see this until we got to Asia. I’m in the process of mentally preparing for this and wasn’t ready to see a hole yet, so I didn’t go check it out. I’m not ready. I’m scared.
When we do get to Asia there is a 99% chance I’ll eat something that doesn’t agree with me and I will get sick. I have this nightmare of not being able to hold myself in a squat position while I have cramping diarrhea, I fall over, and end up laying in other people’s piss and shit on top of a hole in the floor.
Moving on… I’m not sure if this is a southern Europe thing or not, but our first two apartments, in Lisbon and Crete, had front doors that you needed the key to lock when you’re inside. Now most every place we’ve been so far has been very safe. We’ve noticed a lot of people don’t even bother to lock their doors, It’s a habit with us though and also avoids someone opening the wrong door, which I’ve done by mistake in a new place, and had it happen to me in a hotel once. Needing a key to get out of an apartment seems a bit unsafe though. The first thing we thought was what if there is a fire & we can’t find the key?
Unrefrigerated milk… I will never get used to that.
I thought plastic shopping bags were a thing of the past here so I brought a couple reusable bags. One place in Lisbon charged 10 cents for a bag, but most stores still give them out. The reusable bags are more convenient to carry groceries home in though, so I usually use them anyways. Not very many people do though and I even had a surfer guy in Lisbon comment on how eco-friendly I was being. It’s nice to be able to get a plastic bag every now and then though. I put our shoes in them when packing.
Norwegian style showers, or showers with a hand held shower head. For me, that’s an easy way to get everything in the entire bathroom wet. I’ve been doing my best to rig something up with some hair ties and clips so far, but I’ve also ordered a suction cup shower head holder from Amazon. Hopefully it will get through customs okay. (If you think this is weird, I have a friend who travels with a pair of pliers and his own shower head. I believe he has me beat!)
Overall living in Europe hasn’t been all that different than back home. In fact, there’s probably more weird stuff in the US. Maybe we are the weird things over here? We did after all leave a trail of garlic powder from Lisbon to Crete, but that’s a story for another day.