I was back in the States for three weeks in August – one week in New York City for the first time in twelve years and two visiting friends and family in Buffalo. While in New York, I stayed with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in person since she was in Dublin for a quick work trip more than five years ago. She remarked during my stay that when she last saw me, I was definitely an American in Europe but now I seemed more European than American to her.
What she said surprised me a bit at first. I’m still American – just listen to my accent! But, upon reflection, I have discovered that, after nearly six years living in Europe, I have become more European in both big and small ways.
Probably the biggest shift for me is how I think of and approach healthcare. This same friend came home after a physio appointment while I was staying with her and was upset because she needed to get an MRI on her foot. I thought she was nervous about the actual MRI and I explained to her that I’d had several on my foot and they were no big deal. But that wasn’t it. She’d had an MRI on her foot before and it cost her hundreds of dollars because the only insurance she can afford has an extremely high deductible. The MRIs I’d had in Dublin cost me exactly nothing.
Since moving to Europe, I have grown used to the notion that healthcare is for everyone and not tied to your job in any way. Having been a freelancer for a good part of my career and also having been laid off several times during said career, not having to worry about where my healthcare is coming from while also worrying about where my next paycheck is coming from is incredibly liberating. I am not going to get into a political debate on the merits and faults of the US healthcare system versus that of Ireland or France. That is not what this post is about. But regarding healthcare and one’s access to it, my mindset is decidedly European.
And there are other smaller, more innocuous ways that Europe has crept into the way I think or do things but I hadn’t really noticed them until this trip:
- I’ve forgotten how to tip. At restaurants, I have to ask friends how much tip to leave because I no longer know what a proper amount would be. And I’ve forgotten that in the US, not only do you tip restaurant servers, but just about everyone else too. It’s maddening!
- I get all confused with US money now because it’s all the same size and same color.
- Also, the size of coins no longer makes any sense to me. Why are nickels larger than dimes?! Why are even pennies larger than dimes?! Why the heck are dimes so dang small?!
- I keep forgetting that the price of an item is not actually the price of the item – sales tax has to be added. Several times, I’ve muddled my way through the same-size green bills and oddly-sized coins to come up with the exact amount, only to be told that the amount I owe is in fact about 8% higher.
- I have to think long and hard about which button to push in an elevator. Over here, first floors are the actual first floor of a building (which in fairness, I do think makes more logical sense). I wound up in the “garage” when riding an elevator because I thought the “G” meant “ground floor”. It didn’t.
- Why are there so many commercials on TV and why do most of them seem to be for erectile dysfunction medications?
Now don’t get me wrong, I still miss quintessentially American things like ice, air conditioning and Target. And I’ll always be American (who knows, maybe someday I’ll even be proud of that again). But as time passes, I’m becoming more and more European – and I don’t mind that one bit.