Life as an expat can be difficult. Leaving behind old habits can be a whole new challenge. From cup holder change to complicated cocktails, here’s the American habits I broke when I moved to Switzerland.
1. I stopped discarding “loose change”
By far one of the expensive habits I had to break. Back in the U.S, we tend to toss out pennies, nickels, and dimes disposing of them in drawers, car cup holders and in the bottoms of purses, only to be summoned when we come across parking meters. But in Europe, some coinage currencies like the Swiss Franc, British Pound and the Euro come in $1, $2, and even $5 denominations. I quickly learned that you can easily rack up $20 in change in a few short days.
2. I stopped assuming I’d automatically get “cold, still water”
Sparkling water is the devil in carbonated form. Why on Earth does water need to be fizzy? I’ve learned the hard way to make sure I express my preference for cold, STILL water. They may call it: tap, local, natural, or no gas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fooled buying “mineral”water and it was fizzy.
3. I (tried to) avoid ordering complicated cocktails
I’ve observed that we Americans love our fruity, complex, colorful, alcoholic concoctions, yet most Europeans are simplistic in their drink orders. Most Swiss bartenders aren’t classically trained mixologists, so you might want to opt for that Gin & Tonic than that Electric Ice Tea to avoid blank stares and disappointment.
4. I had to “unlearn” the Customary system
America ruined me. We spend years learning and using systems that only make life more confusing once you leave the good ‘ole U. S of A. Miles, inches, Fahrenheit, pounds — all fucking irrelevant. Now, I find myself constantly to trying to convert in my head, which has only resulted in me over estimating my time of arrival and always grabbing a jacket. Although, expressing your weight in kilograms sounds a whole lot better.
5. I learned that small talk is not everyone’s “thing”
Americans are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet on the God’s green Earth. We tend to strike up random conversations with strangers in cafes, on the street, on public transit, even in elevators. We just are social creatures who crave community and welcome new connections. One thing I learned is that other nationalities don’t really like to chat. They don’t enjoy small talk, they actually despise it. So I’ve had to somewhat resist my strange inclination to tell the girl enjoying her espresso that I like her boots.
6. I started bagging my own groceries
I think I understand how other nationalities can think Americans are wasteful and lazy. It’s because we don’t weigh our own produce or bag our own groceries! #FirstWorldProblems Until I moved abroad, I had never had to weigh and price tag my own produce. The checkout cashier always did the wizardry on how much my organic avocados would cost me. Nor, did I have to bring my own grocery bags. Of course, like every eco-friendly customer I had bought the reusable bags, but there were plenty of times I left them at home or in the car. I’ve since learned that no bags means you have to purchase bags or get creative with how to fit 10 kilo of groceries in 2 Ziplock bags.
7. I involuntary stopped watching TV series and pro-sports games religiously
Saturdays and Sundays used to be sacred football days. I always had at least 2 different TV series for each day of the week to follow. What I loved most was live tweeting during Awards Shows. Now, my life is in a constant state of trying to avoid spoiler alerts on Facebook. Not being able to live watch with the rest of America, makes me feel like the kid who eats their lunch in the corner.