Monday, December 23, 2013

A Few Observations on Living Overseas


As many of you already know, I spent 23 years in the Air Force before retiring for the first time. I enjoyed my time in the service. I worked with a lot of great people (and only a very few losers), got to travel a great deal, had more than a few no-kidding adventures, and had the experience of not just traveling, but living overseas for nearly ten years. This is a side benefit of military service that isn't often recognized and is, I think, sadly missing from the lives of most Americans ... as a people, we may travel as tourists, but we seldom actually have the opportunity to live in another culture.

The world is a lot different once you cross the borders. Some things may be similar, a very few may be nearly the same, but most will be different enough to give you some idea of why people who are not Americans think and act the way they do.

My time living overseas was spent in Europe, and specifically in Germany, which is a "first world" country similar in many ways to the US. But there are a lot of things that are different, too. Here are a few to consider ...

Europeans, as a rule, take up a lot less space than we do. We're used to things like huge single-family homes, big closets, large yards, and so on. In Germany, multi-family houses and apartments are the norm, and built-in closets are just about non-existent ... one of the first things you need to buy to furnish your place is wardrobes to hang up your clothes. Homes and apartments are also much smaller than we're used to here. And the idea of taking up less space applies on a larger scale as well ... towns and cities tend to be much more compact, with very little wasted or unused space.

The idea of space leads me to two more observations ...

First, Europeans tend to have a lot less "stuff" than we do. Having big houses with lots of closets gives us the space to accumulate lots of things (books and collectable things, in my case). Europeans, with a lot less space to live in, don't build up American-style volumes of possessions.

Second, the concept of personal space is a lot different in Europe. People tend to stand much closer to you than we Americans are used to. Our bubble of personal space is much larger and, consequently, it can sometimes be uncomfortable dealing with people who seem to constantly intrude on our comfort zones.

Just three simple observations. If you've lived overseas, do you agree? Do you have any observations of your own? Leave a comment.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and Wednesday is Christmas Day. Are you ready?

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

P.S. - Update on voting for Ass Clown of the Year: relative standings are unchanged, with the Democratic Party and the GOP still tied for the lead and Edward Snowdon in third place. We have a few votes for Secretary of State John Kerry, House Conservative Gadfly Eric Cantor, and Speaker of the House John Boehner, but they've got a long way to go to catch up to the front-runners. Be sure to cast your votes between now and 11:59 PM on December 31st!

7 comments:

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I've noticed the personal space difference in Europe. It stands to reason, with smaller houses or rooms, there's less space for accumulation of nonessentials.

In France, refrigerators are small; and shopping is an almost daily things for most people.

Amanda said...

I found that the people in Indonesia also had a much smaller bubble for personal space. Some people would live with three generations in a small house but others would have huge mansions to just a small family and yet the personal space bubble remained the same....

Duckbutt said...

Travel, even if only as a tourist, does broaden one's horizons.

Mike said...

I cross a border every once in awhile, from Missouri to Illinois. But I come back pretty quickly.

Bilbo said...

Angel - refrigerators and shopping styles are the same in Germany.

Amanda - I remember some of your stories from when you were blogging from Palembang!

Duck - true. But living there really drives the lessons home.

Mike - and Missouri lets you back in?

Banana Oil said...

My parents are retiring to Florida, and they are going to let me live with them until I get established! Oh joy! I don't mind losing weight to get in swimsuit trim and shaving my legs!

Laurie Welch said...

Snowden isn't number one on the ass clown list? That's wrong! Consider this my vote for him.