Last school year, I ditched my regular student life responsibilities to go live and work in France for four months. While I was in Europe, I decided that school could wait just a little longer and I chose to do an exchange semester at Swansea University in Wales for another five months. Living abroad taught me many lessons, some serious and some not so serious. Here are the 10 (not so serious) life lessons I learned while living abroad.
1. Grocery stores make the best souvenir shops
I love grocery shopping when I’m in a different country. The variety of different foods and brands lets you try a bunch of things that you wouldn’t be able to find in a Canadian grocery store. Not only can you take home tasty treats, but you can bring back different beauty products that you just can’t get in Canada. I’ll take French soaps and chocolates over an Eiffel tower keychain any day!
2. It’s easy to be cultured because everything is free (or really cheap)!!!!
You know how you and your friends are always trying to figure out what to do on the weekend, and, more importantly, what you can afford to do? Well, in the vast majority of European countries, cultural activities like going to a museum or a local historic site is FREE for students. So you can gaze at impressionist paintings all day and not spend a cent.
3. WiFi is EVERYWHERE!!!
When I first started living in France, I was very concerned about getting a data plan so I could always access Google Maps in emergencies. I quickly discovered, to my delight, that free, good quality WiFi is literally everywhere. From stores, to train stations, to city buses, to random hotspots scattered around cities, you don’t have to stray far to get connected.
4. British accents are truly attractive
I was always a little skeptical of the British accent allure, until I lived in the UK and quickly realized that it is not a myth. The British accent is a rather charming one… almost too charming.
5. You can live off of bread, cheese and croissants and not die (or gain 30 lbs)
I can attest to this fact from firsthand experience. While it probably isn’t the best for your health per se, it’s cheap, delicious, and requires zero cooking skills. Also, how can you not be happy eating carbs, carbs and more carbs all day?
6. 3-euro wine makes great sangria
Again, this is something I can attest to based on firsthand experience . . . Perhaps a little too much experience.
7. Cobblestones are hard to walk on
Cobblestones are sneaky little devils, especially when it comes to walking uphill, downhill, in the rain, in heel, in flats, and when you may have had a little too much 3-euro wine sangria.
8. The street style in Europe is <3 <3 <3
Every single person on the whole continent of Europe has swoon worthy style. It’s just a fact of life.
9. “Toque” is truly a word only used in Canada
I know this sounds kinda strange, but you don’t realize just how strictly Canadian the word is until you visit multiple countries during the wintertime and ask someone to pass you your toque and are given a very puzzled and confused look.
10. Canada is BIG . . . like, REALLY big
I know we all love to rag on the public transit systems here in Canada, and say stuff like “in Europe, I can take a train anywhere, even to the smallest and most remote towns.” While this is 100% the truth, it isn’t until you’ve taken a train across the whole of France in less than a day and passed hundreds of small villages that you realize just how huge and unpopulated Canada is.
If there’s one thing that living abroad has taught me, it’s that you should always stop to notice and appreciate the little not-so-serious lessons in life.