Culture shock, again

Dad and me just outside Hitler’s hideout, the Kehlsteinhaus

My parents are here, my parents are here! The school year ended last week (more about that soon) and I’m in the midst of some European travels with los padres before heading back to California for the summer. I did Paris for five days with my friend Kim and then met my parents in Munich for a German/Austrian road trip. Accomplished so far: Salzburg, Linz, and Berchtesgaden. Currently en route to Innsbruck, now joined by my aunt and uncle. Coming up next: Füssen, back to Munich, and finally Amsterdam.

Mom and me with the gazebo from The Sound of Music in Salzburg

This is my mom’s first time in Europe and my dad’s first non-business related trip. I’ve spent over a year living in Europe, but it’s been fun seeing through the eyes of a newcomer. I’m rediscovering the things about Europe that knocked my socks off many moons ago but don’t faze me in the least anymore.

Things my parents have helped me re-learn about Europe:

Mayonnaise on fries: I don’t partake in this popular European snack, but it certainly doesn’t elicit a gag reflex anymore like it nearly did from my mom this week.

Paying for water: All my life my family always drank water in restaurants. With four kids, a soda for each person added up so we went the frugal route and got water for free. Don’t even think about asking for this in most places in Europe. At 2€ plus a bottle, a Coke or a beer is a better deal than water. I’ve long accepted this, and my parents have caught on.

No ice: You sucked it up and paid for a bottle of water. Not quite cold enough for you? Too bad. I’ll concede that it is much more common in Spain, but the last few days in Austria we’ve gotten some of the strangest experiences asking for ice for drinks. Actual responses to this request have been: “It’s cold enough. Trust me.” and “Don’t expect this in Europe.”

No free refills: The concept of a refill is absolutely foreign all over Europe and baffles most people who come to the United States. My parents are reluctantly learning to ration their drinks to last the whole meal.

Smoking: What you see in the movies is true. All Europeans smoke. I exaggerate, but not by much. When my mom asked me if people in Spain smoke as much as those in Germany I had to stifle a laugh as I informed her that even more of them do.

Leash-less dogs: I covered this topic here, but dogs trotting obediently along side their owners have stirred up conversation about how that would be impossible with our own dogs.

(Relatively) short people: My dad is 6’2 and my mom is 5’10. They’re surprised at how much taller they are than most Germans and Austrians. I, on the other hand, feel like I’m finally surrounded by normal height people after towering over most Spaniards at my 5’9 for the last year.

Next step: Convince my parents to visit me in Spain next year for a whole new level of culture shock.

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