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Europe According to Emma is a weekly column written by Emma Dell a University of Denver student currently studying abroad in Berlin, Germany. Read other installments here.


In a new country it’s always a given that some things will be different because, you know, culture. Such as wearing yoga clothes when you have absolutely no intention of actually working out is unacceptable here (and it’s slowly killing me).

Then there are some things that are exactly the same, like public transportation. Get on a bus or subway anywhere in the world and the rules are all the same – press the button, share the space, don’t be a jerk. Three simple things that are always the same and make the bus feel like home (which is really quite wrong, but hey, take what you can get).

And then there are things that should be the same and most definitely are not. Don’t know why, they just aren’t, and it’s weird. Like…

Car Engines

And basically anything else involving traffic. When a car drives by that is a different make and model than you’ve ever seen in the States, you won’t be surprised when its engine just sounds European. They are higher and more rumbly and pretty much sound like toys.

trabant german cars

And in the case of old East German cars, they were actually bought at Toys-R-Us.

But then you see a car that looks the same as one in the US, and yet sounds totally crazy. Not that you will even notice, because you’ll probably be distracted by the fact that traffic laws basically don’t exist. It’s like they operate on a system of laws that just says “do whatever you want, but don’t hit anybody.”

Aerial View of Berlin Intersection

You call this an intersection? LOL, okay.

Decade-Acceptable Footwear

Fashion is a clear-cut difference between any country (or for that matter, city) in the world. Americans are just as easy to spot in Europe as Europeans are in America, mostly because they don’t wear yoga clothes and always look nice. Lame.

Yet among the motor boots and fashion flats that were to be expected in this part of the world, another shoe has made an unexpected but prominent appearance: the 80s soccer mom shoe.

These bad boys have crawled out of jazzercise closets everywhere, where they were stored for years next to the deflated exercise balls and purple leggings while everyone moved on to better footwear options, but they’re back, baby.

reebok princess european fashion

(image via Flickr/davesneakers)

And oh so sexy. Europe, you’re killing it?

Definitely out of place next to the black leather jackets and dark wash skinny jeans, but hey, who am I to judge? I’m wearing yoga pants.

McDonald’s Playplaces

Unfortunate though it may be, McDonald’s is a prominent establishment basically anywhere in the world that you go (with the exception of Iceland. They opted for Taco Bell instead because they’re winners).

American chain, American food, American design, right?


It’s like they actually want people to come to McDonald’s by choice over here, not just when they’re broke or drunk or both. Making it look like an actual restaurant? I see what you’re doing, McDonald’s. I’m onto you.

Not only are the actual buildings nicer here, they are also way quieter… because the playplace looks like this:

german mcdonad's

You will play in this tiny cube and you will LIKE IT.

So while our playplaces in America keep getting bigger – they may as well just let the kids crawl around in the kitchen at this point, like a high-stakes obstacle course – they’re getting smaller and more condensed the land across the ocean. Why am I not surprised?

Hot Weather

Saved the best for last, because this one is actually ridiculous.

Weather is a marginally debatable thing (people from the deep south have a much different definition of  “hot” day than, say, people from Maine or Washington) but for the most part it can be agreed: anything above 70°F is no longer jacket weather. Right?

Somebody tell that to the Germans.

Walking around in a sundress or shorts in 75° weather you will find yourself standing at the bus stop surrounded by people in jackets, scarves, long pants, and close-toed shoes, because screw Vitamin D.

It’s like they don’t sweat ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Days when even walking home from the bus stop is enough to make your skin sticky are still layering days for the Germans, because warm weather must not be the same over here or something. Maybe they think the Celsius translates to Fahrenheit and despite those nice warm sunny rays it must be cold outside, it’s only 24°! TWENTY-FOUR, I SAY. Gotta wear a jacket and scarf, wouldn’t want your neck to get cold from all that sun.

Go buy some tank-tops, Germany. Sunshine is fun.

What did you think was universal but totally isn’t?

images via iStock unless otherwise noted

feature image via Emma Dell