For a lot of North Americans, especially young North Americans, the idea of living in Europe is a huge dream. I too, was one of these North Americans, but in fall of 2012 I was given a chance to make this dream a reality when I got a job at hotel in rural Holland. Although it wasn't even remotely related to what I studied in school (engineering) I decided to take the job, because, well, when else was I going to get a chance to live in Europe for a year!?
I've been here now for 4 months now, and I can say with certainty that coming here was the right decision and an amazing opportunity, but I can also say with certainty that the European dream and the European reality are two very different things.
I feel like the way North Americans envision Europe often ignores reality. People tend to think of it as a place that is generally void of sadness and a place that is beautiful and magical at all times.
I know for myself, when I was living in Canada I would often talk about Europe as a mystery land where everything is just better, because, well, it’s Europe for crying out loud?! They have CASTLES!! And PROPORTIONAL VOTING?! And did I mention the CASTLES?! And HAVE YOU HEARD HOW THEY TALK?! …. But none of those things take away from the fact that at the end of the day, Europe is just another place in the world filled with people trying to figure this all out.
When you live somewhere, it stops being just a picturesque fantasy land, and becomes an actual place. An actual place with people, and problems and beautiful castles, and ugly sidewalks, and all the other things in between that make it so much more than a good postcard.
I’m writing about this now, because I've had a lot of people tell me how jealous they are of me. I've been that person before too. Friends travel, and I see their pictures from my boring old bedroom and think, “I should be there, I need to be there, that is where life is!” But the pictures aren't really the reality. The reality is me, literally scrubbing toilets as a housekeeper and having approximately two friends. Am I still happy I came here, absolutely! Am I still so sooo grateful for this opportunity, of course! But when you see people “living the dream” in Europe, try and imagine the situation more complexly. Remember that in-between the pictures they are sharing, they are probably working a job that is really hard, really tiring and has really shitty pay.
Europe is absolutely amazing, for a ton of different reasons. But is it the Holy Grail, where problems don’t exist, and everything is perfect all the time, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but sadly no.
You can also find this post on the Wonderly Blog!