HowTo:Be an American in Europe
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So! You have decided to travel to the Old Continent, perhaps to find yourself, or maybe just to smash some hot foreign chicks hard. Good for you! Here is a comprehensive guide to living life on the other side of the point, in the old, dirty, economically-broken but kinda charming continent of Europe.
Step 1: Leaving home
Unless you're part of an invading army, it can be surprisingly difficult to enter another country. You will have to complete reams of tedious paperwork, and pay spurious fees. Regarding the former, console yourself in the knowledge that foreign people, on applying for a US visa, have to answer the following questions:
- Have you ever unlawfully distributed or sold a controlled substance (drug), or been a prostitute or procurer for prostitutes?
- Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? Have you ever participated in persecutions directed by the Nazi government of Germany; or have you ever participated in genocide?
- Have you ever been afflicted with a communicable disease of public health significance or a dangerous physical or mental disorder, or ever been a drug abuser or addict?
Regarding the costs, simply keep calm and carry on, remembering all the while that when you are in Europe, you are not going to pay the sons of bitches any taxes. All those Euros and Drachmas and whatever are going straight into your wallet, holla!
Step 2: Spending all your money
Get reconciled to the idea that all that money you saved up working in Red Lobster is going to disappear soon: paperwork, exchange rates, plane flights, costly temporary accommodation, pricey drugs before you find a decent dealer, etc. If you have been stroking your ATM receipts as they creep into four-figure territory, be prepared to smash and smash and smash that balance. It's normal to pay up to 2 months' deposit on a room or apartment. Having to jerk off the landlord is not, though. Unfortunately, this is a very common scam in Eastern European states, and is thought to be some kind of sick retribution for the Cold War.
Step 3: Going from being an 'outie' to an 'innie'
There's no shame in feeling a little overwhelmed at first, TripAdvisor surveys show that 84% of Americans wet the bed at some point during their first month in Europe. Therefore, there's no shame either in retreating into the friendly, welcoming expat community that you are likely to find in any European city, and great, superficial friendships can be made from people from all over the states, (and even some Canadians) based on nothing more than a shared love of Scrubs and peanut butter.
However, it's important to view these friendships as part of an initial stage. It's fun to be part of the out-group, to sample the tourist vibe for a while, but what you really want to put on Facebook is pictures of you with your exotic friends in fancy European hotspots. Thus, one of your initial goals should be to befriend natives.
The advantage of this, as well as meaning you'll have knowledgable guides with access to family houses and automobiles, is that as soon as you make, say, two local friends, you become part of the in-group, and can look down upon all the new/non-integrated tourists, and feel superior. Which leads us nicely to the next section.
Step 4: Speaking the language (or not)
You have two options, either learn the local language or don't. Let's start with the latter. The good news is, thanks to centuries of British colonization and American globalization, everyone wants to speak English so you automatically enjoy a linguistic guru status which commands the kind of hushed awe you will never receive in the States.
- Rabbi, how do you say 'me da asco' in English?
- Well my child, it's a phrasal verb, 'gross out' so we say, 'It grosses me out'.
- Wow! Is difficult! You are so learned! I love your accent!
(See the step on Jobs for ways to take advantage of linguistic imperialism.)
If you do want to learn the language, prepare to feel enormously smug. As the average English speaker doesn't know shit about foreign languages, once you learn about 200 words of your adopted country's language, you will feel about as worldy and cosmopolitan as a Pennsylvanian entrepreneur traveling through Eastern Europe in the 18th century. Mundane tasks, such as trips to the supermarket, or the bakers (because you will go to a bakers now!) will be transfigured by the exotic new language passing through your lips. This is one of the few cheap thrills in your few months in Europe, so try to focus on that Pennsylvanian pioneer, and try not to think that all you're doing is speaking an adequate, pre-intermediate version of the local language in a foreign accent, like about a gazillion Vietnamese, Chinese, Pakistanis and Latinos back home who you routinely make fun of. This is different because you're white.
Language: Going native
It's very important if you do learn the local language to any degree that you act like a complete prick about it. It's important to master the following habits:
- In the middle of a conversation in English with another English speaker, say, "How do you say that in English?" as if your multilingual brain is so full of new foreign words, that your first language has seeped right out:
"And my money got stuck in the little - how do you say that in English, the ranura?"
- In the middle of a conversation in English with another English speaker, say things in the local language, as if it has no equivalent in English, when it obviously does:
"Well, I know what he sees in her, she's so mignonne, you know?"
- In the middle of a conversation in English with another English speaker, use the native word for European place names, or if the word is the same, say it in a funny accent.
Language: Ways to learn
Language classes are a great way to meet other Americans so you can butcher the accent together in a Gringo accent. They also serve to put you in touch with non-native Europeans who will introduce you to the local Erasmus scene. Tandems (language exchanges) can also be very useful, especially if you are of the female persuasion and want to fuck a local guy. If you don't want to fuck a local guy, be very wary of any adverts; for some unknown (perhaps empirical) reason, American girls have a reputation abroad as being easier than tennis without a net and have a particular fame for their proficiency at oral sex. If you're an American girl and are not good at oral sex, bear in mind that the nation has a reputation to maintain, and don't suck if you suck at it.
Step 5: Getting a job
If saying "What? Could you repeat that?" in another language for about two years is not your idea of fun, you still have the possibility of working on the black market as:
a) an English teacher. This may sound daunting, but it normally involves nothing more than regurgitating a textbook and being paid in cash by a cheerfully corrupt administrator who has been doing this shit since you were born.
b) an Irish barman. Do you know how to pour a pint of Guinness? Don't worry, neither do they.
Step 6: Inviting friends and family over so you can show off
One of the most delicious thrills of roughing it in Europe is playing host and (somewhat inept) interpreter for family and friends. As soon as you post your first foreign-looking picture on your FB wall, you will get standard messages such as:
"OMG! Looks so beautifuLL! I want to come and see you! Kisses!"
Now, if you thought you felt snazzy ordering stuff in foreign, wait till your ignorant-as-fuck friends and family watch you do it. Over 91% of such visitors sigh after complimenting you on your command of French/Spanish/German, and say something vague about wishing they spoke a foreign language, or getting back to study.
Step 7: Having cyber sex/cam sex with partners/exes back home
For guys, trying to hook up with local girls is a fun challenge which often yields fruit, but occasionally you will run into problems:
In these moments, it's nice to have sluts back home on the down-low. Your best bets are long-distance girlfriends, exes, and - now that you are the one traveling, doing the romantic thing many of your friends back home want to do - wistful married female acquaintances, looking for a no-risk alternative to an actual affair.
For girls, the procurement of sex is, as ever, less of an issue, but if you're trying to maintain a relationship, cyber sex or cam sex can be an efficient way to assure your American boyfriend that you're not taking it every which way, however you can get it, from the local dark skinned hooligans. If you turn the cam on, remember the following things:
- hide any evidence of recent sexual activity (condoms, handcuffs, soiled American flags)
- make your partner promise repeatedly that he has not downloaded software which enables him to record webcam activity.
Wow, it really makes you think when you write it all down! The amount of horny filth passing this way and that way across the Atlantic must be incalculable. I just hope Mr Skype doesn't tape things, like that guy in Sliver.
Step 8: Eventually coming home
It's not nice to admit it, and it's certainly not a pleasure to include it in a guide for bright young things getting ready to embark on their first trip abroad, but you will probably come back sooner or later. Unless you have a dirty immigrant parent and thus dual nationality, your main option for staying over there is marrying a local, and the prospect of ironing and cooking for a balding and fattening Antonio or visiting your in-laws with a drooping and sagging Helene is quite different to having a torrid summer affair with them, where it's all new sexual positions one day and using the imperfect in a heated argument the next.
When you do come home, be prepared to find yourself responding emotionally to rather pathetic things. Now, as the world-weary hipster you almost certainly are, you probably hate every symbol of American corporate greed, but after being in Europe for a year, on your first, sneering visit to evil, evil Starbucks, you might find yourself with a lump in your throat as the smell of their cut-throat coffee beans wafts up your nostrils.
- ↑ It is useful to keep in touch with some compatriots, simply so you can bitch about customer service in the new country. The conversation goes like this. "I know it's a cliché, but the customer service here is fucking awful!"
"Customer service? What customer service? They don't know the meaning of the word! In the States, if you order a..."
- ↑ Spanish: slot
- ↑ French: cute
- ↑ Italian: Florence
- ↑ Tilt your head here to denote the change in accent.