Recently, I backpacked through France, Switzerland, and Italy with my husband and favorite travel companion, Luke.
While we absolutely loved our time in Europe, there are a few things we weren’t prepared for and were happy to leave behind us when returning to the states.
Let’s start with the things we didn’t enjoy first and save the best for last 🙂
5 “Ways of Life” in Western Europe I’m Happy To Live Without
#1: Paying for Toilets
This may shock you, as it did us, but you have to pay anywhere from 1 Euro to 2 Euros to use the bathroom! Luke and I felt this was ridiculous because going to the bathroom is a natural thing EVERYONE has to do. To charge someone for that felt a bit unfair.
#2: Paying for Water
Once again, people must drink water in order to survive. In all of France and Switzerland, we saw one water fountain. That was it. I must admit, Rome was better, but that was the only city that had water faucets outside to use.
And water was not all that cheap, especially at the amount we had to guzzle down each day to avoid heat stroke in the 100 degree heat wave we were experiencing.
We did bring big water bottles with us but we could only fill those up in the early morning before we left our place for the day. We spent on average 10 hours out and about each day, so that water didn’t last during the long, hot days.
#3: Humidity and the Heat Wave
Luke and I are wimps from the Pacific Northwest. It’s not exactly dry air here, however the temperature is mild so the small bit of humidity we have never feels bad. In Italy, we had 95-100 degree temps almost every single day because of an unusual heat wave in late June. Luke and I were not prepared for the heat or the humidity.
We basically sweat buckets once we arrived in Italy because France and Switzerland did not ease us in to the heat wave whatsoever. Eventually we got used to it, but the first few 98-101 degree days were miserable, especially because the buildings we toured didn’t have AC and we were doing 7-10 miles of walking outside every day.
#4: CRAZY Driving
While I realize most driving in the world is considered crazy compared to the mild driving and regulated traffic laws in the United States, we still didn’t enjoy almost getting run over on a daily basis in Italy. (Switzerland and France weren’t bad at all).
By the end of the trip, we found their driving humorous and enjoyed watching people almost crash, but at the beginning of the trip it wasn’t our favorite. We also were grateful we didn’t try to rent a car or moped and drive in the craziness because I’m not sure we would’ve made it back alive.
#5: Having a Languge Barrier
To be honest, I didn’t expect there to be such a huge language barrier in Italy. I expected more people to speak English, but we only ran into a few people who did.
It was difficult when we were lost with no cell service or wifi and didn’t have anyone we could ask for directions.
In France, many people spoke English so that wasn’t a problem. In Switzerland, we only met one person who spoke English. We heard a LOT of German which was really cool! But unfortunately we don’t speak it which made communication difficult. Lots of hand motions and charades became our best friend 🙂
Now if those were the worst things from our trip, it must’ve been pretty darn amazing, right? Yes, absolutely right. We had the BEST time.
Here’s what we LOVED about France, Switzerland, and Italy:
#1: Church Bells
Throughout all three countries, there were bell towers everywhere and the melodic ringing of the bells announcing a new hour never got old. It was beautiful to see and hear and something I miss here in the states.
#2: Gelato on Every Corner
It’s the ice cream lover in me. The gelato was delicious to begin with, but was an especially welcome treat in the 100 degree temperatures.
#3: Walking Everywhere
Some people may not love this, but I enjoyed it very much. So many people commute by walking in Europe and it’s no wonder they keep slim and trim even though their diet is heavy on the pasta, pastries, bread, cheese, and wine.
It was a beautiful and healthy way to see the cities and allowed us to explore all the little nooks and crannies that intrigued us as we walked by. Plus it was fun to listen to all the dialects being spoken around us on a daily basis.
#4: Hearing All the Different Languages
That brings me to #4, the languages!
We do hear a variety of languages spoken in the United States, but it was especially fun (except for when we were lost) being the minority as an English speaker and hearing people carry out conversations in a dialect completely different than ours.
I always wondered what the people were talking about and found it amusing that they could’ve been talking about something as mundane as their grocery list but it sounded beautiful no matter what they were saying.
#5: Slow Paced Culture (or was it?)
This one was a funny one for Luke and I. We were actually shocked to notice how BUSY the French and Italians were in certain situations. (The Swiss not so much).
I would say that the only time I noticed the more layed-back, relaxed pace was from 1-4pm when restaurants would close for their riposo (known as a siesta in Spanish). I really do appreciate that they take a break from work and recharge in whatever way necessary.
Otherwise, the hustle and bustle was real and the way they drive is the furthest thing from relaxed lol.
#6: All the History
It was amazing to see so much history wherever we traveled.
From the paintings, sculptures, items belonging to Kings, and other artifacts found in museums such as the Louvre (Paris) and the Vatican (Vatican City, located within Rome), to the historical architecture of ancient Rome in the Roman Forum. It was especially breathtaking as we were able to walk through the Roman Forum (the old Roman Empire) with ruins dating back to 8th Century B.C.
#7: Colorful and Different Style of Houses
Positano, Italy is known for it’s colorful houses up on the cliff overlooking the Mediterranean sea, but Venice and Rome didn’t disappoint either with the rainbow displayed on their homes.
Switzerland had beautiful homes with their neutral colored walls and bright colored green, blue, and red shutters.
France was beautiful with it’s towering home complexes within Paris and the beautiful French countryside style homes in the more rural areas.
#8: Clothes Hanging from the Line Outside Windows
This one may seem silly, but I loved seeing what seemed like an “old-fashioned” practice of hanging laundry out to dry on a line outside your window. All throughout Italy we saw this.
I was even able to hang our own laundry out to dry in Rome since we had a washer in the airbnb we stayed at and a nice laundry line outside to use.
#9: Plants and Flowers above many doors and windows in the cities
I loved that above many doors, windowsills, and even growing on the outside of house walls there was some type of flower or greenery. It was a beautiful way to bring nature and lovely smells to many of the cities we visited.
#10: The Metro in Paris and Rome
You may think I’m crazy to include the metro in this list, but because we only traveled by train, bus, and the metro, it was an easy and affordable way to get around Paris and Rome and honestly I loved it! It was fast, allowed us to see as much of the city as we wanted to easily, and allowed us to meet many people we otherwise wouldn’t have.
And That’s a Wrap!
Our time in France, Switzerland, and Italy was something we will always be grateful for and treasure in our memories. I hope to go back someday and explore more of beautiful Europe. I’ve created a Vlog of our trip over on my YouTube channel that you can watch by clicking here if you’d like.
Let me know what you loved the most about any of these countries if you’ve visited as well 🙂 Thank you for reading and please give this post a share if you feel so led as it really helps grow my blog 🙂
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