Lessons for living: Take a Cue from the European Way of Life

I think one of the quickest ways to gain perspective about life is to travel abroad. I've heard people say this in the past, but having finally done so myself, I finally understand exactly what they mean. While the experience of being immersed in a different culture affects everyone differently, I don't think anyone can come away completely unchanged. After spending some time mentally reviewing the memories from my trip, there are a few key moments that stood out as opportunities to perhaps learn a new way of doing things that can enhance my life and add to my overall sense of contentment. If you have been to Europe before, I'm sure you'll be quickly reminded of the things you picked up; and even if you haven't I think you can still appreciate the lessons.

Eat slowly, savor your food and really enjoy your meal.

America is very much an ‘on-the-go’ culture. We have copious amounts of fast food and fast casual restaurants, where the goal is to get and gulp down your food down as quickly as possible and keep it moving. We eat on the street, in our cars and at our desks and only take the time to really savor what we are having on special occasions like dinners with friends or holidays. While in both France and Italy we noticed that they take a decidedly different approach to meals. They sit down at the table--either alone or with friends--and enjoy several courses, often with wine. They eat slowly until they are gratified, sit some more to digest, and then they continue with their day. On more than one occasion we scarfed down our morning croissant and coffee on the street as we headed to cross attractions off our list; and we were pointedly aware of just how "American" we looked while doing so.

Be present and enjoy good company.

We also noticed that people spent a lot more time at their restaurant and cafe tables, often luxuriating long after the conclusion of the meal to just enjoy each other or the scenery around them. In fact, while at American restaurants you are ushered the check as soon as the plates are cleared, we quickly discovered that there you have to ask for your bill before your server will present it. Once you have snagged a table it is yours to enjoy until you choose to abandon it. There is no hurry to run off to the next errand as people are totally present with the enjoyment of the moment.

Walk more.

Parisians walk everywhere--and they walk there quickly to boot. Any time someone in Paris gave us directions they deemed it "about a 10 minute walk". I'm not sure we made it to any walking destination in 10 minutes! But we did cover a good amount of the city during our time there (there are 20 districts!) It was the perfect exercise after a meal and the fresh air felt good as well. It's so easy to miss out on nature and the small treasures of your city or neighborhood when you're always whizzing through it in a vehicle.

Wear good shoes.

After all that walking, our feet hurt. And in some cases our shoes were hurt too. Parisians in particular wear good, quality shoes. Though the styles are very similar to American shoes in appearance, you could tell they were different in construction: harder bottoms (as opposed to rubber--even their flats made noise on the sidewalk) and better leather or other materials. We all love a cute shoe and a good deal, but when you're walking a lot, or just want classic footwear to last longer, quality matters.

Don't be afraid to mix up your signature style.

I have a fairly simple style. It's girly and chic and neat. I know what shapes work for my body and with minor exceptions, I stick to that. But I saw some really cool and effortless (looking) styles in Europe that somehow managed to be classic, unfussy and modern all at the same time. They made me want to step outside of my style comfort zone and go for interesting pieces that can compliment some of the basics I already own (like how I am now crazy drawn to studs). I am kind of excited to shop here at home again and see what different things my eye may be drawn to.

What are some of the ways you use past experiences to enhance your life in the present?

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