From marijuana to french fries, stories from London, Belgium and Amsterdam

Let’s start here: I’m currently studying abroad in London where the skies are gray, the teeth are crooked and everything is incredible and sarcastic and I didn’t realize I could love a country that wasn’t the good ole US of A this much. I would love to talk your face off about England, but there’s really no way I could keep that anywhere near 500 to 600 words, so we’ll concentrate on a trip I just took to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam (if this were a text, I would definitely have used a couple choice Emojis after Amsterdam). Here are some tips and reflections I’d like to share with the lot of you.

Let’s start with Paris. Paris somehow manages to be trà¨s chic while still smelling like cat pee and being covered in cigarette butts. It’s as effortlessly cool as you’ve heard. French people, however, are way nicer than you have probably heard. For example, while the French might watch you fall victim to a street urchin selling marked up Metro tickets (it’s not like you were buying them from him on purpose; you’ve seen “Taken,” and you know not to talk to random people in Paris, for heaven’s sake), immediately after you buy the expensive ticket just to get the urchin to go away, they will surround you and tell you that you made a mistake and then overwhelm you with advice about not doing that again. Also, being foreign and looking at a map in a French train station is apparently an open invitation for French men to come up and help you figure out where you need to go. Ultimately, French people are quite friendly. And they love cheese, bread and pastries, so they are all friends of mine.

Brussels is sort of a different story all together. Their public transportation is more dependent on trams than either the Paris Metro or the London Underground, which means their streets are just a freaking free for all. Seriously, I used up so many lives traversing the streets of Brussels. Brussels is also kind of a hodge-podge of really pretty scenic things and really not pretty or scenic graffiti. The Belgians are also good at statues, not to mention waffles, beer and fries. The best fries I’ve ever had were at a little kebab shop down the street from the hotel I occupied in Brussels. Good luck finding it because streets are randomly labeled and most of the street names have more letters than could ever be necessary.

The same holds true for Amsterdam. I don’t think I attempted to pronounce one Dutch word while in Amsterdam. Maybe I was just too amazed by the rest of it. Amsterdam is possibly the coolest place I’ve ever been. So many canals! And the buildings are at once unique and cohesive. And their trams seem much more controlled than the rogue trams of Brussels. Really, Amsterdam is incredible. Oh, and you can buy and smoke marijuana in broad daylight (kind of). You can definitely buy and smoke marijuana in the same coffee shop where George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt all bought and smoked marijuana. It’s called DampKring, if you’re interested.  Also, if for whatever reason you want coffee in Amsterdam but would not like to take it with a side of marijuana, then you should look for a café, not a coffee shop. There are so many other things I would love to say about Amsterdam, but I fear I’ll ramble on forever if I don’t stop now.

In conclusion, come to Europe. It’s sofa king cool. People won’t hate you or spit at you for being American unless you hate them and spit at them for being European. Even then, they’d probably just roll their eyes and talk shit about you in their native language that you definitely won’t speak because the United States puts nowhere near the emphasis we should on learning a second language. You’ll probably (definitely) spend a boatload of money. But why have money when you could have drugs (legally-ish), alcohol and enough postcards and magnets to last you a lifetime? Think about it. Cheers, y’all.

Rachel Puckett is currently studying abroad in London, England.