7 Things I’ve Learned Since Living Outside The U.S.

by Grace McClintic
Originally Published: 
Grace McClintic holding her baby son at a beach after living outside America
Grace McClintic

I am American, born and raised, but I have spent the past six years living in Europe. Very few people in my family have even left the United States for a vacation, much less to live in another country. But I decided to leave the comfort (and comfort food, I may add) of America at the age of 22 and move to Europe. Long story short: I met someone, fell in love, got married, and had babies.

Now that I am a mom, there are several things that I find myself questioning about life in America. Like for instance, the tuitions of universities in the U.S.! Or why local policemen here don’t carry guns (because no civilians have guns). While I love America, and will always be a true American at heart, I find myself questioning certain aspects of life there.

1. Free healthcare is a fundamental right.

It seems normal to me now, since I’ve been here so long, that I shouldn’t have to pay money when my kids or I get sick and need to see a doctor. However, it’s definitely a real slap in the face when we go back to America on vacation and I see the reality of life there (looking at you, $866 medical bill for my UTI).

2. Paid maternity leave shouldn’t be a luxury.

How is America considered one of the most advanced countries in the world yet women still are forced to return to work mere weeks after birthing a tiny human. It is inhumane to me that women should have to choose between caring for their (basically) newborn baby and paying their mortgage. Here woman get 19 weeks and usually tack on their paid month of vacation (see #7) –which still isn’t enough if you ask me, but is a hell of a lot better than what’s going on in America. Also, why are daycares and preschools so expensive in America?

3. Going into debt so you can attend college isn’t normal.

In the time that I have been abroad, I’ve finished two master’s programs and am currently working on a doctorate. None of which have required financial aid or loans (I’m looking at you $30,000+/year journalism degree from USC). How is it normal to pay so much for a college “experience”?

4. Having kids in America is way too expensive.

See #1, #2 and #3.

5. Dinner shouldn’t be the biggest meal of the day.

I struggled with my weight from the age of 16 up until I left for Spain at age 22. I would binge eat, exercise compulsively, try fad diets, etc., yet I never managed to see any change. However, ever since I got here, I’ve maintained a very healthy weight with little to no effort. Among other things (walking every single day for example), I attribute this mostly to the fact that here the biggest meal of the day is lunch. This is when we have two or three courses and eat heavier items (meat, pasta, etc.). Dinner is usually something light like yogurt, salad, or a small sandwich. It took me a long time to adjust to the food here, but this was one of the healthiest changes and one of the easier ones to adapt. It’s better for digestion and sleep and I’m positive it’s the reason that I am able to stay healthy.

6. Kids should be taken out.

Kids here behave very well. Why? They go out when their parents go out. Babysitters don’t exist here. Children can entertain themselves (without devices) at restaurants, parties, church, etc. because they are given the opportunity to. There is no paid entertainment (babysitters); rather, kids are left to their imaginations and, as such, families are closer and kids are better behaved. Win – win.

7. The American work ethic is a bit ridiculous.

Here everyone gets minimum 3 weeks paid vacation to be taken when you decide to. You can take all of the time at once or break it up into days/weeks throughout the year. Everyone gets at least an hour for lunch, if not two, and no one would ever dream of eating lunch at their desk. Hello! It’s a paid hour to eat – people here surely as hell aren’t going to work during it.

While I love America, and I count down the days until our trips back home, I must say, I don’t hate the fact that I am able to have children and give them a future here even though I’m not a millionaire, am healthier, and don’t fear for my children’s safety when I leave them at school.

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