The truth behind the continental cliché

Read below to find out how and why you should be incorporating elements of the European lifestyle into your life…


They say when in Rome, do as the Romans do, but what are we supposed to do once we’ve stepped outside of the continental enclave? We often envy the café culture, the zest for life and the zest for a fiesta so surely there must be elements that we can beg, steal or borrow on our return.


I am coming to the end of a year long continental European adventure. Soon I will find myself back in lecture theatres, dreaming of the vineyards of Northern Italy and salivating over the thought of Neapolitan cuisine. As I wonder home, I will be all too aware of the busy little Parisian restaurants buzzing away without me and the Savoyard lakes sparkling in the autumn sunlight as the mountain peaks start to turn white. More than anyone, I am looking to incorporate the continental lifestyle into the life I lead at home. The problem with travelling, is that you become inseparable from the parts of countries that took you by surprise and stole your heart in the meantime. In a four short snapshots, here’s what I do not plan on leaving behind.


Café Culture

Though some may call it a cliché, living the Italian and subsequently French lifestyle has given me a taste for the pastries, coffees, fine wines and most importantly people watching that comes with the European café culture. Admittedly, in the UK it is not always possible to sit at a sunny street café, with a good book or a good friend and watch the world go bye. Good old blighty’s weather often conspires against this but that is not to say that elements of this practise can’t be brought onto my home turf. However, we have our won harming tea shops that will do the trick. And whilst the pastries might not live up to the macaroons or pain au raisin that I adore, nothing has inspired me more to get backing a bring a taste of France home.

Viva la Fiesta

It is perhaps our Hispanic neighbours that bring the biggest injection of fun into the continental experience. Without wishing to stereotype a nation, I would like take note of and admire the Spanish ability to party on and on, they do it with such flare and elegance, that I can’t help but feel like emulating their immaculate party performances. Particularly for we Brits, and our perhaps friends from across the pond, who live in a place where alcohol can often be expensive and come in big blasts rather than extensive soirées, there is a lot to be learnt from this tradition.

La Famiglia

Italian families have the incapacitating ability make you fall head over heals for idea of family coming first. Undeniably, this is more evident when it comes to mealtimes. In many continental European countries, Brits and Americans find ourselves ravenous before their late evening meals and begging not to be fed any more by the end. Sitting and laughing with the whole family at the table while abroad gives me the irresistible yearning for my irreplaceable family to be there too. Studies, work and social life can so often get in the way of spending a bit a quality time with our nearest and dearest. This is perhaps the most important idea to steal away from the European culture. I must say how happy I am when I go home for a family roast and there’s nothing like a massive family get-together to remind me.


Whilst this attitude may not come highly recommended with regards to working and student life, it is something that I have come to admire in Italian friends. The mindset of not worrying about things that needn’t be worried about, is definitely something I will plan to out to work for my final year studies. My mother always told me not to worry about things that you cannot change; something I came to rely on during my Erasmus study experience; seeing this idea put into practice has concreted it on my mind.

Whether it’s an attitude or simply part of my daily routine, anyone who takes a trip to this incredible part of the worldwide be unable to extract the memories, attitudes and little quirky habits when returning home. I could go on about the cuisine, the fashion, the quirks of continental living, however there are only so many recommendations I can make without starting to lecture. There’s only one thing for it; save a penny here and there and take a trip to the continent. Then, I challenge you to not to want to bring the food, the culture and the lifestyle home with you!